Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper has always had a special appreciation for Alex Ovechkin. Cooper was behind the bench for one of the biggest games of the Russian machine’s career. On December 10, 2013, Ovechkin scored four goals, including the game-tying goal with 32 seconds left, to eventually give the Capitals an insane 6-5 shootout win over the Bolts. “Let’s face it…you can’t leave No. 8,” Cooper said after the game.
Fast forward to nearly five years later, Cooper’s Lightning now face a 2-0 series deficit to Ovechkin’s Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final.
Cooper was asked Monday what the Bolts could do to slow down the Russian machine as the series moves to DC for Games Three and Four.
“Well, one thing about Alex, Alex is having — how do I say this? How many years has he been in the league?” Cooper asked a reporter.
“A lot, 14.”
“14 years. I think he’s taken 14 years of frustration out in one Playoffs — not just on us, like this whole Playoffs season,” Cooper said. “He’s taking it out on that, and he’s — there’s a reason he has 600 goals and he’s done all these wonderful things in the League. In the past he’s not had playoff success, and when you do get to taste a little bit of it, it really tastes good.”
Before this season, Ovechkin had never made it past the second round of the playoffs in his previous nine attempts. Last week, after vanquishing Sidney Crosby’s Penguins for the first time in four tries, Ovechkin was grinning ear-to-ear in the locker room.
He let out this roar.
During this year’s playoff run, Ovechkin is over a point-per-game player, tallying 19 points in 14 games. The Capitals captain is second in goals scored behind Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele (12). He’s been dominant on the power play, collecting four PPGs and nine power-play points.
Cooper pointed to limiting Ovechkin’s space and time as the only solution. Ovechkin has four points in the first two games of the series, including two goals.
“The one thing about Ovi is you can’t allow him to have the puck in situations where he can shoot it clean, and [Game Two] is a perfect example,” Cooper said. “If you just give him a two on one, and if you’re going to give a guy of his talent that much time and space to put a puck in the net, he’s going to do it.”
“Some of those — Game 1, that shot he takes, like that’s on his tape,” Cooper said. “And when he does that that, we’ve got to block those shots, and we’re just not doing that, and we’ve got to do a better job.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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