NBC Sports Washington is re-airing memorable Capitals games during the quarantine and getting special analysis from Joe Beninati, Craig Laughlin, and former players and coaches during the replays.
Monday, the network re-aired Alex Ovechkin’s four-goal game against the Montreal Canadiens on January 31, 2008. That night Ovechkin broke his nose and later scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Capitals an important 5-4 victory. Olie Kolzig, the Caps’ starting goaltender on the night, was NBCSWSH’s special guest.
The 2007-08 season marked the first time the Capitals made the playoffs in the Ovechkin Era and the first time returned to the postseason since 2002-03. But at that point in time, the Capitals were anything but a shoo-in for a postseason berth.
According to Hockey Reference, the Capitals’ record at the time was 23-23-5 and the team was coming off a 4-0 loss two nights before during a home and home against the second-place Canadiens. Washington sat in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and third in the Southeast Division.
“This one turned the corner for the franchise in my opinion,” Kolzig said according to NBC Sports Washington’s JJ Regan. “We were coming off three dreadful seasons where losing was the norm.”
Kolzig added, “A feel was starting to build. We’re winning again, there’s excitement, it’s enjoyable to be a Caps’ fan again. We were finding ways to win hockey games.”
Ovechkin scored his first goal of the game in the first period but later in the second period, was rocked by a big hit along the benches by Habs defenseman Francis Bouillon. Ovi’s nose was broken and bloodied in the collision.
“Athletic trainer Greg Smith said this is where the nose was broken,” Joe Beninati said. “The next day, Smitty was saying The Great 8 had his nose re-set and was screaming in pain.”
Ovechkin would go on to score his second goal of the game later in the period and tally a hat trick in the third. In overtime, Ovechkin was found wide open in front of the net for his fourth goal of the game. By the end of the night, Ovechkin had 43 goals on the season and led the league in goals.
“It was one of the greatest seasons I’ve ever seen from a goal-scorer,” Kolzig said. “We’re looking at a guy who’s got 40 goals before the month of February.”
The Capitals would lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Philadelphia Flyers, but Ovechkin would be named MVP. The 2007-08 season marked the first of four consecutive years the Caps won the Southeast Division crown.
Screenshot courtesy of NBC Sports Washington
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