We all remember Jakub Vrana’s goal in the second period that gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead over the Penguins. TJ Oshie set it up with a mind-bogglingly good backhand pass.
But it’s the selfless defensive play that happened 11 seconds prior that Oshie credited as perhaps winning it for the Capitals.
— NHL (@NHL) February 17, 2021
Before Vrana’s goal, the Penguins raced down on a two-on-one break. With John Carlson defending, Pierre-Olivier Joseph sent a centering pass over to Zach Aston-Reese… that was broken up by a Alex Ovechkin! A hustling Ovi dove headfirst to deflect the puck away.
Oshie grabbed the loose biscuit and later found Vrana for the two-nothing tally.
“I think every guy on the bench and definitely every guy on the ice after we went through the line came back and gave O a little shoutout there and told him that was all him,” Oshie said after the game. “A goal the other way would be pretty devastating, especially with four losses in a row and your captain goes out and makes every stride. I was skating as hard as I could and I couldn’t get there and he found a way to will himself up there, dive, and make a play.”
Early in his career, Ovi seemingly scored at will, but his overall game had some holes. Defensively, he had a habit of circling at the blue line while the Capitals were in the defensive zone looking for breakout passes. Ovechkin wasn’t as poor defensively as some analysts made him out to be, but his approach to defense focused more on taking the puck down the other way than blocking point shots or digging the puck out of the zone. Ovechkin had several controller disconnected moments and earned national criticsm in the 2010s.
Those controversies were a wakeup call. And when Barry Trotz arrived, Ovi worked with him on his details.
“I told Alex, when you have the puck, I want you to do what you do,” Trotz said then. “When you don’t have the puck, I want you to do what I want you to do so we can get you the puck more. He bought in.”
In 2018, Ovechkin and Trotz won a Stanley Cup together and the Russian machine closed out games as a defensive forward.
As for the win against Pittsburgh, the victory ended the Capitals four-game losing streak.
“I think that is our most complete game of the year,” Oshie said. “Something to be happy about and build on and move forward here.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.