WASHINGTON — The Oilers don’t see Alex Ovechkin very often, but judging from what happened Wednesday night, once a year is plenty.
Ovechkin had his way with the young, short-staffed and awe-struck Oilers, popping two goals and an assist to give the likes of Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark and anyone else unfortunate enough to be caught in Oilers colours a humiliating lesson they won’t soon forget.
“I’m not sure who learned what,” said head coach Tom Renney, after 10 Washington players made the scoresheet in a laughably easy 5-0 cakewalk. “There is a game plan in here that will help them be competitive, and if you want to work outside of that then you’re not going to play for me. It’s that simple.
“This is a great organization to be a part of, especially right now, so do it right.”
It all went horribly wrong in Washington. Unless you were a Capital.
Everything went right for them. The stars had breakout performances, Lloydminster rookie Braden Holtby pitched a shutout, Eric Fehr, in his first game back after missing two months, scored twice. Jason Arnott hit 900 points. Ovechkin hit 600 points. And five Washington goals meant everybody in the building got 10 free hot wings from a local restaurateur, who’s probably as happy to see the Oilers as they were to see the Caps.
“I think for everybody it was kind of a big night,” grinned Ovechkin. “I can’t remember when we scored five goals.”
The Oilers have to go all the way back to Tuesday night in Philadelphia to remember the last time they got embarrassed like this. In all, 12 of them finished in the minus column.
“Just wasn’t a good effort,” sighed Shawn Horcoff, as his humbled teammates filed out of the dressing room with glazed looks in their eyes. “Their power play took it to us in the second and the third we just made silly, silly errors.
“I don’t know what it is, I don’t know why we fell apart, we’re usually a team that gets better as the game goes on, but not tonight.”
This time they got worse. The Capitals couldn’t get much going in the first period, but they unloaded on Edmonton in the final 40, scoring a pair of power play goals in the second and three more for fun in the third.
By game’s end they looked like older kids playing keepaway with a younger kid’s toque. They scored on a 2-on-1, a 2-on-0 and once with Nikolai Khabibulin about 60 feet from his net.
“We wanted to cut down on our giveaways,” said Renney. “But when you see a 2-on-0 (a Harlem globetrotter play in which Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson passed it back and forth four times) you think maybe you’ve given up one too many.”
It’s like the Capitals teased the Oilers into mistakes. They made a couple of fancy plays with the man advantage and Edmonton tried to match the style points, with horrendous results.
“You just don’t like talking about this in March,” said Renney. “I could see the first half of the year, but this is March now. I don’t care who we’re playing or how they’re touted, we have to play our game and we deviated from that in a big way.”
Holtby playing his 10th career game, stopped 22 shots for the goose egg as Washington won their sixth straight game. The loss is Edmonton’s second in a row after three straight wins and a 7-3 roll.
At the other end, Khabibulin, in his first game back since Feb 22, spent most of the game on an island, surrounded by hostile natives, with zero backup.
“We might as well have put shin pads on him and let him go play,” said Renney. “It was one of those nights where he was alone back there.”
Edmonton went zero-for-three with the man advantage.
“Our power play looked feeble,” said the coach.
Next up, Detroit.