Leafs can't handle Caps offence

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 PM ET

WASHINGTON — Given the way he thrives on dazzling for his northern neighbours, Canadians best hope Alex Ovechkin doesn’t beat up on the red Maple Leaf the way he does the blue one.

The Capitals superstar rocked the red Verizon Center on Friday night with five points to match a career best and trigger an easy 6-1 pasting over their humiliated visitors.

It’s no coincidence that the Russian sniper often has something special for games that are nationally broadcast in Canada, perhaps a bad sign for a certain tournament soon to be played in Vancouver.

“Ovechkin makes things happen,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “If you play the game with a dear in the headlights mode, you are probably going to get run over like a dear would.”

The bigger and more captive the crowd, the more spectacular No. 8 seems to become.

The newly named Caps captain wasted little time Friday. A lethal wrist shot from inside the circle on his first shift beat Vesa Toskala cleanly just 49 seconds into the game and the show was on.

Earlier in the day, Ovechkin acknowledged that the Leafs were one of his favourite teams to play against, aware as he is of the attention national telecasts of his games receive north of the border.

Go figure. No. 8 has counted 32 points in 19 games against the Leafs, 18 of those goals. Friday’s outburst (which gave Ovechkin 12 points in the past 10 games) saw him move to 62 points and into second in NHL scoring, two points behind Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin.

More bad news for Canadian hockey fans?

Ovechkin also admitted he’s starting to get pumped about the Olympics and loves the idea the Games will be played on an NHL-sized surface. It doesn’t hurt that said rink happens to be in Canada, either.

Before the second period was through Friday, Ovechkin had added three assists, often toying with Leafs defenders and setting up teammates for easy goals.

“We gave him too much time and too much space,” Leafs forward Jamal Mayers said. “He’s one of the most dynamic players in the league and he’s going to hurt you when you do that.”

As he tends to be, Wilson was considerably more harsh.

“The guys who were making the big mistakes tonight were NHL veterans and shame on them for not quite being ready,” Wilson said. “Backing off and showing too much respect for Ovechkin, letting him walk in.”

Two of Ovechkin’s assists came on shots from the point, the first off a broken stick that rebounded off a Leafs player and was deflected past Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala by Eric Fehr.

Two more came from Mike Knuble, who merely had to get his stick out and direct the puck into an empty net.

Knuble’s pair in the second — the latter coming against the Leafs’ laughable penalty kill — blew the game wide open, even with Tomas Kaberle’s power-play goal with a blast from the point late in the period.

It was all Ovechkin after that, the captain taking care of his crew.

“He enjoys the team scoring goals,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He gets as excited about the team scoring goals as him scoring goals.

“When the team does well, he does well.”

And often better than that.


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