Ovechkin stuck in slump

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:17 PM ET

Alex Ovechkin still looks like a rock star.

Wearing a too-short T-shirt, designer jeans and a mop of hair that covers most of his brow, the Washington Capitals superstar suits the role.

But he hasn’t been feeling it lately.

A goal against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night snapped a five-game slump, but a short and almost depressingly toned interview with reporters at the Saddledome Friday afternoon showed the Caps captain and his crew are still feeling a little down after losing 2-1 to the Wild in St. Paul while coming up with a season-low 22 shots on goal.

“We just watched the video and we didn’t compete hard. We didn’t make a challenge,” Ovechkin said. “We just didn’t play well.

“Sometimes you see the video and you can say yourself, you played a bad game. Personally, I can say I didn’t play well the first couple of periods.

“I didn’t shoot the puck how I used to shoot it, didn’t give a chance to create for my partners. Sometimes you just watch it and you can say I have to work harder and compete.”

Competitive spirit isn’t something the 25-year-old has ever been accused of lacking.

He’s played the game with reckless abandon and come away with 50 or more goals in four of his five seasons in the NHL while leading the league in shots and putting many a defender on his backside with his heavy hits.

With four goals in the first four games — three of them Capitals wins — Ovechkin was off to his usual start.

But the speedbump is something new.

This guy just doesn’t slump.

“Again, you have to change (things) mentally. You think everything’s gonna be cool, but it’s not,” Ovechkin said of his rough patch.

“Teams started to play pretty hard against our line and pretty hard against the best players on the team. You have to compete.

“Sometimes you just feel like, ‘Ah, jeez, again I didn’t score and our line didn’t play well.’

“We have to change our game. The leaders of this group, we have to play better — me, Backie (Nicklas Backstrom), Greenie (Mike Green), Brooksie (Brooks Laich), Sacha (Alexander Semin) — we just have to play better.

“It starts with me.”

Capitals defenceman Karl Alzner and his teammates have faith the face of the franchise will not be kept quiet long.

“He’s the gamebreaker that everybody needs,” said the former Calgary Hitmen blueliner. “You need a guy that can spark the team. I think that’s always what you ask your captain to do. He’s right up there with some of the better leaders in the league. We count on him.”

Dealing with the thoroughbred left-winger in practice gives Alzner a pretty good idea of what Ovechkin is capable of when his mind and body are unified.

When that happens — and you can bet it will be sooner than later — watch out.

“If that guy decides to drive wide or make any sort of power move, it’s almost impossible to stop the guy. He’s got speed, he’s got hands, he’s got a shot, he’s got everything,” Alzner said. “It’s nice getting to play against him, because it prepares you for the worst possible (challenge) you can face across the league. It doesn’t get any tougher than him.

“He doesn’t take it easy on anyone even in practice.”

If he shows up inspired Saturday night at the Dome, the Flames defencemen are in for a battle.


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