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Ovechkin: 'Two teams are playing, and not just two players'

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Alexander Ovechkin scored his first playoff hat trick in the Washington Capitals' 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.

Sidney Crosby also had his first playoff hat trick, as the showdown between stars continued. But Ovechkin thinks that the rivalry between the two is getting in the way of the battle between two talented teams -- a battle the Capitals are winning 2-0, with the Penguins back in Pittsburgh for Game 3.

Dmitry Shumin and I spoke with some players after Game 2 for reaction to Ovechkin/Crosby, the goaltending battle and what the Penguins need to do to get back into the series. Coming up, words with Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, Capitals goalie Simeon Varlamov, and a special note from Atlanta Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk. But first, here's Ovechkin after Game 2:

Q. I know that you get really tired of this question. But this series thus far is exactly what the NHL wanted: Crosby vs. Ovechkin.

OVECHKIN: I am tired of this... This is a game. Two teams are playing, and not just two players. What must not be forgotten are those chances that our teams create for us. Yes, we score goals. Yes, our names are announced as stars of the game. But if it weren't for our teammates, the guys who create those chances, we wouldn't be anywhere.

Lots of reporters say that Evgeni Malkin is not very noticeable in this series. At least not yet.

I wouldn't say that he is not very noticeable. Yes, he did take a penalty [that Ovechkin scored the Caps' third goal on]. But I think these are just emotions.

And then you hit him again.

Of course, but this is a game, this is playoffs. There are no friends here, no people you know. You are fighting for the Stanley Cup and you have to win every battle, every moment. I don't look into his eyes, or other players' eyes. I don't pay any attention to other team's players. I care about my teammates.

What about David Steckel, who is the only player not named Ovechkin or Crosby who is on the scoring sheet tonight. What does he mean for this team?

Every player is extremely important for our team right now. Look at [Tyler] Sloane who joined us. And he played really well, didn't get nervous, assisted on a goal. Here, it doesn't matter who scores and how they score.

Right now you are 2-0 up in the series. What is the plan heading into Pittsburgh? To win one game there? Or to try and end the series there to have more rest before the conference finals?

We only look as far as one game ahead. The main concern for us right now is to get some rest and get ready for the next game.

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Now, here's Sergei Gonchar, who played 27:31 in Game 2 and had an assist:

Q. Pittsburgh played a good game. What are the reasons you lost the game?

GONCHAR: We were somewhat unlucky at times. Sasha [Ovechkin] played excellent. He had three chances and he scored on all the three.

How do you stop him? He is powering ahead like a locomotive.

How to stop him? I think we just have to be a bit closer to him, not to give him a chance to skate with speed. I know that it is not so easy to do. But tonight for almost the entire game we were able to do it. We [limited] him to two-three chances and he capitalized on them. We just have to continue doing what we're doing. We have to concentrate on not giving him those two-three chances to score.

You are a veteran on this team. What advise will you give your teammates on how to prepare for the next game?

You don't need to say much. It is not the first playoff [appearance] for the guys, and they all understand what it is they have to do. And our game is good... I wouldn't say we played bad tonight. We played better than them. I cannot say that we outplayed them, but we played well. That's why I don't think there is a need for some additional motivation. Everyone wants to win. We just have to get ready and be prepared for the next game. That's all.

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Varlamov continued to be a playoff star for Washington, making 33 saves in the win.

Q. It looks like you have yet to put together the complete 60 minutes, yet you're up 2-0 in the series. Are you just able to get it going when the game's on the line?

VARLAMOV: You just need to score goals at the right moment. This is exactly what Alex Ovechkin did tonight.

Everybody was waiting for Ovechkin to have his breakout game. Was it amazing what you saw out there from him tonight?

I think he amazes not only me but all of those around and those who watch games on TV. Alex is the best player in the world in my opinion. I think a lot will agree with that.

Crosby scored all three of his goals very close to the net converting on rebounds. Did you ask your defensemen to clear the crease and push opposing players away from the crease? Crosby took a few whacks at the puck before he scored.

I don't know. Maybe we just lost control, concentration a little bit when the score was 4-2. We will work on it I am sure. I also wanted to add that it is very difficult to push them out of the crease. They put their feet so far apart. Go ahead and try to push someone like Crosby! Of course defensemen should do it, but...

You are the goaltender. You should tell your defense what to do.

I know that I have to tell them, but I cannot yell to them 'Cover this guy and that guy' when the shot is made. I try to react to the actual shot.

Before the game Crosby said that you should be tested more, more traffic should be created in front of you. Do you think they were able to do it tonight?

I would have to agree. They screen really well, and overall play well around the net.

Your favorite topic: the glove. For the third game in this playoffs it let you down after the puck hit you on the glove before Crosby scored his first.

I don't think it lets me down. I can't even remember how the first goal was scored. I think the puck didn't hit my glove but bounced off David Steckel after the shot. I just didn't see where the puck landed after the bounce.

[Actually, Varlamov used a new glove during the morning skate. But apparently, Bruce Boudreau told Varlamov to take it off and not to use it during the game. Superstitions!]

You have played more games in the playoffs than in the regular season. In the beginning of the season did you think this would happen to you?

No, to be honest. But I was haunted by injuries this entire season. I missed over 2,5 months this season due to injury. If it wasn't for that I think I could have played about 50 games this season.

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Finally, here is Kovalchuk at the world championships, discussing the Washington series. Interview by Sovetsky Sport:

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