Jason Brough

‘The Goal’ by Ovechkin still resonates 10 years later

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Watching from the Glendale Arena press box, George McPhee saw his young star’s every move. He watched as Alex Ovechkin got tangled up with Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Paul Mara, fell to the ice and shot the puck into the net from a near-impossible angle on his back.

McPhee, then the Washington Capitals’ general manager, said to himself: “This is going to resonate.”

It did. The highlight-reel goal on Jan. 16, 2006, exemplified the 20-year-old Ovechkin’s absurd ability.

“You could really feel the announcement of the superstar,” Capitals teammate Brooks Laich said. “That moment, it was against Wayne Gretzky’s team, who was the best player the game had ever seen, and all of a sudden, a young guy that was really, really good, makes a play that really announces his superstardom like, `I’m here and I’m the next generation of the league.’ You could feel it in the building as clear as day.”

Ten years later, “The Goal” still resonates.

Among the 500-plus Ovechkin has scored in his career, many have been more significant, but the acrobatic goal on Jan. 16, 2006 remains his most spectacular.

At the time, Ovechkin called it the best goal he ever scored – and he still believes that.

“Obviously lucky, but I’ll take it,” Ovechkin said. “For that moment, it was unbelievable time. My dream was come true: I play in the NHL, I did that kind of special goal and Gretzky was there, as well.”

The “Great One” witnessing Ovechkin’s goal in his first season as Coyotes coach is part of its lore.

“As he’s skating to the bench, Gretzky was coaching and right on the bench said, `Good goal,”‘ former Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. “Even their players commented on it.”

After the game, a 6-1 Washington victory, Gretzky said the goal was “pretty sweet.” High praise from the NHL’s all-time goals leader who scored 894 of them.

“He’s a phenomenal player, and he’s been a tremendous influence in the game,” Gretzky said. “It’s great to see because he is that good.”

Even though Washington didn’t win many games that season on the way to another last-place finish, teammates knew Ovechkin was special. The goal just validated their beliefs.

It was 5-1 when Ovechkin streaked down the ice looking for his second goal of the game and 32nd of the season. Coyotes goaltender Brian Boucher prepared for Ovechkin to shoot off the rush and instead watched helplessly as he one-handed the puck in.

“I was like, `That’s ridiculous,”‘ Boucher said. “I was mad, and I’m looking at it and I’m like: `That’s ridiculous. How does a guy do that?’ Maybe (fans) didn’t even realize in real time how amazing that goal was. But I know that once they showed the replay, the crowd went like, `Woah.”‘

Laich remembers the arena going silent in stunned amazement. Jeff Halpern, the Capitals’ captain in 2005-06, was out with a knee injury watched as former NHL goalie Darren Pang went over the replay repeatedly in the Coyotes’ broadcast booth.

“Like everybody else, they couldn’t figure out how he scored and what even just happened,” Halpern said. “To hear Panger get excited by it every time he watched it and trying to figure it out, that was pretty neat.”

Everyone, Ovechkin included, needed to watch the replay to appreciate it. Laich described Ovechkin as “tumbleweed and dust – and all of a sudden the puck was in the net” and Hanlon could only muster, “Holy mackerel.”

“He never gave up on that,” McPhee said. “That’s why he’s a great goal-scorer: He just has a phenomenal shot, but it’s the desire to score. He’s always been so hungry to score.”

Ovechkin finished with 54 goals in his first NHL season and beat out Sidney Crosby for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. While Crosby was considered a generational talent, “The Goal” against the Coyotes likely turned the tide in that rookie of the year race.

In the decade since, Ovechkin has joined the 500-goal club and won three Hart Trophies as NHL MVP. And on every NHL highlight reel about amazing feats or recapping his career, there is Ovechkin, on his back, scoring the goal that announced his arrival as a star. And the goalie who gave it up, doesn’t mind all the reruns.

“Whenever you see highlight shows, ‘Most famous goals’ or whatever, it always seems to crack the top 10,” Boucher said. “Even though I’m on the bad end of it, it’s always pretty cool to see it.”

Goalie nods: Lehner makes long-awaited return to Sabres’ crease

Matt Puempel, Alex Chiasson, Robin Lehner

Approximately three months after he was knocked out of his Buffalo Sabres debut, Robin Lehner will finally be in goal again.

Lehner — who suffered a high-ankle sprain all the way back on Oct. 8 — will be Buffalo’s starter at home versus Boston tonight.

It hasn’t been an easy rehab for the 24-year-old netminder.

“He spent a lot of time in the gym the best way he could but not being on his feet,” Sabres coach Dan Bylmsa told The Buffalo News. “It’s really been a process like training camp, getting back on his feet — seven full practices and he used the conditioning stint in Rochester to get some game time in the net. Three games, much like you would in preseason. We’re almost starting at the beginning of the season for Robin when he gets in net tonight.”

Lehner, who came to Buffalo through an offseason trade with Ottawa, cost the Sabres a first-round pick, which the Senators used to select Boston College star forward Colin White.

Jonas Gustavsson is expected to start for the Bruins.

Elsewhere…

Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins in Tampa, where the Lightning will start Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Jacob Markstrom for the Canucks in Carolina, where the Hurricanes will likely go with Cam Ward after Eddie Lack played last night in St. Louis.

— No official word on a Blackhawks starter in Toronto. Corey Crawford faced 40 shots last night in Montreal, so it may be Scott Darling‘s turn to keep Chicago’s winning streak alive. James Reimer will start for the Maple Leafs.

— No official word on a Jets starter in Minnesota. Connor Hellebuyck played last night versus Nashville, so it’s possible Michael Hutchinson could be in there. Devan Dubnyk will start for the Wild.

Kari Lehtonen is likely for the Stars in Anaheim, where Frederik Andersen is likely for the Ducks.

All-Star John Scott traded to Montreal

during the NHL game at Gila River Arena on November 12, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.
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It’s not everyday an All-Star is traded in the NHL.

But that’s exactly what happened today, when the Arizona Coyotes sent big John Scott to the Montreal Canadiens as part of a three-team deal that also involved the Nashville Predators.

The Canadiens, in addition to getting Scott, received 27-year-old defenseman Victor Bartley.

The Coyotes got 23-year-old defenseman Jarred Tinordi, plus minor-league forward Stefan Fournier.

The Predators got 24-year-old defenseman Stefan Elliott.

Obviously, Scott is the most recognizable name in the transaction. We all know he was voted an All-Star Game captain by the fans. We all know why that was done. The fans thought it would be funny. Because John Scott.

It’s not clear if Scott will still participate in the All-Star Game. He’s not a Coyote anymore, and he’s not in the Pacific Division.

But from a pure hockey perspective, this deal is more about the other players. Elliott cleared waivers prior to the trade today and was assigned to the AHL. The Habs had been reluctant to expose Tinordi to waivers, lest they lose him for nothing. He’s only appeared in three games for Montreal this season, plus a conditioning stint in the minors.

The hope for the Coyotes will be that Tinordi can develop into the kind of player the Habs thought he would when they drafted him 22nd overall in 2010.

Elliott was a second-round pick in 2009 who had 40 points in 64 games last season for AHL Lake Erie. The Coyotes acquired him this summer from Colorado in exchange for Brandon Gormley.

Bartley was in the AHL when the trade went down, a victim of the Predators’ deep defense. Both him and Scott are expected to start with Montreal’s minor-league affiliate in St. John’s.

Update: Bartley has actually been recalled by the Habs:

Also, don’t count on Scott playing in the All-Star Game:

Hurricanes activate Gerbe from injured reserve

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 05:  Nathan Gerbe #14 of the Carolina Hurricanes flips the puck past Shane Doan #19 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 5, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Hurricanes defeated the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime shootout.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Hurricanes have activated forward Nathan Gerbe from injured reserve.

General manager Ron Francis also said Friday that forwards Phil Di Guiseppe and Brock McGinn have been reassigned to the Hurricanes’ minor-league affiliate in Charlotte.

Gerbe has missed 25 games after injuring his ankle on Nov. 22 in a win over Los Angeles. He has one goal and two assists in 20 games this season.

McGinn scored his third goal during the third period of a 4-1 win at St. Louis on Thursday night.

The ‘Canes host Vancouver tonight.

Related: In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven’t, the Hurricanes have managed to win a few here and there

Do the Habs need to make a trade?

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When the Montreal Canadiens blasted the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic, they thought they’d “turned the chapter on” their tough December.

Unfortunately for the Habs, their frustrations have followed them into January. Since beating the B’s, they’ve gone 1-3-0. And with Carey Price not expected back anytime soon, they’re in legitimate danger of falling out of a playoff spot.

Last night, the Canadiens registered 40 shots on Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, only to lose 2-1. On Saturday, they put 34 shots on Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury. They lost that one, 3-1.

“We need points,” winger Brendan Gallagher told reporters. “It’s not enough to say we worked hard, that we had chances. The bottom line is that we have to bear down and put the puck in the net.”

And so today brought changes. Forwards Sven Andrighetto and Daniel Carr were sent back to the AHL, while forward Jacob de la Rose was called up to play on the fourth line. Winger Dale Weise is also expected to return to the lineup Saturday in St. Louis. He’s tied for second on the team with 11 goals. That’s right, Dale Weise. Tied for second in goals.

There’s a reason everyone’s watching GM Marc Bergevin these days, with names like Jonathan Drouin, Eric Staal, and Radim Vrbata getting raised as potential trade targets…

habs

Look at all those losses.

And look at how many times the Habs have been limited to two goals or fewer.

“We got 40 shots against the Stanley Cup champions,” argued Therrien. “We definitely had some great chances but we can’t score. It’s not a lack of effort.”

No, it hasn’t been. But could it be a lack of talent?

That’s the question for Bergevin.