Ovechkin’s heroics put Capitals up 2-1 in series vs. Penguins

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Alex Ovechkin has long been an underrated playoff performer. Perhaps he’ll silence a few critics by carrying a less-impressive-than-usual Washington Capitals team during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

That thought had to occur to plenty of hockey fans – including maybe those of the Pittsburgh Penguins? – after Ovechkin’s late goal secured a 4-3 win in Game 3 for Washington, giving the Capitals a 2-1 series lead.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

It was a stunner for the Penguins, as Ovechkin’s game-winner came with just 1:07 remaining in the third period. Nicklas Backstrom provided a fantastic dish, too, while Ovechkin actually swatted in the winner, echoing Sidney Crosby‘s baseball-inspired hand-eye coordination:

This performance is the latest reminder that, despite rumblings about Ovechkin being past his prime at 32, the world-class sniper has been on another level lately. That marker was his eighth goal and 13th point of the postseason, and it came in just his ninth game of this playoff run.

Again, this isn’t new, even if Ovechkin’s critics will probably try to snip in that way. With a goal and an assist in this game, Ovechkin now has an impressive 103 points in 106 career playoff games.

More than a few people have joked that this could be the Capitals’ year because it would spotlight just how fickle playoff success can be in the NHL. This team is no slouch – they did win the Metropolitan Division, after all – yet they also didn’t cruise to a Presidents’ Trophy this time around. They simply need Ovechkin to create a ton of chances, and he’s done just that, with three goals and two assists in just the first three games of this series.

To some degree, Tom Wilson‘s controversial hits have taken some of the spotlight from Ovechkin’s heroics (more on that here, and even more on Wilson to come). Still, you merely need to look at the box scores to see Ovechkin’s impact.

He’s really given the Penguins all they can handle so far in this series, and he’s a big reason why the Capitals currently hold a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4 of the series airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday. Here’s the livestream link.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.