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George Johnson, Calgary Herald
Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2006

There he was. In the flesh. Finally.

The most famous Alexander to hit sports since Jason (George Costanza) Alexander was kissing up to the Steinbrenner clone on the occasional Seinfeld episode.

The gawking started at the morning skate, an estimated 200 or so of the curious, including many staff members of the Calgary Flames, huddled in the stands at the Pengrowth Saddledome to catch a glimpse of an authentic phenom.

He'd charmed in the morning, smiling and laughing, saying he was trying to negotiate the capture of a Jarome Iginla stick before leaving town (which he did, by the way).

At night, he was all business.

From the hype, the eye-popping highlights that dazzle virtually every night the Washington Capitals play, you come for the first look expecting the Beatles at Shea, a Monster Truck rally and the Bolshoi Ballet all rolled into one.

Alexander Ovechkin's curse is that, if he doesn't sing, dance, do impressions and play every instrument in the orchestra, simultaneously, people leave the rink feeling vaguely disappointed. For that, though, he has only himself to blame.

Well, Calgarians at last got the chance to see what all the fuss has been about.

"It's too bad we don't play in Edmonton and Calgary more often," said Ovechkin, after the 4-2 victory. "I don't think about the fans or the media, what they expect. I just try to go out and play hard.

"My coach tells me if I want to be a great player, I have to work on my defence. So that's what I do. He trusts me."

Not exactly scintillating stuff, but he's become famous for being better talking about teammates than himself.

And that's one of the many reasons he proved such an instant hit in the Caps' dressing room.

Oh, that little matter of the staggering skill level doesn't hurt, either. Ovechkin handed Richard Zednik the hemp to hang the Calgary Flames, outletting the puck in the blink of an eye for Zednik to slot a breakaway shot beyond

Miikka Kiprusoff at 10:27 of the third period. The Russian revelation's second helper of the evening staked the Caps to a 3-1 advantage.

In the dressing room afterwards, he snuck impishly over behind no-longer-slumping Zednik, and stuck rabbit ears behind his buddy's head for the TV cameras to capture for posterity. Or at least the late-night highlight reel.

"It's an off-night for him if he doesn't score," said Olaf Kolzig.

Olie the Goalie and the rest of the Caps have obviously gotten spoiled. Goal or no, Ovechkin does something memorable -- big, small, cheeky, efficient -- on virtually every shift. Not many, no matter how famous the name or gaudy the stats, can in all honesty make such a statement.

The final tally: 21:12 played, a plus-1, a game-high nine shots on goal, the two assists, two hits and two takeaways. Dainius Zubrus and Zednik shared the scoring spotlight, but there was little doubt as to the best player on the ice. Again.

Tight to the post, Ovechkin almost jams a Clark pass behind Kiprusoff only 20 seconds into the game. In short order, he brings Dion Phaneuf to attention, no small feat, as the game's most punishing hitter endeavours to deliver an early-warning memo. Not only could Phaneuf not topple his prey, he didn't budge him. And wound up losing balance himself ("I hit him, he hit me," said Ovechkin, shrugging).

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