The Islanders came into this series with the understanding that they needed to contain Alex Ovechkin to beat the Capitals. There are other nuanced elements that come into play, but he was and continues to be the biggest.
"He's one of the best players in the world," Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk said Tuesday before Game 4. "You have to pay attention to him. You have to limit his opportunities. He's going to get some, but you try to limit him. You have to be aware of where he is on the ice at all times."
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The fans do. The few times he's touched the puck cleanly in the last two games at the Coliseum, the crowd has serenaded him with chants of "O-vie! O-vie!"
So far, the Islanders have done a decent job of curtailing him, even if they have not exactly held O-vie to an 0-fer. Ovechkin has not dominated any of the games in the series and has been held to only two goals, including one Tuesday night that glanced off his stick and past Jaroslav Halak in the first period.
It came off what would have otherwise been a futile blue-line wrister from teammate John Carlson and gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead in a game that went into overtime.
Ovechkin had 53 goals and 81 points in 81 regular-season games, but he said he hasn't been frustrated by the lack of prodigious scoring in this series, which has seen his production sliced in half.
"For us, we just have to manage our emotions, control our energy and do our thing," he said Tuesday morning.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he'd like to see more scoring from Ovechkin, but also called on the rest of the team to step up. The Capitals scored 2.89 goals per game in the regular season. They scored only once in two of the first three games and once through regulation Tuesday night.
"If you can get some secondary scoring in the playoffs, then your chances are enhanced," Trotz said. "That's huge in the playoffs."
So is primary scoring, and that means Ovechkin. He remained convinced that there would still be time to correct things. "It's not going to be a short series," he said despite the Islanders' 2-1 lead going into Game 4. "Right now, we look at it like six or seven games."
The series may go to seven, but the Islanders need to make sure the games don't belong to big No. 8.
"I'm just worried about stopping him," Boychuk said when asked if Ovechkin has seemed vexed by his relatively low numbers. "If he's frustrated, then, OK. It doesn't really matter. Just got to keep continuing to try to limit him."