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No disguising Alex Ovechkin's drive against Rangers

The Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin celebrates his first-period

The Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin celebrates his first-period goal against the New York Rangers during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, April 30, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Alex Ovechkin planned to spend his day off in New York Friday shopping for shoes, lunching with his family and perhaps taking a relaxing stroll around town.

Does one of the best hockey players in the world ever get recognized in the big city?

"I hope not,'' he deadpanned, adding he might use a hat and dark glasses as a disguise -- and avoid smiling, like a native.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, there is no disguising his talent on the ice.

After a relatively quiet series against the Islanders, the Capitals star hit the Rangers with the full Ovi in Game 1, including a howitzer shot for the first goal and an assist on the winning goal with 1.3 seconds left.

"He's the engine,'' defenseman Karl Alzner said of Ovechkin during a media session at the team's midtown hotel.

The talent always has been there, but teammates say the Ovi that has been accused of being moody and selfish has matured into a leader with perspective.

Perhaps that was why Capitals coach Barry Trotz twice compared him to Rangers icon Mark Messier on Thursday. Does Ovechkin agree with that observation?

"No,'' he said, smiling. "I'm Russian, not Canadian.''

He also is six Stanley Cups behind Messier. Teammates would love to win one with and for him.

"I've noticed this year if he's having a little bit of a slump, he's still wanting to work hard, still wanting to play hard,'' Caps wing Troy Brouwer said. "In previous seasons, maybe he tried to do a little bit more individual stuff, where this year he's sticking with the system a little bit more and making sure he's putting the team interest far ahead of his personal interest.''

Brouwer noted it's not easy being Ovi, with "an X on his back'' and other teams' best defensemen on him every game.

Trotz told Ovechkin during the Islanders series not to put pressure on himself to do too much, and Ovechkin listened.

So far, so good for the Capitals and Trotz, who in his first season coaching Ovechkin called him "a real revelation.''

Ovechkin was caught by a microphone in Game 1 taunting Henrik Lundqvist after his goal, saying, "All series, baby,'' but he insisted Friday he could not remember having said anything.

Then he and his teammates hit the town. Would any of them dare wear Capitals-logoed attire?

Probably not. But defenseman Brooks Orpik, who was hit in the face with a beer from the stands at Nassau Coliseum last month, said doing so in Manhattan would be "a little less scary than Long Island. There's a lot more going on here. On Long Island, you're kind of trapped in that Marriott and they're all tailgating around the hotel.''

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