Before the Capitals embarked on their abbreviated 2012-13 season, Alex Ovechkin made it clear how much he trusted head coach Adam Oates.
That trust was tested when Oates asked him to switch from left wing to right wing.
It was tested when Oates asked him to play with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb instead of Mike Ribeiro and Nicklas Backstrom.
And it was tested when, after 16 games, Ovechkin had just five goals on 62 shots.
But that didn’t stop Oates from whispering words of encouragement into the ear of his 27-year-old captain.
“He’s the kind of person who gives me belief all the time,” Ovechkin said after recording his first hat trick in more than two years in the Caps’ 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. “Sometimes I have a tough game and I talk to him and he says, ‘It’s OK, chances are there, the goals will come.’
“For a player, if you feel that kind of trust from the coaching staff it’s very important.”
Truth be told, Oates’ own patience with Ovechkin was being tested. While he knew the Capitals’ aggressive forecheck had generated 62 shots for his captain, he also knew the team couldn’t go much longer without their best player finding the back of the net.
“I feel that way about every guy,” Oates aid. “If you’re doing the right things it will turn your way at some point. You have to believe in that. That’s almost every life lesson. It’s good advice.”
Oates also recognizes that emotion is one of Ovechkin’s greatest attributes. He said the key is keeping that fire burning even when the goals are few and far between.
“As an outsider looking at Washington as a fan, that’s one thing I always liked about him, the way he loves to score, and when his teammates score how he jumps just as much I think it’s a great characteristic.”
Over the glass: The Capitals committed two more delay of game penalties for shooting the puck over the glass. Defensemen John Carlson and John Erskine were the guilty parties on Saturday, bringing the team total to 10 this season.
“It was only two tonight,” deadpanned Oates.” Every game. It’s really weird how that’s happening all around the league.”
Penalty or penalty shot: When Caps defenseman Tom Poti hooked Steve Bernier from behind and a penalty shot was awarded, Adam Oates had to wonder what might have happened if Bernier had gained control of the puck and scored after the referee’s arm went up.
“I didn’t think that was a penalty shot,” he said. “I thought Bernier got control of the puck again [after the hook] and he lost it. What if Bernier goes in and shoots the puck? Does he still get a penalty shot after that? If a player regains control or loses the puck it should be switched to a penalty.”
Power surge: The Capitals went 2-for-3 on the power play and are now 12-for-26 for 46.2 percent in their last nine games. “With that kind of group of guys we have to score goals all the time,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s me or other people in the lineup.”