Before Alex Ovechkin would ultimately hoist the Stanley Cup he made his playoff debut 10 years prior unleashing a new era for the Washington Capitals. The date was April 11, 2008 and after rallying from the bottom of the Southeast Division to the top, the Capitals earned a trip to the playoffs and home ice advantage in the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Caps took an early 1-0 lead at 3:16 from the unlikeliest of players. Donald Brashear, who’s more known for his enforcer type role was there at the right place at the right time rebounding in a shot by Matt Bradley. Tom Poti had the secondary assist.
The Flyers would tie the game at 8:17 on a goal from Vinny Prospal. 1-1 would be the score after the opening period.
At 4:08 in the second period, the Caps took the lead thanks to the fourth line. Matt Bradley fed a charging David Steckel and Steckel drove it home. That lead was short lived, however, as the Flyers responded with three unanswered goals.
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First it was Daniel Briere to tie it. Then it was Prospal’s second goal of the game to give them the lead and then the Briere scored on the power play for his second of the game. The Caps headed into the dressing room down 4-2 but not out.
At 1:50 Mike Green crashed the net to pull the Caps within one. Less than five minutes later the Caps got on the power play attack. On an initial shot from Green, a Flyers player blocked the shot and was in pain. He couldn’t get up. In that same sequence, Green got another look from downtown and this time made it to tie the game and bring the house down.
With 4:32 left in the third, Alex Ovechkin stripped the puck away from defenseman Lasse Kukkonen, and ripped in a shot past Martin Biron to give the Caps the lead for good. Cristobal Huet turned away 18 of the 22 shots he faced to seal the win and give the Caps an early series lead.
Believe it or not up Ovechkin was held without a shot until late in the game, but give the great eight one slight chance and he will make you pay.
Then Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau told the Associated Press after the game:
"“They held him in check pretty good. But he’s one of the guys that needs one chance.”"
Although the Capitals would go on to lose the series in seven games, this game was a signature moment in Ovechkin’s storied career and would be the first of several little exciting playoff moments that would all lead to one big prize 10 years later.