TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Alex Ovechkin reached 50 goals — again. And, then he added another for good measure while leading the Washington Capitals to a big victory.
The Washington star scored his 50th and 51st goals of the season in a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
He has 658 career goals, moving past Brendan Shanahan for 13th on the all-time list. Ovechkin also hit the 50-goal mark for the eighth time in his career — a total surpassed only by Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy, who had 50 or more nine times.
“I’ve had a couple of chances in previous years to score 50, but I didn’t,” Ovechkin said. “You always want to do something special, obviously, but sometimes it’s hard. I’m happy to get it done.”
T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom also scored twice, while Braden Holtby finished with 28 saves as the Capitals won their fourth consecutive game and hold a three-point lead over the New York Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Nikita Kucherov scored his 39th goal of the season to increase his league-leading points total to 122. Tyler Johnson and J.T. Miller also scored for Tampa Bay, which played its final home game of the regular season. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 31 shots as the Lightning suffered their 15th regulation loss of the season.
Ovechkin hit the 50-goal mark at the 14:35 mark of the third period, one-timing a cross-ice pass from Oshie at the bottom of the right circle past Vasilevskiy. He added his second of the game 1:40 later on the power play, hammering a one-timer from the top of the left circle off a feed from John Carlson for his 247th career power play goal to tie Luc Robitaille for fourth most in league history.
With a four-goal lead on Edmonton’s Leon Draisatl for the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal scorer, Ovechkin is attempting to top the NHL in that category for the eighth time in his career — which would be an NHL record.
“I think it goes under the radar a little bit how many games he’s played,” Washington right wing Tom Wilson said. “He’s always in. He’s always playing hard. They haven’t been easy miles on him. He’s done it hard and he’s played that way for a long time and he’s continues to just blow the roof off with his goal scoring. We’re pretty lucky to have him around and he deserves it for sure.”
At the age of 33, Ovechkin is also on pace to be the oldest player since Phil Esposito in 1974-75 to lead the league in goals.
“It’s been, obviously, a phenomenal milestone year for him and it’s going to continue to be for the next few years as well,” Washington head coach Todd Reirden said. “We’re so fortunate to have this player in Washington and playing for the Capitals. A generational talent. And, you know, the NHL is fortunate to have a guy like this. We’re spoiled in Washington for sure, but the whole National Hockey League is spoiled to have a guy like this. I’m happy for him because he put the work in. He put the work in and he deserves it.”
Washington had a 3-0 lead after the first period on Backstrom’s first of the night and a pair from Oshie. Backstrom became the seventh player on Washington to reach the 20-goal mark this season. Backstrom made it 4-0 7:53 in to the second before Miller scored for Tampa Bay.
Johnson converted a breakaway 3:36 into third before Ovechkin put the game out of reach with his 50th and 51st.
“It’s the milestone as a goal scorer,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who has reached the 50-goal mark twice in his career. “He’s done it plenty of times. That’s why he’s been the best goal scorer in the last 10, 15 years for a reason and he did it again tonight.”
NOTES: Lightning LW Yanni Gourde returned to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension. … Washington RW Brett Connolly missed his first game of the season due to illness. … A pregame ceremony was held to present Tampa Bay with the President’s Trophy as the team with the most points in the league. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was on hand to deliver the trophy. … The Lightning presented captain Steven Stamkos with a commemorative silver stick for breaking the franchise record for career goals. Owner Jeff Vinik and former team captain Vinny Lecavalier, who held the previous record, made the presentation. … Amalie Arena was sold out for the 199th consecutive game, including playoffs. … Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov extended his scoring streak to three games.
Lightning: At Ottawa on Monday night.
Capitals: At Florida on Monday night.
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