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Alex Ovechkin scores 600th goal further cementing his place among the all-time greats

Alex Ovechkin scores 600th goal further cementing his place among the all-time greats

Alex Ovechkin certainly has a flair for the dramatic. After being held scoreless on the Capitals' California road trip, he returned to Washington in a highly anticipated matchup with Patrik Laine and scored twice to reach No. 600 for his career. He is just the 20th player in NHL history to reach that mark.

After being limited to only 33 goals in 2016-17 and now at the age of 32, many wondered if Ovechkin's days as an elite goal-scorer were over. He entered the season 42 goals away from 600 and it was fair to wonder if he would even reach that mark this season or if the chase would stretch into the 2018-19 campaign.

That seems like a long time ago now.

After scoring 15 goals in his last 11 games, Laine entered Monday's contest with the hot hand. His latest scoring tear had pulled him even with Ovechkin for the league lead in goals with 40. Ovechkin rose to the challenge against the 19-year-old phenom.

Goal No. 599 came less than five minutes into the contest as a wrister from Ovechkin sneaked through the five-hole of goalie Connor Hellebuyck. With over 55 minutes left to play, there was never a doubt that 600 would not be far behind.

The historic tally came in the second period as he chipped a rebound over a sprawled Hellebuyck. As the puck dropped to restart play, fans serenaded Ovechkin with chants of, "Ovi! Ovi! Ovi!"

Take a moment to appreciate the historic moment. The last time a player scored his 600th goal was when Jerome Iginla did it on Jan. 5, 2016. Ovechkin is the only player in the NHL with 600 goals (Jaromir Jagr is playing in Europe, Iginla is playing for Providence in the AHL). It could be a long time before we see another player reach that mark. Patrick Marleau is the only active player with more than 500 as he sits with 529 and, at 38 years old, seems unlikely to score another 71 goals in his career.

In addition to being his 600th goal, Ovechkin's tally was also his league-leading 42nd of the season. He leads all players in goals since 1998-99, despite the fact that he did not make his NHL debut until 2005.

While Wayne Gretzky's all-time goal mark of 894 still remains very far in the distance, there are still several players very much within reach of Ovechkin. By season's end, Ovechkin could climb pass Jari Kurri (601), Dino Ciccarelli (608) and Bobby Hull (610). A 50-goal season also remains very much within reach. If he reaches that point, it will be for the eighth time in his remarkable career, pulling within one of Gretzky and Bossy who recorded nine 50-goal seasons.

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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.


But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.

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Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Whenever a playoff series ends, the analysis begins soon after. Why did this team win? Why did this team lose? Why did this player perform while this one did not?  This is an exercise performed by media, players and coaches alike, especially for teams that walk away from a series believing they let an opportunity slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in six games despite taking a 2-0 series lead by winning both opening games in Washington. Head coach John Tortorella will have all summer to think about what he could have done differently and what went wrong for his team, but it sounds like he already has at least one theory as to why they lost.

In a series that featured four overtime games, Game 4 stands out as being far more one-sided than the others. Washington turned in the most dominant performance of the series in a 4-1 win that knotted the teams at two wins apiece.

That game stood out to Tortorella too and he thinks he knows why the Blue jackets laid an egg that night: Travel.

"I think we should’ve stayed in Washington after that second overtime game, the second game there," Tortorella said. "I think that comes back and gets you later on in the series. We should’ve stayed in Washington and let them get a good night sleep. They got in here so late. I don’t think it affected us in Game 3. It comes the next days, so that falls on me."

When analyzing why the Caps won the series, chances are travel is not going to be a reason many people consider. Perhaps there is some merit to this. After all, as the father of an infant, I can certainly vouch for how much of a difference one good night of sleep can make.

But perhaps there is another message being sent here by Tortorella.

Tortorella is a master at using the media to his advantage. He uses the media to send messages to his team or draw attention on himself and away from the players.

Tortorella just saw his young team give up a 2-0 series lead and lose four straight games. Those are the kind of losses that can stick with a player and create doubt in the mind of a team the next time they reach a tough spot in the postseason.

So what did Tortorella do? He came out and put the worst loss of the series on his own shoulders. Why was it his fault? Yeah, let's go with travel.

The Blue Jackets are not the first team to play overtime on the road or the first team to deal with travel concerns. To hear a coach say it was a reason they lost a game and not even the next game after the travel? Well, that's a first.