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In a matchup between Rocket Richard hopefuls, Ovechkin proved he is still the king

In a matchup between Rocket Richard hopefuls, Ovechkin proved he is still the king

Normally, a Capitals-Winnipeg game in mid-March would not carry much juice. With two of the best scorers in the game on a collision course in Washington, however, Monday’s game suddenly became one of the can’t-miss matchups of the regular season.

In one corner was the 19-year-old scoring sensation, Patrik Laine, and a Winnipeg Jets team that has established itself as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. In the other was Alex Ovechkin, the greatest goal-scorer of his generation, on the verge of 600 career goals and the Washington Capitals, locked in a race for supremacy of the Metropolitan Division.

Heading into the game, it was not Ovechkin who had the hot hand, but Laine. Laine had scored 15 goals in his last 11 games to pull even with Ovechkin in the Rocket Richard race for the most goals. Laine’s goal streak brought him up to 40 for the season, a mark Ovechkin had not been able to add to since scoring in the Stadium Series on March 3.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF CAPS-JETS

Ovechkin has already established himself as one of the best players of all-time, but the Finnish winger Laine is a budding superstar in his own right. A big night in Washington could have represented a symbolic passing of the torch in which Laine took the mantle away from Ovechkin and declared himself the next great goal scorer of the league.

But Laine’s ascendency to the goal-scoring throne was put on hold as Monday night belonged to Ovechkin.

“Ovi's still king,” Barry Trotz said afterward.

After Ovechkin scored his first goal less than five minutes into the game, a second goal to earn No. 600 seemed like a foregone conclusion.

Even before the Capitals took the ice that night, there was a feeling in the air for many that Monday would be the day.

“I didn't have any doubt he was going to get the record tonight,” owner Ted Leonsis said. “The second goal was what I was expecting. He was just hungry.”

“This morning he was really quiet,” Trotz said. “He knew he was going to get it done today. ... We were all talking about it as a coaching staff this morning. He's getting it tonight, there's no question.”

Playing in front of a home crowd likely helped, but there is no doubt Ovechkin was fueled Monday’s matchup.

After morning skate, Ovechkin was asked if he Laine reminded him of a “young Ovi.”

“I’m still young” was the answer.

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN HAS CEMENTED HIS PLACE IN HISTORY

Ovechkin did not wait long to put his stamp on the game, scoring from the office on the power play in the first period. The historic goal came at the start of the second period as Ovechkin fired three shots on Connor Hellebuyck in quick succession. Hellebuyck could only save the first two before he succumbed. Ovechkin would not be denied.

Laine would eventually get on the board in the third period, tying the game at 2. But just as this night belonged to Ovechkin, so too did it belong to Washington as Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the overtime winner.

The final score: Ovechkin 2, Laine 1; Caps 3, Jets 2.

Laine’s time will undoubtedly come. With all the talk around the league focused on young stars such as Connor McDavid and Auston Mathews, Laine has emphatically pulled himself back into the conversation with his incredible run of goals in recent weeks. His goal on Monday was the 77th of his career which is more than even Wayne Gretzky could manage as a teenager. The Great score 76 goals before he turned 20.

Laine grew up idolizing Ovechkin and has the talent to one day become an elite scorer like the Great 8. His time will come.

But that time was not Monday.

Said Trotz, “I love [Laine’s] mindset, but until he does it, Ovi is the king.”

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Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

After three straight wins, the Caps now sit just one win away from closing out the Columbus Blue Jackets. They will get their shot to finish the series Monday in Game 6.

Nicklas Backstrom was the hero in Game 5 for Washington with three points including the overtime winner. Who will step up in Game 6? The Caps will need to make sure it's not Artemi Panarin who has been held without a point in two straight games. Washington will also need to make sure their penalty kill stays hot as they have killed off 13 straight power plays for the Blue Jackets.

The Pittsburgh Penguins await the winner of this series after closing out the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Will the Caps close out Columbus and set up the rematch?

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 6

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 6 on Monday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Washington currently leads the series 3-2.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 6, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

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Capitals one win away from facing the Penguins ... again

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Capitals one win away from facing the Penguins ... again

The Washington Capitals are one win away from advancing to the second round of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

If they do beat the Blue Jackets in Game 6 or Game 7, a familiar foe awaits them.

The Pittsburgh Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday with a 8-5 win in Game 6. They will play the winner of the Capitals-Columbus Blue Jackets series.

Because of course they will.

The Penguins have beaten the Capitals in the second round in each of the past two seasons. The series went six games in 2016 and seven in 2017.

Washington’s biggest rival has been a thorn in the side of the Caps throughout the team’s history. Washington and Pittsburgh have met in the postseason 10 times. Only once have the Caps come out victorious, in 1994.

Pittsburgh has won five Stanley Cups in their history and each time, they had to beat the Caps in the playoffs to do it.

The emergence of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin helped to reignite the Washington-Pittsburgh rivalry, but that too has been one sided. Crosby has won three Stanley Cups while Ovechkin has never advanced past the second round.

Before you despair, however, consider this. Coming into the season, no one knew what to expect from the Capitals. Expectations were low. Somehow, Washington managed to overcome the loss of several players in the offseason and managed to win the Metropolitan Division.

In a season in which the Caps have already defied expectations, perhaps this will be the year they finally get past Pittsburgh and advance to the conference final. Maybe? Please?

First things first, they still need one more win against Columbus. Game 6 will be Monday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

MORE CAPITALS:
How the Caps stymied Artemi Panarin
Nick Backstrom's Game 5 heroics, explained
Capitals' PK unit the series difference-maker
John Tortorella makes Game 7 proclamation