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Ovechkin still gunning for 50th goal

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Ovechkin still gunning for 50th goal

Alex Ovechkin was asked last week in Philadelphia if netting 50 goals this season still mattered to him. At the time he had 43 goals with seven games remaining.

“Yeah, of course,” Ovechkin said. “... If I get it, it will be cool. But if not, that’s OK. I was there.”

Thanks to his two-goal performance in Tuesday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders, the Caps’ 30-year-old captain is now three goals away from becoming just the third player in NHL history to record seven 50-goal seasons (Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy).

Ovechkin has four goals in his last four games and is on pace to become the first player since Gretzky to lead the NHL in goals in a season his team led the NHL in points. Gretzky led the NHL with 62 goals in 1986-87. His Oilers led the league in points (106) that year and went on to win their third of five Stanley Cups. In fact, of the last four times a player has led the NHL in goals the same season his team has led the league in points, that team has gone on to win the Stanley Cup three times (Mike Bossy, 1980-81, Gretzky, 1983-84, Gretzky, 1986-87).

 “I think his game is ramping up,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “If we’re going to do anything in the post-season it will fall on our top guys. You hear coaches say you need your best guys to be your best guys and if they’re not then you’re in trouble.”

In 837 regular season games, Ovechkin has averaged .62 goals and 1.15 points per game. In 72 playoff games, he has averaged .50 goals per game and .97 points per game.

MORE CAPS: HANDICAPPING POTENTIAL FIRST-ROUND OPPONENTS 

Per @BenRaby31, today is the 12-year anniversary of the Capitals winning the 2004 draft lottery, which won them the opportunity to draft Ovechkin first overall in the 2004 NHL draft. Since entering the NHL in 2005, no one has produced more goals (522) or points (963) than Ovechkin. He now ranks tied for 34th (with Pat Verbeek) on the NHL’s all-time goals list, two behind Bryan Trottier.

Ovechkin said it seems like only yesterday that he was celebrating his 30th birthday and getting ready for the start of the 2015-16 season.

“Honestly, the regular season went fast,” he said. “It's unbelievable. I remember we came here and we did the testings and all that kind of stuff and right now we're talking about the playoffs and all of the success that we had this year.

“But right now we have to forget about all of these six months and we have to focus in game-by-game and day-by-day for the playoffs.”

With 117 points and three games remaining, the Caps still have a chance to surpass the franchise record of 121 points set in 2009-10. That team went 5-0-1 in its final six games of the regular season, but was knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens in seven gut-wrenching games.

“The most important thing right now is that we exactly know we're going to be in the playoffs,” Ovechkin said. “We feel comfortable, but the most important thing right now is that everybody has to be healthy and everybody has to be mentally ready for a tough run.”

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby.

Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty-handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1.

It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps

4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps

The Caps looked like they had the win in hand as they led 2-1 late in the third period, but things went off the rails in the final four minutes in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers

Here's how the Caps lost.

An emotional start for Robert Luongo

Before the game, Roberto Luongo took the mic during an emotional tribute to the victims of the tragic Stoneman Douglas school shooting. As a writer, it was hard to get into the game after that. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Luongo to focus to actually play in the game. But he did. He started off very well, making several strong saves in the first period. Washington scored late in the opening period after an offensive cycle of over a minute that completely wore out the Panthers' skaters. Otherwise, Luongo was brilliant turning aside 13 of the 14 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.

Another shaky start for Braden Holtby

This was the best game we have seen from Braden Holtby in a while as he made a number of phenomenal saves in the second and third period. In the first, however, he continued to struggle. Maxim Mamin scored his first career NHL goal and point as a puck trickled through Holtby and Mamin was able to slam it home. Holtby was dealing with a screen, but reacted late to the initial shot and late to Mamin.

Aleksander Barkov splitting Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson

With a 2-1 lead late in the third, the Caps looked like they had control. But with less than four minutes remaining, Aleksander Barkov was able to split Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson to set up Nick Bjugstad for the game-tying goal. Ovechkin was backchecking, Carlson stepped up on him and then...nothing. It looked as if both players thought the other would take Barkov and Ovechkin let up at the same time Carlson skated past giving Barkov a lane to the net.

A late penalty to Lars Eller

With the game tied late, the Caps were exerting their will in the offensive zone with the cycle that had been dominant all game long...and then Lars Eller tried to set a pick on Bjugstad, knocking him to the ice. It was an obvious interference call with just 42 seconds remaining in the game. Florida would score 22 seconds later to deny Washington not only the win, but a point as well.