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Ovechkin's teammates relish in his milestone

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Ovechkin's teammates relish in his milestone

As you might imagine, the praise for Alex Ovechkin and his ability to score his 500th and 501st NHL goals in his 801st NHL game was pretty effusive Sunday night following the Capitals’ 7-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.

“It’s just an amazing feeling,” Capitals center and longtime linemate Nicklas Backstrom said. “As a player sitting on the bench I got goose bumps. It was a special feeling and I’m sure he’s going to remember this for a while.”

Even before he could finish celebrating, Ovechkin was mobbed by his teammates, who orchestrated a jailbreak from the players’ bench as soon as Ovechkin netted his historic goal. 

“It was awesome,” said Zach Sill, who most certainly will tell his grandchildren he was on the ice for Ovechkin’s 500th. “We knew as a team we were going to jump on the ice and congratulate him. It was pretty special. And the (crowd) afterwards was even more special. The amount of fans and the amount of noise they made, they appreciated that and we appreciated them.”

Backstrom, who picked up an assist on Ovechkin’s 501st career goal in the third period and now has assists on 182 of Ovechkin’s goals, said it was only fitting that a player as emotional as Ovechkin should be given such an excitable celebration.  

“It looked like it was 20 other Ovechkins jumping over the bench,” Backstrom said. “He shows a lot of emotions when he scores and it’s good for the game. He’s always done it, too. It’s fun to make an Alex Ovechkin celebration.

“I think it’s such a big milestone. Not a lot of players have done it as fast as him. It came naturally for us to jump in and celebrate with him. It’s a big moment for him and the city of Washington.”

RELATED: Sports stars congratulate Ovechkin for goal No. 500

It is that enthusiasm of the game that many of Ovechkin’s teammates noted Sunday night.

“Everyone knows his shot and his love of scoring,” Caps right wing T.J. Oshie said. “But for me you see how much he cares on the bench and on the ice, his emotion. 

“Off the ice he loves everyone. He’s always smiling and he’s a great leader. When you have all those things off the ice and you put his talent with it, it makes a great player and definitely a future Hall of Famer.”

Justin Williams has won three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, but he’s never seen a player quite like Ovechkin, whose 500 goals in 801 games marks the fifth fastest in NHL history, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Brett Hull.

“It’s a celebration of a great career that’s still got a lot of years left,” Williams said. “To do what he’s done in this day and age with this competition it’s amazing and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it this year. I know he wants to write a little more history, but so far it’s been pretty impressive.”

Williams, who earlier this season inadvertently took goals away from Ovechkin by interfering with a goaltender and being offsides, was near the crease when Ovechkin scored his 500th but said he made no attempt to deflect his shot.

“I can’t even see it to tip it, it goes so fast,” Williams quipped.

In fact, Williams was the first to retrieve the puck out of the Ottawa net for safe keeping. 

Backstrom said that as happy as he was to see Ovechkin score his milestone goal, he knows Ovechkin is even happier. 

“I’m sure he had goose bumps all over his body,” Backstrom said. “Especially in front of his family and friends and all the fans here. It couldn’t have been any better.”

As for Ovechkin, he was asked if this is starting to feel like a special season for the Caps, who own the NHL’s best record after 42 games.

“I don’t want to talk about a special season or not special season,” Ovechkin said. “We just play game by game . We win tonight and tomorrow is a new day. Obviously, we have our goal and we just take it step by step.”

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin steals the show

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!

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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.