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NHL on NBC: Ovechkin quickly gaining ground in goal race

Kathryn Tappen, Keith Jones and Mike Babcock break down the latest NHL Power Rankings, with Alex Ovechkin and the Caps at No. 1 and a surprise leader in the Central Division.

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. Capitals-Rangers stream coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

You never really want to bet against Alex Ovechkin in the NHL goal scoring race.

Not at the start of the season. Not in the middle of the season when he seems to be too far back to win it. And certainly not when he starts to get on the sort of roll that he is on right now for the Washington Capitals.

Ovechkin enters Sunday’s game against the New York Rangers (12 p.m. ET, NBC) playing some of his best hockey of the season for a Capitals team that is starting to get on a roll. Thanks to a 16-3-1 over their past 20 games, the Capitals have reclaimed the top spot in the East Division and are once again looking like a Stanley Cup contender.

There are a lot of reasons for their success. It is a deep roster with four lines that can contribute, and while the goaltending is unproven and has had its bouts with inconsistency this season Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek are giving them more than enough from the position to contend.

Lately, though, the story has been about Ovechkin.


He has 10 goals over his past 10 games for the Capitals, including a pair of two-goal efforts, a run that has helped him rapidly close the gap in the NHL goal race. It was only three weeks ago that he had just seven goals in 19 games and seemed to be an afterthought behind Auston Matthews, Tyler Toffoli, and Connor McDavid in the Richard race. But if you blinked, you missed him climb all the way into the top-10. Keep in mind that due to COVID protocols earlier this season Ovechkin missed several games and has scored his 17 goals in only 29 games. When you break it down to a per-game level he is in the top-five behind Matthews, and right in line with McDavid, Tyler Toffoli, and Max Pacioretty.

Does he have enough time to make up that remaining ground on Matthews? It is asking a lot, but you should know by now to count him out at your own risk.

This little run has also helped him add to his career total as he continues to chase Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record.

He enters play on Saturday with 723 goals for his career, sixth most all-time.

He needs eight goals to tie, and nine goals to move ahead of, Marcel Dionne for fifth on the all-time list.

That does seem to be within reach this season.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.