WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin cut hard toward the middle of the ice and if you blinked you missed his ripper of a shot past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek.
It had been five games since Ovechkin had scored and he picked a pretty good time in the third period of a 1-1 tie against a Metropolitan Division rival the Capitals could see in the Stanley Cup playoffs in two weeks.
That was goal No. 49 matching last year’s total. But Ovechkin doesn’t want to stop there. He heard the crowd chanting “We Want 50!” just as they did last season when he had 49 goals in the final regular-season game, but fell one shy of that magic mark.
“Yeah. Next game,” Ovechkin said.
That would be Thursday again against Carolina, but on the road this time. In fact, the next three Washington games are on the road.
Ovechkin was disappointed last April 7 against the Devils. He has scored 50 seven times and trails only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy, who did it nine times each. His teammates don’t want that to happen again either. First of all, it’s better for them when he scores. But just remember that New Jersey game when Ovechkin scored twice and his teammates tried almost too hard to get him the hat trick and another 50-goal season.
“It was a bit much,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said earlier this month.
The last eight minutes of that game were almost comical. Ovechkin played 6:04 of the final 8:10 thanks in part to two power plays where he never left the ice. Ovechkin put three shots on goal, tipped another pass just high over the goal, sent a forehand attempt wide on a breakaway. He was double shifted with the fourth line. He sent a rebound just wide with 12 seconds to go and a last-second pass after a faceoff win was blocked. It was an epic eight minutes.
Things didn’t get that crazy on Tuesday against the Hurricanes. Ovechkin still has five games left to get that final goal. He has 33 shots in his past four games, but just that single tally.
“It would be nice to get it. But we still have five games,” Ovechkin said. “I have lots of chances to score tonight, but finally I get one because I think last couple games I didn't use my chances. It was important goal and I'm happy with the win.”
Ovechkin has long been the favorite to win an eighth Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer. He might need to get to 50 to hole on. Toronto Maple Leafs center Jonathan Tavares had four goals in a game Monday to get to 45. And Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl had a hat trick Tuesday to creep to 46. They are just close enough to make things uncomfortable.
Since the Rocket Richard Trophy was formalized in 1998-99, no other player besides Ovechkin has led the league in goals more than twice. In NHL history, only Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Hull has led the league as many times as Ovechkin’s seven.
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