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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

Down 4-1, the Capitals scored five goals in the third period for the incredible 6-4 comeback win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick pulling him in a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals.

Here is how the Caps won.

Ovechkin

Ovechkin was hot coming in with five goals in his past two games. He scored midway through the first period, getting a great pass in stride from Nicklas Backstrom to launch him behind the defense. Just as the defense closed in he fired a wrister past Semyon Varlamov to make it 1-0.

There is...pretty much nothing positive to say after that until the third period. There was a great 5-on-3 penalty kill, but it was essentially negated as they allowed a goal soon after. The Islanders built a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes and it looked all but over.

But after Carl Hagelin made it 4-2, Ovechkin pulled the Caps to within one, pulling the vintage back-to-front Ovechkin curl-and-drag before passing to the front where the puck deflected off the boot of Ryan Pulock and in.

After Jakub Vrana made it 5-4, Ovechkin added the empty-netter for the knockout punch.

With three goals, Ovechkin now has 34 on the season. He passed Mario Lemieux and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals. Incredibly, this is the first time in his career Ovechkin has three straight multi-goal games.

Motivation

Just what exactly lit the fire under the Caps butts for that third period will probably be a talking point after the game. Was it Devon Toews doing the bird celebration after he scored to make it 4-1? Was it pulling Braden Holtby and starting Ilya Samsonov in the third period? Was it something Todd Reirden or one of the players said?

Whatever it was, it was a different Caps team that took the ice for the third period.

Hagelin's turnaround

As great as Ovechkin's performance was -- and it was epic -- it might not happen without the Carl Hagelin's early third-period tally.

The comeback was sparked by Hagelin's goal that came less than three minutes into the final frame. A great pass by Richard Panik set Hagelin up on the doorstep and he hit it home.

That goal made it 4-2 and a two-goal deficit seems a lot less daunting than a three-goal one.

Shaky Varlamov

Once Ovechkin made it 4-3, you could smell the blood in the water. Washington had gotten to Varlamov and the flood gates were open.

Dmitry Orlov took the puck up to the top of the faceoff circle and fired a slap shot that Wilson managed to get a stick to and deflected it through Varlamov to tie the game.

About three minutes later, Vrana intercepted a pass and fired a quick shot to beat Varlamov far-side for the 5-4 lead.

Varlamov faced 10 shots in the third period and allowed four goals. The fifth came on an empty net.

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Can Ovechkin really catch Wayne Gretzky?

Can Ovechkin really catch Wayne Gretzky?

Alex Ovechkin joined the elite 700 club on Saturday and further cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players to play the game.

For most, the 700-goal milestone represented the pinnacle of their career. Only seven players before Ovechkin have reached 700 and only two of those players have made it to 800. Reaching 700 goals was more of a lifetime achievement for the other five players, something reflective of the kind of goal-scorer they used to be.

Ovechkin, however, is different.

Saturday was a day to celebrate and reflect on a milestone reached only seven times before. But with Ovechkin’s continued goal-scoring prowess and remarkable durability, 700 hardly feels like a journey nearing its end. Instead, it has made the impossible seem reachable. Suddenly, Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894, long thought to be untouchable, seems not only possible for Ovechkin but realistic.

Ovechkin scored goal No. 700 in career game No. 1,144, the second-fastest in NHL history. Only Gretzky did it faster in just 886 games. Gretzky, however, only had one 40-goal season once he turned 30. He scored 41 goals in 1990-91 at the age of 30 and that would be the last time he would hit that mark.

Ovechkin is 34. He already has 42 this season and is on pace for 56. If he gets there, it will be the most goals scored by a player over the age of 33 ever.

Gretzky played nine more seasons after he hit 30 from the 1990-91 season to 1998-99. In that time, he scored 217 goals. Since turning 30, Ovechkin already has 225 goals. It should then come as no surprise that no one has ever gone from 600 to 700 goals faster in history. It took Ovechkin just 154 games to do it. Not only is that the fastest ever, but it’s also faster than he went from 500 to 600 (189 games). In fact, only once has Ovechkin gone from one milestone to the other faster in his career, when he went from 100 to 200 goals in just 129 games.

Those are the kind of numbers that begin to make you believe that catching Gretzky is a real possibility. What Ovechkin is doing at his age is unprecedented.

With every goal Ovechkin scores, the math for catching Gretzky becomes more and more realistic. If he continues on his current pace for 56 goals, he will finish the season with 714. If he plays four more seasons, he would need to average 45 goals per season to tie Gretzky. Again, that’s just if he plays four seasons. If he plays five seasons, then he would only need to average 36 goals. Even with a moderate drop off, a 36-goal average hardly seems outside of the realm of possibility for the Great 8.

At 34 years old, Ovechkin is still the best goal scorer in the game and is showing no signs of slowing down. Gretzky’s record does not seem impossible for him to reach because Ovechkin is already doing the impossible.

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Alex Ovechkin on goal 700: 'Without my teammates I couldn't do it.'

Alex Ovechkin on goal 700: 'Without my teammates I couldn't do it.'

While scoring goals can often be looked at as an individual achievement, Alex Ovechkin made sure to credit his teammates for the success he's had as one of the all-time best goal scorers in NHL history.

"All of my teammates over the years have treated me like family," Ovechkin said while reflecting on goal 700. "Without them, I would never be able to reach this milestone." 

Ovi finally eclipsed the 700 goal mark in the Capitals' 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon.

"Seven hundred means a lot to me," Ovechkin said. "Not a lot of players have done it in the history of the game so it's nice to be in that company." 

Ovechkin was certainly grateful for the achievement, but the fact of the matter is that this Capitals team has dropped eight of their last 11 games. An ecstatic Ovi is the one who wins games, not just scores goals. 

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