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Ten years after “hot stick”, Ovechkin goes for 50 against Lightning again

Ten years after “hot stick”, Ovechkin goes for 50 against Lightning again

WASHINGTON – The moment came 10 years and a day ago against the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Alex Ovechkin skates up the middle of the ice, cuts hard to the right and into the offensive zone and before anyone knows what’s happened he’s whipped a wrist shot into the net. Blink, and you missed it. 

That was vintage Ovechkin on March 19, 2009. It was his 50th goal. And it set off a firestorm of sorts when he celebrated by laying his stick on the ice and pretending it was too hot to touch. The “hot stick” was born.

Of course, it inspired a wave of indignation, too. Former Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, now the head coach of the Arizona Coyotes, said it was “hard for me to accept in our building.” CBC Hockey Night in Canada personality Don Cherry pointed out how terrible Tampa Bay was that year and that Ovechkin, while not a mean person, embarrassed the Lightning, whose star players, including Martin St. Louis, echoed that sentiment after the game.

Even Ovechkin’s teammates knew he’d probably gone too far in a sport where not showing up the opposition is taken seriously. Nicklas Backstrom and former Capitals defenseman Mike Green skate toward Ovechkin, saw what he has in mind, and quickly got the hell out of there, which was hilarious. Later, goalie Jose Theodore told French-language publication Le Journal de Montreal that he encouraged Ovechkin to do something fun. 

The resentment actually got to Ovechkin, who still celebrates big goals with the exuberance of a kid, but has never gone back to coordinated stunts. It was meant to be a fun way to enjoy 50. It angered a few too many in the hockey world. So he moved on. 

But tonight at Capital One Arena, almost exactly 10 years after the hot stick incident, Ovechkin sits at 48 goals with a chance to get 50 when the Capitals host the Lightning (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network). If he does it will be the eighth time he’s reached that mark. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy (nine times) have gotten there more. 

“You get to 50 there’s not too many guys in history that can say they’ve done that,” said Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos, who played in the hot stick game. “When you’re that close you want it for sure. He’s going to get it. It’s a matter of when. But that’s the magic number.”

Stamkos would know. He’s topped 50 twice – and in one of those years, 2011-12, reached 60. He and Backstrom are the only players left who played that night, a 5-2 Washington win. 

Stamkos was a rookie phenom on a team that finished last in the Southeast Division with 66 points. He scored a goal himself to tie the game 1-1 in the first period. Tampa Bay assistant coach Jeff Halpern, a long-time Capitals player and a Maryland native, was actually on the other side playing with the Lightning late in his career.

Ovechkin getting 50 tonight would be ironic. It would also help in a big game against the Presidents’ Trophy winners. Tampa Bay has already clinched that, the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

The two teams bashed each other all over the ice in an emotional, feisty game at Amalie Arena on Saturday, the first time they have met since last year’s epic Eastern Conference Final won by the Capitals in seven games. The Lightning won that game 6-3, but two empty-net goals made the final score look worse than it was. They play again tonight and on March 30 in Tampa. But who knows if another playoff matchup is possible? That would again be in the Eastern Conference Final and no one is looking that far ahead.   

“He’s been a superstar in the this league for a long time, a future Hall of Famer,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “For us, it’s a rival and we’ll try to stop him. He’s going to hit 50 again, obviously. That’s pretty impressive at the age of 33. But not tonight. Not tonight or [March 30].”

Here are the other six times Ovechkin has hit the 50-goal mark besides the hot stick celebration against Tampa Bay:

April 13, 2006 – at Atlanta Thrashers

Rest in peace, Thrashers. The old Southeast Division rival moved to Winnipeg earlier this decade. Ovechkin used to torment Atlanta. In a 5-3 loss during his rookie year he scored No. 50 and became the first rookie since 1993 to score 50 goals and record 100 points. 

March 3, 2008 – vs. Boston Bruins

What a ridiculous early date to hit 50. The calendar had just flipped to March. This was the first Capitals team with Ovechkin that rolled for a whole regular season. They crushed the Bruins 10-2 and Ovechkin had a hat trick for goals 50, 51 and 52. He finished with 65. 

April 9, 2010 – vs. Atlanta Thrashers

Ovechkin got the Thrashers again. See if you can guess the other team he’s reached 50 against twice later in this list. This game was a 5-2 win in a year Washington won the Presidents’ Trophy, but lost in a first-round shocker to the Montreal Canadiens. Ovechkin broke a 2-2 tie with a wrist shot at 9:49 of the third period. Incidentally – that was also Nicklas Backstrom’s 100thpoint. Nice symmetry.  

April 8, 2014 – at St. Louis Blues

Remember, Ovechkin went through a dry spell for a few years. He dropped to 32 goals in 2010-11 and 38 in 2011-12. People started to freak out. Now, for most hockey players that’s a great season. Ovechkin just set the bar at an absurd level. The next year in 2012-13 it was a 48-game schedule because of a lockout, but Ovechkin flashed signs he was getting back to a historic level with 32 goals in just 48 games. In 2014 he got back to 50 during a 4-1 win at St. Louis. His one-timer from his office in the left faceoff circle came on a power play in the first period. 

March 31, 2015 – vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Back to 50 before April. Washington won this game 4-2. The crowd chanted “M-V-P!” over and over and gave Ovechkin a standing ovation after his first-period goal put the Capitals ahead 2-0. The shot? From just inside the left circle. The pass? From Evgeny Kuznetsov.

April 9, 2016 – at St. Louis Blues

What does Ovechkin have against the Blues? Twice he’s reached 50 at Enterprise Center. This time it was during a 5-1 win. It was also another hat trick. It was also the last game of the year. Ovechkin got goals 48, 49 and, finally, 50, which came in the third period on an assist from Backstrom. 

Ovechkin dipped to 33 goals in 2016-17, which was a concern as he entered his 30s. But last season he rebounded and fell agonizingly short with 49 goals. He has nine games left to score twice and get there again. If he does, he will be one 50-goal season shy of Gretzky and Bossy. 

Let Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper sum it up:

“What's amazing about it, too, is [Ovechkin] had a couple years in the 30s a few years ago and then has turned it up a notch and is back in that 50 realm again. But the one thing, some organizations are blessed that in an era, you get to witness the same player every night and marvel at what they do. I've been fortunate enough to be in the league six years now and I don't get to see him every night, but when I do, he's a fun guy to watch and the fans here are treated to every time the puck's on his stick, it has a chance to go in the net. Some guys in this league, and we've got a couple of them, that pull fans out of their seats and Ovi's one of them.” 

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4 things to know for the Capitals’ matchup against undefeated Colorado

4 things to know for the Capitals’ matchup against undefeated Colorado

The Capitals (3-1-2) snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday and will look to stay in the win column on Monday in a game against the Colorado Avalanche (4-0-0). You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Washington with Caps FaceOff Live kicking things off at 4 p.m. before Caps Pregame Live begins at 4:30 p.m. to bring you up to the 5 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington afterward for Caps Postgame Live, D.C. Sports Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here are four things to know for Saturday’s game.

Colorado is undefeated

The Avalanche is one of two teams left in the NHL that has not suffered a loss of any kind. Of their four wins, only one of them was not in regulation and that also happened to be the only game Philipp Grubauer did not play in net.

All four wins also happen to be at home as Monday’s game will be Colorado’s first on the road this season.

Washington will face former Caps Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer

Things seem to be going well in Burakovsky’s first season with the Avalanche. The winger has two goals and two assists in four games and has scored the game-winner in each of the past two games.

Burakovsky was a restricted free agent in the offseason and his contract carried a large qualifying offer which the Caps could not afford. The team traded his rights to  Colorado for a second and a third-round draft pick as well as a prospect on an expiring contract.

In net, Grubauer enters his second season with Colorado and first as the undisputed starter of the team. He earned the job after last year’s playoff performance in which he won seven games, posted a .925 save percentage and brought the Avalanche to within one win of advancing to the conference final.

In three games this season, Grubauer is 3-0-0 with a .931 save percentage.

The best line in hockey?

Colorado boasts one of the top lines, if not the outright best line in hockey with Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. All three players have had their fair share of success against Washington in their careers.

Landeskog has scored 14 points in just 13 games against the Caps, MacKinnon has 13 points in 11 games and Rantanen has seven points in five games.

The Caps have historically been a difficult matchup for Colorado

Washington’s last three games were against the Dallas Stars (twice) and the Nashville Predators, two teams the Caps have not fared well against historically. The roles are reversed for Monday’s game as this time it's the Caps who have been the thorn in the side of their opponent.

Colorado has lost nine of its last 10 meetings with Washington with its last win coming back on Nov. 16, 2017. The last win before was four years prior in November 2013.

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How to watch Capitals vs. Avalanche: Time, TV channel, live stream

How to watch Capitals vs. Avalanche: Time, TV channel, live stream

The Washington Capitals bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Nashville Predators, where they gave up four leads in a 6-5 contest, with a commanding 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night to end a three-game losing skid. Now, they welcome the Colarado Avalanche to town Monday night. 

The Avalanche have gotten off to a perfect 4-0 start this season, a record which was preserved in a 3-2 overtime win against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night. Ex-Capitals left winger Andre Burakovsky netted the game-winner while goaltender Pavel Francouz stopped 34 of 36 shots. 

Washington's John Carlson notched a goal and an assist while Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his second goal of the year in the win against Dallas, while Ilya Samsonov impressed in his second career start in net. He's now stopped 49 of the first 51 shots faced in his young NHL career. The Caps will look for their key contributors to perform against the undefeated visitors.

Here's everything you need to know about Monday evening's game, with the opening face-off coming at 5:00 p.m. live on NBC Sports Washington.  

Capitals vs. Avalanche: How to watch

What: Washington Capitals vs. Colarado Avalanche, Game 7 of the 2019-20 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C. 

When: Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Avalanche game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports channel finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Predators on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

RadioCaps 24/7 Radio

CAPITALS vs. AVALANCHE TV SCHEDULE

4:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live

4:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

5:00 PM: Avalanche @ Capitals Live

7:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

8:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

8:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live

Capitals vs. Avalanche Injury Report

Capitals: D Michal Kempny, hamstring injury, day-to-day

Avalanche: C J.T. Compher, lower body, day-to-day; D Ian Cole, hamstring, day-to-day

CAPITALS vs. Avalanche PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Michal Kempny, D, Washington Capitals: The defender could make his season debut as he recovers from a hamstring injury. He felt good after an optional practice on Sunday and said if he doesn't play Monday, he'll be back soon enough. His return will bring a boost to the defensive backline for the Caps. 

John Carlson, D, Washington Capitals (2 G, 8 A, 10 Pts): Carlson has been quite the provider from up top on offense, leading the NHL in assists along with points leader Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. Nobody else has more than four assists on the Capitals. 

Andre Burakovsky, LW, Colarado Avalanche (2 G, 2 A, 4 Pts): Burakovsky not only scored the game-winner Saturday night against Arizona, but also nothed an assist and had four shots on goal. After spending his first five seasons in the nation's capital, the Avalanche traded second and third-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft and forward Scott Kosmachuk for his services in June. 

CAPITALS vs. AVALANCHE SERIES HISTORY 

Number of meetings: 85

All-time series record: Caps lead 44-32-9

Last meeting: Caps won 4-3 (OT) (4/7/19)

Last 10: Caps lead 9-1

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