Alex Ovechkin didn’t know it at the time, but during Saturday’s game against the Senators, he was involved in a wildly entertaining goals race.
Rangers forward Chris Kreider scored his 27th, 28th and 29th goals of the season in a game against the Coyotes to catapult himself into the league lead in goals — but for only a few minutes each time. With the Capitals down by two, Ovechkin single-handedly rallied the team and in doing so, put himself in a tie at the top of the NHL’s goals list.
Ovechkin scored his 28th and 29th goals in the third period - the only Capitals goals of regulation - to tie the game and force overtime. There, Nicklas Backstrom netted the winner to give Washington a 3-2 win on a night when it took a while to get things rolling.
“Obviously we knew it was going to be a hard game,” Ovechkin said. “We knew they were going to come out flying and play physical. They young, they fast team. Obviously I think the goalie makes a couple big saves, especially in the second period and we just keep grinding it out and try to find a way to get a win like that.”
It took a while for the offense to get started, as they didn’t have an even strength shot in the entire first period. But at five-on-five, the Capitals ended up owning a majority of the shot attempts, shots, scoring chances and high-danger chances through the entire 60 minutes of regulation.
But even with an improving effort, and improvement at even strength, the Capitals still trailed by two entering the third period. Then, one of the NHL’s best goal scorers took command.
“He scored a ton of goals, when you’ve got him on our team it’s a great thing,” defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “As he’s shown in the past, great individual efforts where if he gets an inch of space, he can get that shot off. It’s tough on any goalie and he showed it again tonight.”
Ovechkin’s night was another standout performance for the 36-year-old, who is now just seven goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr for third all-time on the NHL’s goals list with 766 tallies.
“It seemed like to me we were on point, it’s gotta come from the top for me when you’re starting a game and when you’re going through a game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s gotta be Ovi, it’s gotta be Backy, it’s gotta be Tom, it’s gotta be Kuzy, it’s gotta be the guys that are out there, hands on the rope first.”
But as shown in the third period, when Ovechkin is the one leading the charge, he can be enough to swing a game.
“I think we just needed to stay positive, it wasn’t like we were playing a bad game,” van Riemsdyk said. “I don’t think we gave up very much as far as chances go…In the third, we just knew we had to get one early and that’ll change the tide and you start getting that momentum and you just try to ride that. We had ‘O’ on our team, which is always good.”