Cap­i­tals’ Ovechkin reaches 50 goals for 6th time

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY HOWARD FENDRICH

Alex Ovechkin is 29, and his hair is flecked with gray nowa­days. His coaches and line­mates keep chang­ing, as have the ways op­po­nents try to stop him.

Af­ter 10 years in the NHL, one thing that stays the same about the guy known as Alex the Great: He can get the puck in the net.

Putting his name in the com­pany of such past hockey su­per­stars as Wayne Gret­zky, Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux, Ovechkin is now one of only six play­ers with at least a half-dozen 50-goal sea­sons.

The Rus­sian wing reached that mile­stone for the sixth time Tues­day by scor­ing in the first pe­riod of the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’ 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hur­ri­canes.

“We’re sort of im­mune to it now, re­ally,” Cap­i­tals de­fense­man Mike Green said. “We don’t ex­pect it, but it’s amaz­ing how he does it ev­ery year. It’s one of the most dif­fi­cult things to do, and he seems to find a way to ac­com­plish that, sea­son af­ter sea­son.”

As the NHL’s rookie of the year in 2005-06, Ovechkin scored 52 goals. He had a ca­reer-best 65 two sea­sons later, fol­lowed by 56, then 50. Af­ter three sea­sons in a row with fewer than 40 goals, he re­gained his touch a year ago with 51.

“Much dif­fer­ent than my first year. They give more at­ten­tion to where we are. They put the best guys, best de­fen­sive line, against us,” Ovechkin said. “Ob­vi­ously, if you have two or three shots on net, you have to score one.”

His goal Tues­day was the 472nd of his ca­reer, match­ing the record set by Peter Bon­dra for most by a Cap­i­tals player. Ovechkin also recorded his 419th ca­reer as­sist against the Hur­ri­canes, pass­ing Michal Pivonka for No. 2 in team his­tory, three be­hind cur­rent team­mate Nick­las Back­strom.

Ovechkin and Back­strom have spent much of their time in the league as line­mates, but with the sea­son head­ing into its fi­nal two weeks, first-year Cap­i­tals coach Barry Trotz made a big change last week­end, sep­a­rat­ing his two best of­fen­sive threats.

How did that work out? In two games along­side Evgeny Kuznetsov and Joel Ward, Ovechkin has three goals and one as­sist.

Trotz also moved Ovechkin moved back to left wing, his pri­mary po­si­tion for most of his ca­reer. Un­der pre­vi­ous coach Adam Oates last year, Ovechkin played mostly on the right side.

Only Gret­zky and Bossy, with nine 50-goal sea­sons each, have reached the half-cen­tury mark more of­ten than Ovechkin.

“I mean, the po­ten­tial there to put up stag­ger­ing num­bers, all­time num­bers, is in­cred­i­ble. He’s al­most at 500 (goals) be­fore he’s 30 years old,” Cap­i­tals for­ward Brooks Laich said. “He’s a treat to play be­side.”

AP

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals left wing Alex Ovechkin #8, of Rus­sia, skates with the puck against Carolina Hur­ri­canes de­fense­man Justin Faulk #27 dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod of an NHL game in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day, March 31.

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