Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) reaches to celebrate with right wing T.J. Oshie (77) after scoring in the first period against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Alex Ovechkin joins NHL’s exclusive 600-goal club

Caps’ captain is fourth-fastest player to 600 behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull

Alex Ovechkin put back a rebound and skated into the spotlight as the latest member of the NHL’s 600-goal club.

The captain of the Washington Capitals scored twice Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets to reach the milestone in his 990th regular-season game. Ovechkin became the fourth-fastest player in NHL history to 600 behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull.

Ovechkin’s rebound goal past Connor Hellebuyck 3:53 into the second period was his 42nd of the season as he tries to hit 50 for the eighth time. His first goal 4:35 into the first period came on a 5-on-3 power play as the Russian winger looked determined to reach 600 after several games on the doorstep.

Capitals fans who have watched Ovechkin shine as the most productive goal scorer of the past decade-plus gave him a standing ovation for almost a minute after he reached the mark. Chants of “Ovi! Ovi!” continued as he waved from the bench in the moments after and during a video montage at the next timeout.

After scoring 33 goals in 2016-17, his second-lowest total in a non-lockout-shortened season, the 32-year-old Ovechkin’s resurgence made his climb to 600 all the more impressive. No player 32 or older has led the NHL in goals since Phil Esposito in 1974-75.

“He probably is the best goal scorer of our generation,” said Tom Wilson, who had the primary assist on Ovechkin’s 600th. “It’s pretty fun when every time you get him the puck there’s a good chance he’s going to put it in the back of the net.”

Ovechkin recaptured sole possession of the NHL lead against Jets winger Patrik Laine, who had tied him after idolizing the star forward growing up. Even while hoping Ovechkin wouldn’t score No. 600 against Winnipeg, Laine can’t help but appreciate the scoring pace.

“That’s pretty amazing to reach that,” Laine said Monday morning. “Six-hundred goals in under 1,000 games, it’s pretty unreal.”

Two former Capitals teammates, Matt Hendricks and Mathieu Perreault, were watching from the Jets’ side when Ovechkin reached his latest round number in a career full of accomplishments.

“When I played here, it’s funny, you always want to get the puck on his stick,” said Hendricks, who was in the penalty box for Ovechkin’s first goal. “He has that ability to change games just like that. … Ovi’s a terrific talent.”

Perreault, who played with 684-goal scorer Teemu Selanne in Anaheim, said Ovechkin reaching 600 so quickly was indescribable.

“The way he can shoot the puck and score goals is beyond what you can even think about,” Perreault said. “I can tell my grandkids, my kids, I played with Ovechkin. He’s going to be a legend of the game.”

Ovechkin has been an impressive scorer for a long time, but had to adapt his game several years ago when opponents figured out how to stop some of his usual moves. Barry Trotz taking over as Capitals coach helped Ovechkin round out his overall game and avoid the kind of lull that goal-scorers typically hit when they turn 30.

The growth in Ovechkin’s game isn’t lost on players and coaches around the league who have watched his career.

“When he came in (he was) a hitter almost — a shooter and a hitter,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “He was a very physical player, covered an awful lot of ice during the games. And he’s matured into kind of picking his spots, he’s still a hard guy to play against, physically very, very strong.

“But he uses the people around him better, maybe. And that’s true of all players. But his game has really changed. He’s really grown and matured.”

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

Just Posted

VIDEO: Langley environmentists enhance native pollinator habitat

Langley Environmental Partners Society begins a pollinator pathway along BC Hydro right of way.

VIDEO: Langley hockey tournament remembers young fan

Hundreds take part in annual Jordan Owens memorial

Giants earn road victory in first playoff game

A Langley-based WHL hockey team pulls out a 2-1 defeat over Victoria Friday, plays again Saturday.

Marathon day of golf earns Langley junior golfer a title

Andy Kim won the Humber College PGM Championship.

VIDEO: Fire shuts down 232 Street in Langley

Traffic being re-routed following Langley structure fire

VIDEO: Horseshoers battle for national spot in farrier championship

The Canadian horseshoeing main event was held in Chilliwack this weekend

B.C. umpire has developed thick skin after 30 years listening to insults

Scott McLaren pays no mind to comments from the cheap seats

Musicians Sarah Harmer, Grimes join B.C. anti-pipeline protests

Musicians are in Vancouver for the Juno Awards on Sunday night

Gas prices likely driving Canadians to US pumps

Customs say cost of fuel, nice weather, spring break are contributing factors of uptick of traffic

Canadian cities hold March for our Lives events in wake of Florida shooting

Hundreds of people support the massive March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C.

Health officials called after acid spill near B.C.-Alberta border leaks into creek

Tanker truck crashed south of Dawson Creek, spilling 17,000 litres of hydrochloric acid

Embattled band Hedley plays last show in B.C. before hiatus

About 3,000 tickets had sold for final performance at Kelowna’s Prospera Place

Trudeau to exonerate B.C. First Nations chiefs hanged in 1860s

Prime Minister to absolve Tsilhqot’in chiefs in relation to deaths of 14 construction workers

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

Most Read