Ovechkin gunning for more history as Capitals face Panthers
The Washington Redskins have missed the playoffs three straight years, the Washington Wizards are out of the postseason race this season, and the Washington Nationals have just lost superstar Bryce Harper to the rival Philadelphia Phillies. But D.C. sports fans can find salvation with the Washington Capitals and their superstar Russian, Alex Ovechkin.
The Capitals, who visit the Florida Panthers on Monday night, are the reigning Stanley Cup champions and have already clinched this year's playoffs, leading the Metropolitan Division with just three games left in the regular season.
Ovechkin scored twice on Saturday as the Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3. Ovechkin has 51 goals and is on pace to lead the league in scoring for an eighth time, breaking the record he currently holds with Bobby Hull.
In addition, Ovechkin's eight seasons with at least 50 goals are one short of the NHL record held by Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.
"I knew it was going to eventually come," Ovechkin said of reaching 50 goals yet again. "My teammates knew I had 49, so they were trying to find me all the time. Thanks to them."
Ovechkin, 33, has 658 career goals, passing Brendan Shanahan for 13th place on the NHL list. Ovechkin is the third-oldest player to reach 50 goals in a season, joining Johnny Bucyk (35) and Jaromir Jagr (34) in that club. And Ovechkin's 247 power-play goals -- he had one on Saturday -- tie him with Luc Robitaille for fourth place in NHL history.
Meanwhile, the Panthers, who earned 96 points last season and fell one point short of the playoffs, have been a disappointment this time around. They have 82 points with three games to go and have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
All that is left for the Panthers are some individual goals such as Aleksander Barkov's chase for four more points, which would break Pavel Bure's single-season scoring record (94) with the Panthers.
Evgenii Dadonov already has 28 goals and a career-high 68 points. He needs one more goal for a new career high in that department.
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad (13 goals, 24 assists) needs three more points to set his career record.
And Jonathan Huberdeau (27 goals, 61 assists) is also on the chase. He needs one more goal for a career high in that category. His 88 points are his career best already. But with six more points, he would tie Bure for the franchise record.
In addition to all of that, Mike Hoffman (35 goals) and Frank Vatrano (23 goals) have already set career highs, and Keith Yandle has set his new standard with 51 assists and 60 points.
So, with all that scoring, why aren't the Panthers in the playoffs or even in the chase?
The answer is defense -- only two NHL teams have allowed more than Florida's 265 goals through 79 games.
Florida, which has won two straight games -- both on the road, including a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday -- are trying to finish strong.
"Every win feels nice," said Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo, who has won two straight starts and has 488 career wins. "It's unfortunate our wins don't mean much (right now).
"But we are all professionals here. We play to win hockey games, and it doesn't matter what is at stake."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 31, 2019