Ovechkin scores goal 718, Capitals snap Islanders win streak
By STEPHEN WHYNO
WASHINGTON (AP) Alex Ovechkin took sole possession of sixth place on the NHL's career goal list in the most Alex Ovechkin way possible: ripping a one-timer past a goaltender from just inside the faceoff circle on the power play in a big game for the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin scored his 718th goal to pass Phil Esposito and became the second active player to record 1,300 points, vaulting the Capitals into first place in the East Division by beating the New York Islanders 3-1 Tuesday night.
"A goal is a goal - it's always a nice feeling to get it," Ovechkin said. "It was very good match, big points and obviously big numbers."
Washington snapped New York's winning streak at nine and point streak at 12. The Capitals have won six in a row and 10 of their past 11 to move ahead of the Islanders in the standings.
Ovechkin is a big reason for that. The longtime captain has goals in four consecutive games and five of six and is tied with longtime running mate Nicklas Backstrom, who also scored, for the team lead with 12 this season.
"We've seen him do it year after year," Backstrom said of Ovechkin. "It's just so impressive. I think the way he shoots the puck, the way he scores, the way he plays the game is just fun to see. As a teammate, you're just enjoying every moment."
Goal No. 718 also came against former Capitals teammate and countryman Semyon Varlamov, his supporting actor in the classic Russian spy "This is SportsCenter" ESPN commercial. Ovechkin hadn't been able to get his timing quite right on his trademark one-timer but didn't miss this time.
"I just have to hit the net," he said. "Finally."
Ovechkin is 13 goals shy of tying Marcel Dionne for fifth and needs 177 more to break Wayne Gretzky's record.
"You are a fantastic hockey player," Esposito said in a video message congratulating Ovechkin for passing him. "I don't know how you score all those goals with the way these guys block shots with the great equipment that they wear. Good luck."
With Ovechkin leading the way, the Capitals handed the Islanders their first loss since Feb. 27 and first in regulation since Feb. 20. The Islanders outshot the Capitals early but couldn't cash in and paid the price.
"We'd like to keep them off the power play a little more," Islanders winger Josh Bailey said. "They found a way to put a couple of them in on us there. Those are areas you can't give these guys too many opportunities like that."
Ovechkin didn't just score himself. He made a perfect pass to spring Evgeny Kuznetsov into the offensive zone and picked up the secondary assist when T.J. Oshie picked up the rebound and scored.
That was Ovechkin's 1,300th career point, making him the 35th player in history to reach that mark. Greybeard Joe Thornton is the only other active player on that list at 1,521.
With his 1,301st point on the power-play goal - his 264th, third all-time - Ovechkin also passed recently elected Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla for 33rd on the career scoring list. Barry Trotz, who coached the Capitals to the Stanley Cup in 2018 and moved on to the Islanders said he wished he wasn't in the building for another Ovechkin milestone.
"I do recognize his greatness and the milestones," Trotz said. "I cheer for him, no question. Just not when he plays against us."
LONG LIVE THE STREAK
The Islanders were a buzz saw during their winning streak, outscoring opponents 30-15 and needing to go past regulation for a victory just twice. They won their previous two without captain and second-leading scorer Anders Lee, who's on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
Oliver Wahlstrom scored on the power play for New York's only goal Tuesday night, when something was missing compared to the team's play in recent weeks.
"It could've been a different game if we found a way to score early," Bailey said. "It just wasn't in the cards tonight."
ALMOST ANOTHER SHUTOUT
Wahlstrom's third-period goal ended Washington's team shutout streak at just over 107 minutes. A day after Vitek Vanecek registered his first NHL shutout at Buffalo, Ilya Samsonov made 21 saves in the second half of the Capitals' back-to-back set.
"I feel much better right now," Samsonov said. "Thank you, team. We was play unbelievable today."
Trotz benched leading scorer Mathew Barzal for the first eight minutes of the third period after he took the penalty that led to Ovechkin's goal and wasn't good on his first shift out of the box. Barzal has a team-high 32 penalty minutes.
"It absolutely was a message," Trotz said. "He's leading our team in penalties right now. It should be a Matt Martin or a Casey Cizikas or someone like that. Barzy should not lead our team in penalty minutes. I didn't like the penalty and I didn't like the shift after that."
Jean-Gabriel Pageau returned to the Islanders lineup after missing their last game while on the NHL COVID protocol list. Defenseman Noah Dobson remained on the list and missed a second consecutive game.
Washington again dressed seven defensemen with center Lars Eller out because of a lower-body injury and no salary cap space to make another move. Winger Tom Wilson served the sixth game of his seven-game suspension.
Islanders: Host the Flyers on Thursday for the first of three in a row against them, two on Long Island and one at Philadelphia.
Capitals: Host the New York Rangers on Friday in the first half of a back-to-back series.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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Updated March 17, 2021