Ovechkin beats Tarasov for 750th goal, Capitals top Columbus
By STEPHEN WHYNO
WASHINGTON (AP) Alex Ovechkin found a new goaltender to score on for another milestone goal, though this time the name rang a bell.
Ovechkin beat Daniil Tarasov for his 20th goal of the season and 750th of his NHL career to help the Washington Capitals beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 Saturday night and snap a two-game skid.
"I think I play against his father back in Russia," Ovechkin said.
He wasn't joking. Ovechkin went up against against Vadim Tarasov during three seasons in the Russian Superleague from 2002-05 before coming to North America. His son is the 152nd goalie Ovechkin has scored against in the NHL.
Daniil Tarasov remembers growing up watching Ovechkin. That was more fun than trying to stop a shot from the best goal-scorer of this generation.
"It's pretty hard," Tarasov said. "I think all goalies say he has one of the hardest shots in the league."
Ovechkin became the second-fastest player to reach the 750-goal mark, doing so in his 1,222nd regular-season game. Wayne Gretzky, whose record of 894 Ovechkin is chasing, got to 750 in 1,001 games.
"It's a pretty cool number," Ovechkin said. "Just keep going."
Ovechkin reached the 20-goal mark in his 25th game of the season. The Capitals' captain joined Marcel Dionne, Jaromir Jagr and Mats Sundin as the only players to score 20 or more goals in each of his first 17 seasons in the NHL.
After ending a two-game goal drought, Ovechkin now trails Jagr by 16 goals for third on the career list. The 36-year-old Russian superstar needs one more on the power play to tie Dave Andreychuk for the most power-play goals in league history.
Capitals rookie Aliaksei Protas scored his second career goal by following his own rebound in the first. Garnet Hathaway sealed it with an empty-netter with 1:27 remaining in regulation.
Tarasov, playing his second game for Columbus after making his NHL debut Thursday at Dallas, gave up a lot of rebounds early before settling down. He denied Washington's Connor McMichael with a sliding right-pad stop late in the second, the most impressive of his 29 saves on 31 shots.
"It's more comfortable when you have a lot of shots," Tarasov said. "It's much easier to play, so you just be focused on the game, don't thinking about wrong things in your head. You just keep it in the game."
Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov made 17 saves for his 10th win in 11 starts this season. He was at his best when the Blue Jackets tilted the ice toward him during a penalty kill in the first, and Samsonov turned aside Zach Werenski on a point-blank scoring chance soon after when play returned to 5-on-5.
Despite missing center Nic Dowd and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk because they're in league COVID-19 protocol, the Capitals got a boost with the return of wingers T.J. Oshie and Conor Sheary after matching six-game absences. Oshie had missed 16 of the previous 17 games with lower-body injuries.
"They're both key players for us," Ovechkin said. "Obviously we're going right now through injuries, through COVID protocol, but different guys come in and stepping up."
Eric Robinson scored the only goal of the night for the the Blue Jackets, who lost their fourth in a row in regulation. They have been outscored 18-6 during this losing streak.
"We're learning some hard lessons here," said Columbus' Brad Larsen, one of four active NHL head coaches who played against Ovechkin. "No one's going to come hand you a game. They're not. You got to go get it, and you're going to have to find a way and grind through not just for 10 minutes or 12 minutes. It's going to have to be shift after shift."
NOTES: Defenseman Matt Irwin made his Capitals debut, dressing for the first time this season. ... Capitals winger Daniel Sprong was a healthy scratch for the third time in four games. ... Forward Gregory Hofmann replaced Jack Roslovic in the Blue Jackets lineup. Roslovic was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. ... Players from the National Women's Soccer League champion Washington Spirit received a standing ovation when shown on video screens. Ovechkin and wife Nastya are part of the Spirit's ownership group.
Blue Jackets: Return home to face the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
Capitals: Continue their four-game home stand Monday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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Updated December 5, 2021