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

100 Mile Elementary students express their talents at school’s Variety Show

Nearly 30 students performed, ranging from playing the violin or popular video game dances

Some places to cool down from the summer heat in the South Cariboo

A list of pools, aquatic centres and the best swimmable lakes in the South Cariboo

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

Severe thunderstorm warning in efffect for Cariboo

Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House could see strong winds and heavy rain

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

New Jersey forward Taylor Hall wins Hart Trophy as NHL MVP

Vancouver’s Sedin brothers share King Clancy Award for humanitarian efforts

VIDEO: Highway 20 single-lane due to flash flooding near Lee’s Corner

Heavy rains have been falling as thunderstorm watch continues

50 new fires sparked in B.C. after lightning strikes across province

Similar conditions seen at the beginning of 2017 wildfire season

B.C. woman graduates high school at age 92

Nanaimo’s Joan Deebank the oldest high school graduate ever in B.C., as far as ministry can confirm

B.C. Appeal Court rules lottery winner must be paid back $600,000 loan

Enone Rosas won $4.1 million in a lottery in 2007 and loaned a portion to a friend

B.C. man surprised after used needle falls from sky

A Vernon resident said a syringe fell out of the sky and landed at his feet

Liquor review finds issues with B.C. wholesale monopoly

Report calls for ‘conflict of interest’ in system to be fixed

Lightning sparks handful of fires in Cariboo region

So far none are larger than two hectares

Most Read