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

Tsi Del Del community grieving after weekend tragedy

North District Major Crime Unit investigating, one man in custody

Incumbents and acclaimed mayors win elections all across B.C.’s north

Fraser Lake saw their first female mayor elected

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

Ocean “Blob” returns to North Coast of B.C.

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Federal carbon tax rebates will exceed the cost for most people affected

Officials say 70 per cent of people in those provinces will get back more than they end up paying out as fuel costs rise to incorporate the carbon tax.

Fast ferries from B.C. spotted in Egypt

Controversial aluminum BC Ferries vessels ’big white elephants covered in dust,’ eyewitness says

Canadian troops, families take shelter in hotel after Florida hurricane

Most of the Canadians were evacuated from the military base before Hurricane Michael

B.C. jury trial hears police-sting audio of man accused of killing girl, 12

Garry Handlen has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Monica Jack on May 6, 1978.

5 tips to keep trick-or-treaters safe this Halloween

BC Children’s Hospital has a few suggestions to keep Oct. 31 fun

B.C. man gets seven years in prison for baseball-bat attack on Kamloops teen

Kamloops man who beat Jessie Simpson into a coma has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He was originally charged with attempted murder and assault with a weapon.

Cougar spotted after Vancouver Island resident finds his decapitated cat

Reports of conservation officers actively looking for the predator in Port Hardy Tuesday afternoon

Time running out for TV debate on proportional representation

B.C. Liberal leader spars with Premier John Horgan over timing

New rules introduced to protect B.C. foreign workers from exploitation

More than 16,000 temporary permits issued last year

Most Read