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

Shinedown to debut new music in Penticton

Penticton concert-goers will be the first to hear a new song from Shinedown’s sixth album

Mudslide at South Okanagan golf course

A mudslide occurred at Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver

SD67 fills 2-year gap in Aboriginal education administration

District also announces shuffling of school admin, with Princess Maggie VP heading to Pen High

Prescribed burns to close Penticton channel path

The burns will close the path from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday next week

What’s happening

Find out which events are taking place in the Okanagan and Shuswap this weekend

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

Calving season brings hope for Cariboo ranchers

Still a lot of work ahead to recover from the wildfires

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond wins figure skating world title

The 22-year-old fwon the women’s singles crown with her Black Swan routine

B.C. pooches celebrate National Puppy Day

Check out some of the submissions from around B.C. for National Puppy Day 2018

Similkameen residents face long wait for bus solution

Scheduling key for Similkameen bus riders in proposed B.C. Transit Penticton to Kelowna expansion

Rainstorm causes road flooding in Naramata and Okanagan Falls

Flood assessments conducted in Okanagan Falls and Naramata

Photos: Salmon Arm celebrates Paralympic champion Natalie Wilkie

Hometown hero welcomed home with parade, recognition ceremony at city hall

Most Read