WASHINGTON — 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.”
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.
That was Ovechkin’s 1,300th career point, making him the 35th player in history to reach that mark. Graybeard 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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.