Record: 52 – 20 – 10
WASHINGTON — Catch me if you can, kid.
Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine certainly lived up to the hype Monday night, with the NHL’s top two scorers each netting milestone goals in their careers. But it was Washington’s other talented Russian skater who put a punctuation mark on a memorable night of hockey, as Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on a breakaway with 48 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
Ovechkin pulled ahead of Laine in the NHL goal-scoring race with two goals to reach 42 for the season and 600 for his NHL career. The "Great 8" is just the 20th player in NHL history to reach 600 goals, and the fourth to do it in less than 1,000 games. Only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull reached the milestone faster.
Laine did his best to keep up, scoring a milestone goal to tie the game early in the third period. His 41st of the year was also the 77th of his career, which leaves him alone in third place in NHL history for most goals scored by a teenager. Only Jimmy Carson (92) and Dale Hawerchuk (85) have more.
"I’m not satisfied with that. We were looking for the win and didn’t get it, so I’m not satisfied. And I’m not happy that I scored and he scored. But maybe later," the always candid Laine said following the game.
Laine admitted he had a good view of Ovechkin’s historic goal, as he was on the ice at the time.
"I was pretty close watching it. I was in a good spot. Just behind him. I was there when he made history, so I can maybe watch that someday and show that I was there getting the minus on the ice," said the 19-year-old.
Winnipeg fell to 3-1-1 on the six-game road trip, their longest of the season. The Jets are 41-18-10 overall, which has them comfortably in second place in the Central Division, six points back of the Nashville Predators and seven points ahead of the Minnesota Wild.
"I think the general feeling is disappointment. I thought we should have probably got two (points) there. But you put yourself down in a tough building against a good team, it’s a lot to ask for. It was there for us, we just didn’t do it," said captain Blake Wheeler.
Ovechkin came out flying, with eight shot attempts in the opening period including the opening goal with his team enjoying a five-on-three power play. Bryan Little was flagged for a hooking call he vehemently argued on the way to the box, and Matt Hendricks tripped up a Capitals forward just 35 seconds later.
Nikolaj Ehlers tied the game just 58 seconds later, scoring his 27th of the year during four-on-four action. He intercepted a Lars Eller drop pass and skated in on a breakaway, beating Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer.
Ovechkin joined Club 600 early in the second period, getting several whacks at a loose puck before finally roofing it over Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. Capital One Arena erupted and gave Ovechkin a prolonged standing ovation. Officials even delayed dropping the puck to allow the moment to sink in. He got another huge round of applause when a video tribute played in the arena a few minutes later during a timeout.
"Talk about some bad bounces. It hits my glove and absolutely rockets out of it. I had made a couple of saves before that, too. It was his turn to score, I guess," said Hellebuyck, who noted he was also the goalie of record when Sidney Crosby recorded his 1,000th career point.
"I definitely have an appreciation for that. I seem to be on the wrong end of all these milestones," said Hellebuyck. "I’m definitely going to be in some historical film."
Not wanting to be completely overshadowed, Laine responded early in the third period. He was inexplicably left all alone in front of the Washington net, Paul Stastny fed him a perfect pass, and Laine did what he does best.
"I guess I’m so invisible in front of the net that nobody saw me. I was pretty surprised there was a lot of room. (Stastny) found me with a nice backhand pass and I just tried to (shoot) quickly to the net," said Laine.
That makes six straight games Laine has scored, with 10 goals in that span. He also extended his point streak to 12 games, with 16 goals and six assists in that span.
On the overtime winner, Wheeler and Little had a two-on-one rush that didn’t produce a scoring chance. Dustin Byfuglien tried to pinch on the play, and Kuznetsov smartly got around him with the puck and was off to the races.
"So you get your two-on-one, and you don’t make it good, and it’s a bobbling puck, and usually the ice is just brutal at the end of it. Keep it in and you’re going to get a chance. You don’t and you give up a pretty good one," is how Jets head coach Paul Maurice explained it.
Winnipeg is 2-8 in overtime games this season.
The Jets have been struggling to get much scoring lately from anyone other than Laine and his linemates. He has eight of the 12 goals on this road trip, and his line has 11 with Ehlers having two and Stastny one. Joel Armia, currently playing on the fourth line, has the other.
Rookie Jack Roslovic hasn’t scored in 15 games, veterans Mathieu Perreault and Little have both been blanked in 10 straight, while Wheeler and rookie Kyle Connor are on eight-game scoring droughts. All play significant roles in Winnipeg’s group of top-nine forwards, logging big minutes.
Now the scene shifts to Nashville, where the Jets wrap up the road trip tonight. Michael Hutchinson is expected to get the start in net for the Jets. Centre Matt Hendricks was hurt in Monday night’s game and is not expected to play against the Predators.
"Opportunity to have a real strong road trip. Always a challenge back to back, especially going into there. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for our guys. 3-1-1, could be a real good trip for us," said Maurice.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Monday, March 12, 2018 at 9:05 PM CDT: fixes teams records
9:46 PM: fixes typos
11:09 PM: Full write through