Alex Ovechkin closing in on Rocket Richard Trophy

April 21, 2013

Alex Ovechkin celebrates with teammates after scoring his 30th goal Saturday night in Montreal. (Christine Muschi/Reuters)

After the Capitals practiced Friday in Montreal, Alex Ovechkin was asked about the race for the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s leading goal scorer. It’s turned into a three-player racein recent weeks among Ovechkin, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and the Islanders’ John Tavares.

“Everybody wants to win it and I’m in the same position they are,” Ovechkin said. “If I’m scoring or if I’m not scoring, it’s a deal but it’s not a big deal.”

While the award isn’t Ovechkin’s top priority, he bolstered his case for winning it Saturday night in the Capitals’ 5-1 win at Montreal. Ovechkin recorded his 29th and 30th goals, giving him three more than Stamkos and four more than Tavares with three games left to play. If he were to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, Ovechkin would be the only player to claim the award three times since it was named after the Montreal Canadiens’ Hall of Famer before the 1998-99 season.

“I pretty happy I’m scoring goals. I’m pretty happy we’re winning games,” Ovechkin said Saturday night. “But we still have three games left and next game is going to be the biggest game of the year. We have to be professional about it and be ready for the next game.”

Ovechkin kick-started the rout in Montreal when he fired an unassuming wrister from the left circle between Carey Price’s pads. The Canadiens had jumped out to a fast start but when Ovechkin scored on Washington’s first shot of the game an uneasiness overwhelmed the crowd at Bell Centre. Troy Brouwer scored on the Capitals’ third shot of the night just over a minute later and let the visitors settle into their game plan.

“Ovi’s goal was huge,” Coach Adam Oates said. “I think [Price] was guessing a little bit for the pass but a sniper scores from there – he scores from there.”

Ovechkin’s second goal of the game came on the power play at the 13:23 mark of the third period with the contest already well under Washington’s control but his celebration didn’t reflect the 5-0 lead, just a happy goal-scorer.

“He loves playing when he’s scoring goals,” Brouwer said. “You can see it, even when it’s 5-1, he’s celebrating like it’s 1-0 or an overtime win. He loves doing that he’s got more confidence in himself and rightfully so and that’s why he’s playing so well lately.”

Ovechkin has 21 goals and 10 points in the past 20 games and hasn’t been held without a goal in consecutive games since March 10 and 12, the two contests before this recent hot streak began.

“He plays to win, he’s a goal scorer,” Mike Ribeiro said when asked what he’s learned about Ovechkin in his first season playing with the star winger. “Those guys want to score goals but at the end of the day I think he’s more worried about winning than his own personal stats. That’s the biggest thing that I can see, winning’s more important and playing with emotion is his game.”

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