ST. LOUIS – The Capitals’ first power play Tuesday night here was strange. In the first minute, Troy Brouwer was rattled on a big hit by Barret Jackman and then collided with Marcus Johansson on the way to the bench.
After the injury scares the NHL’s second-best man-advantage couldn’t seem to find a flow until, well, Alex Ovechkin did what he does best.
Off a broken play where Evgeny Kuznetsov’s pass hit Joel Ward’s skate in the slot and sent the puck on to the point, John Carlson sent it smoothly over to the left circle. Ovechkin cranked up his one-timer and sent the puck in above Ryan Miller’s left shoulder for a 1-0 lead 17:56 into the first period of Washington’s eventual 4-1 win over the Blues.
“A huge goal, a goal out of nowhere on the play,” Coach Adam Oates said. “That particular power play, we didn’t really have much going on and it goes to show you what a weapon he is. It’s part of our team in terms of it got us going on the road — it was huge.”
It was an important goal in what amounted to an elimination game for Washington, but it also made Ovechkin the first, and likely the only, player to reach the 50-goal plateau this season. He’s just the 11th player in NHL history to record five, 50-goal seasons. The other 10? A cast of Hall of Famers: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Brett Hull, Pavel Bure and Steve Yzerman.
“It means a lot. It’s big number and it’s going to be in history for my whole life,” Oechkin said. “I’m pretty sure my family happy, the guys happy for me, I appreciate all players who give me opportunities, and coaches, to be in right position and find the right spot.”
But given the situation the Capitals are in with their chances of making the playoffs now at 2 percent, Ovechkin was focused less on the individual milestone and more on the team’s predicament.
“We understand the situation right now and unfortunately Columbus win but we still have chances and we’re going to fight through it,” Ovechkin said. “If we going to make it we going to make it. If not, we just have to finish on the right note.”