By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 19, 2009 12:15 AM
LAS VEGAS, June 18 -- Moments before walking down the red carpet for the NHL Awards Show, Alex Ovechkin jokingly bragged about how he had won $500 playing blackjack.
A couple of hours later, the Washington Capitals' winger left The Palms Resort & Casino with something money can't buy and luck can't help deliver: a second straight Hart Memorial Trophy as hockey's most valuable player.
"It's pretty important when people and players give you this [recognition]. I don't want to stop," Ovechkin said. "I want to be the best again next year."
After Ovechkin placed the Hart Trophy on the podium, he twice reached out to touch it before pulling his hands back, an homage to his controversial "hot stick" celebration after notching his 50th goal in Tampa Bay.
"Just having fun," said Ovechkin, who entered the casino on the red carpet flanked by two showgirls.
Ovechkin's teammate, Mike Green came up short in his bid to win the Norris Trophy, beat out by the game's best all-around defenseman, Boston's Zdeno Chara.
Ovechkin is the first repeat MVP in more than a decade and only the 11th player to win the Hart multiple times. He earned 115 of a possible 133 first place votes, 103 more than the league's leading scorer, Evgeni Malkin of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Green, meantime, was edged by Chara, 68 first-place votes to 50.
Ovechkin also captured his second straight Lester B. Pearson Award, the most outstanding player as voted by his peers. The 23-year-old said he appreciates the Pearson a smidge more because of who votes for it. The Professional Hockey Writers' Association vote for the Hart.
"The Pearson, it's a players' award," Ovechkin, the first to win the Pearson back-to-back since Jaromir Jagr in 1999-2000. "They know how you play, who you are."
Ovechkin dedicated the Pearson to his grandfather, Nikolay Kabayev, who died in November. Ovechkin missed two games in October when he traveled to Moscow to visit Kabayev when he fell gravely ill.
"This year was a really hard year for my family," said Ovechkin, who also was presented with his second Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals with 56. "This is award, I give it to him and all my family."
For the fourth consecutive season, Ovechkin also was voted a First Team All-Star. Green joined him on the first team, giving the Capitals multiple players on the first team for the first time. Ovechkin is the second player in league history to earn first-team honors in each of his first four seasons and the first since Canadiens Hall of Famer Bill Durnan was named from 1944-47.
Ovechkin's first trip to Sin City was indeed a success in almost every way imaginable -- even at the card tables.
"Vegas is good," he said with a big smile. "I played a couple of times in the casino [and] win $500. I have the chips in my room, in the safe. We in Vegas, so we have to live the Vegas life."
When someone said "this town wasn't built on winners; we don't like people walking away with money", Ovechkin cracked, "Losing is not for me."
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason claimed the Calder Trophy, winning 121 of the 132 first place votes to beat out Anaheim's Bobby Ryan and Chicago's Kris Versteeg as the top rookie. Mason led the league with 10 shutouts, two of which came against the Capitals.
Boston's Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy, the honor bestowed on the top goaltender.
Boston Coach Claude Julien completed the Bruins' trifecta, claiming the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.
Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk came up empty in his quest for the Hart and Pearson, but he did not leave empty-handed. The Red Wings' all-star captured his second straight Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward and fourth Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the game's most gentlemanly player.
But the night, once again, belonged to the shaggy haired, gap-toothed winger from Washington.
Ovechkin's glass trophy case at his parents' Moscow home is getting crowded. It now includes a Calder Trophy, two Hart Trophies, two Pearson Awards, two Maurice Richard Trophies and an Art Ross. But the collection, he noted, is still short of the prize he values most.
"I want to be in the same situation as Pittsburgh was," Ovechkin said. "Personal stats is good, personal awards is good. I just want to win one award -- and that's the Stanley Cup."