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Alex Ovechkin joins elite fraternity in reaching 50-goal mark for seventh time

Washington Capitals reporter Isabelle Khurshudyan explains how the team has changed in the past year and how that could affect its playoff chances. (Video: Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)
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ST. LOUIS – “To be honest with you,” Nicklas Backstrom began, “I didn’t even know where he was at.” He assumed Alex Ovechkin had more than 40 goals, but he wasn’t sure exactly how close Ovechkin was to 50. It dawned on Backstrom sometime after he assisted on Ovechkin’s third goal against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night in a 5-1 Capitals win.

With his second hat trick of the season, Ovechkin scored at least 50 goals for a third straight season, and he’ll claim a fourth straight Rocket Richard Trophy for being the top goal-scorer. He was seven goals short with seven games left in the regular season, and it seemed to be asking too much for him to get on that kind of a scoring tear to end the regular season, especially when the Capitals have nothing to play for.

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He was asked earlier this month before a game in Philadelphia if scoring 50 goals still mattered to him. Ovechkin didn’t hesitate.

“Yeah, of course,” he said. “I have seven goals or six goals until 50. If I get it, it will be cool. But if not, that’s okay. I was there.”

And how does it feel now that he’s done it, again?

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“It’s harder and harder to score goals in this league,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a pretty big number. I’m pretty happy and pretty excited, but, you know, it’s done and we have one more game and then the playoffs start.”

Entering Saturday night’s game, Ovechkin had four goals in his last five games, getting hot just in time for the postseason to start next week. He scored two goals within three minutes in the first period on Saturday, and his third came midway through the third period. With that last goal, Backstrom reached a milestone of his own with his 50th assist of the year.

Ovechkin is the third player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season seven times (Mike Bossy: 9, Wayne Gretzky: 9). He is the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in three consecutive seasons twice (2007-10, 2013-16). He is also the first player to earn a hat trick in the same game he reached 50 goals since Corey Perry did it in 2011.

“Obviously, it’s nice,” Ovechkin said. “I think guys try to find me out there. You see all of the goals; obviously, nice passes and I just have to put it in.”

“He scored that first one, and he had some jump,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “When the big man gets something in his sights, he can be pretty special.”