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Ovechkin off to best start of his career

Friday, 10.09.2009 / 9:33 AM / Inside the Numbers

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

 
Alex Ovechkin has terrorized goaltenders from the night he broke into the National Hockey League in 2005 (he scored twice in Washington's 3-2 win against Columbus in his NHL debut). He's a three-time 50-goal scorer and a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner -- even though he rarely gets off to a fast start.

But that has changed this season. Not only is Ovechkin off to the fastest start of his career, he's piling up goals and points at a dizzying pace.

Consider that Ovechkin needed just three games to score his first 5 goals this season. He didn't score his fifth goal last season until his 14th game -- and still wound up with a League-leading 56. In each of his first three seasons -- including 2007-08, when he finished with 65 goals -- he got his fifth goal in his eighth game of the season.

Ovechkin also became only the third player in NHL history to record three or more points in his team's first three games of the season (the streak ended when he didn't make the score sheet against the Rangers on Thursday night). The reigning NHL MVP joins Hall of Famers Guy Lafleur of the 1975-76 Montreal Canadiens and Peter Stastny of the 1982-83 Quebec Nordiques as the only three-in-three players at the start of a season. It's also the first time in Ovechkin’s career he has scored three or more points in three straight games.

Ovechkin makes a difference in his team's performance as well. The Caps are 23-0-2 in the last 25 games in which he scores at least 2 goals (they lost 6-5 in OT at Philadelphia on Thursday despite his two-goal night). The last time they lost in regulation when Ovechkin had a multi-goal game was Nov. 30, 2007 -- Bruce Boudreau's fifth game behind the Caps' bench.

Another fast starter -- John Tavares, the first pick of the 2009 Entry Draft, had a goal and an assist for the New York Islanders in his NHL debut. That two-point performance matched the most points scored by any previous No. 1 overall selection in his first NHL game. The other No. 1 picks with two-point debuts were Mario Lemieux (1 goal, 1 assist in 1984), Mike Modano (1 goal, 1 assist in 1989), Alexandre Daigle (2 assists in 1993), and Alex Ovechkin (2 goals in 2005).

Kid stuff -- Ovechkin isn't the only fifth-year player reaching milestones. Sidney Crosby registered his 400th career point in Pittsburgh's 4-3 shootout win against the Islanders on Oct. 2. Crosby reached that milestone in his 292nd career game; only five players in NHL history reached 400 points in fewer games -- Wayne Gretzky (197), Mario Lemieux (240), Peter Stastny (247), Eric Lindros (277) and Mike Bossy (283).

A night to remember --
It took almost 40 years, but the Vancouver Canucks finally beat the Montreal Canadiens by more than four goals. The Canucks' 7-1 rout of the Canadiens on Wednesday marked the first time since entering the NHL in 1970 the Canucks had beaten their long-time torturers by at least five goals. Their previous best had been four, accomplished four times.

The Canucks' victory also continued their recent domination of the Canadiens after nearly three decades of being pounded by them. Vancouver is 11-1-1 in the teams' last 13 meetings -- but in the previous 100, dating to 1970, the Canadiens were 71-17-12, including 25-0-5 in their first 30 games.

Leaf shredder -- It took Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson a while to figure out how to score against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now the Leafs can't find a way to stop him.

Alfredsson scored on a penalty shot Tuesday night in the Senators' 2-1 win at Toronto. It was his 22nd goal in his last 33 games against the Leafs, dating to January 2004 -- before that, he'd gone 17 games against Toronto without a goal.

The penalty-shot goal was Alfredsson's third in six career tries -- the only active player with more penalty-shot goals is Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier, who's 4-for-9.

Wrong place, wrong time -- You wouldn't blame Carolina forward Sergei Samsonov for wanting a do-over to start the season.

Not only has Samsonov managed just 1 assist in the Hurricanes' first three games, he's been in the penalty box for four opposition power-play goals -- a difficult feat, considering he's only taken eight minutes in penalties. Samsonov was called for a double minor in the season-opener against Philadelphia and watched the Flyers score on both ends in a 2-0 victory. He also was in the box for one of Boston's four power-play goals in Carolina's 7-2 loss to the Bruins and was the culprit again Tuesday, taking the penalty that led to Tampa Bay's lone goal in Carolina's 2-1 shootout win.

Who needs penalty-killers? -- The Los Angeles Kings won back-to-back home games this week against San Jose and Minnesota -- but not because of their penalty-killing prowess.

The Kings led the Sharks 4-0 late in the second period but allowed four power-play goals on as many chances before regrouping for a 6-4 win. Two nights later, they allowed goals on Minnesota's first two power plays -- allowing the Wild to climb out of a 4-0 hole and get within 4-3 before L.A. scored twice to put away a 6-3 win.

No team in the last four seasons has allowed a team to go 4-for-4 on the power play, and no team in recent memory has surrendered six consecutive power-play goals.
Quote of the Day

Obviously a lot happened in a short period of time. At the end of the day, considering everything I went through, I really felt close to my teammates and I really feel like what we accomplished, I know we didn't win it all. ... I'm really proud of how we got there and what we did once we got there.

— Rangers forward Martin St. Louis to Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com