Alex Ovechkin continued one of the hottest tears of his illustrious 15-year NHL career on Friday night in Ottawa, netting a pair of goals to catch and pass Mark Messier (694) for sole possession of eighth place on the NHL's all-time goals list. The Caps closed out the January portion of their schedule with a 5-3 win over the Senators, their 20th road victory of the season.
Ovechkin now has 11 goals in his last five games, joining Joey Mullen as just the second player in league history aged 34 or older to record 11 goals in a span of five appearances. Ovechkin has 37 goals on the season, tying Boston's David Pastrnak for the league lead, and he has 695 for his career.
Ottawa fans gave the Caps' captain a rousing ovation at game's end, and he acknowledged them as he left the ice.
Video: WSH@OTT: Ovechkin takes sole possession of 8th
"That's how special a player he is," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We're so fortunate to have him and in Washington, and what he's done for the game there, and building it and how fortunate the fans are to see him 41-plus times a year.
"We're pretty lucky, and lucky as coaches and players to play with a guy that is chasing an unbelievable record and certainly hasn't stopped the last few games. So another strong game from him, not just goal-scoring, but he did a number of really good things tonight."
Ovechkin wasn't alone in achieving a significant milestone on Friday night. With a pair of assists, Caps blueliner John Carlson caught and surpassed Calle Johansson (361) for the top spot on Washington's all-time ledger for most assists by a defenseman. And rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov won his 10th straight road decision without a loss, joining ex-Cap Brent Johnson as just the second rookie netminder in league history to win as many as 10 straight road decisions at the start of his career.
Coming off a home ice loss to Nashville on Wednesday, the Caps came out strong in the early going, forging an early two-goal lead and riding it the rest of the way as the Sens closed to within a goal on three separate occasions.
Video: WSH@OTT: Oshie takes early lead on crafty tip-in
Washington took an early 1-0 lead on T.J. Oshie's 19th goal of the season at 4:10 of the first period. The Caps gained the Ottawa zone and worked the puck back to Carlson at the right point. The blueliner put a shot toward the net, and Oshie deflected it past Sens netminder Marcus Hogberg.
Just past the midpoint of the first, the Caps doubled their advantage. Evgeny Kuznetsov carried into Ottawa territory, dropping the puck for Dmitry Orlov in the middle of the ice near the Ottawa line. Orlov went to Jakub Vrana, who carried down near the goal line on the left side before feeding Kuznetsov for a back-door tap-in at 11:22.
Video: WSH@OTT: Vrana sets up Kuznetsov down low
Samsonov had a relatively quiet first frame at the other end of the ice, but he did make one stellar stop, denying Vladislav Namestnikov's breakaway bid shortly after Kuznetsov's goal.
In the second, the Caps were victimized for yet another shorthanded goal against, their league-leading ninth of the season and the fifth they have yielded in the month of January, a month in which they've scored eight power-play goals. Chris Tierney scored the shorty for Ottawa, converting a nice feed from Dylan DeMelo to halve the Washington lead to 2-1 at 7:15 of the middle period.
Ovechkin was in full shooting gallery mode from the outset of the contest; he accounted for nine of Washington's 25 first-period shot attempts and had five of its 16 shots on net in the first. A little over three minutes after Tierney's tally, Ovechkin took a feed from Nicklas Backstrom and beat Hogberg from the right circle, restoring the Caps' two-goal cushion at 10:27.
Video: WSH@OTT: Ovechkin scores, ties Messier on goals list
A mere 64 seconds later, Ottawa pulled to within one once again. Sens defenseman Thomas Chabot carried into Washington territory and made it a 3-2 game with a nifty goal from above the circles, threading the puck through Caps defenseman Nick Jensen and past Ilya Samsonov to make it a 3-2 game at 11:31.
Washington regained its two-goal cushion early in the third with a shorthanded goal of its own. Lars Eller made a strong play, fighting off a check to head-man the puck to the speedy Carl Hagelin, who had a step on an Ottawa defender. Hagelin beat Hogberg to make it a 4-2 game at 3:07 of the third.
Video: WSH@OTT: Hagelin goes top shelf for shorthanded goal
"It was important," says Hagelin, of what would prove to be the game-winning goal. "We haven't scored a ton of shorthanded goals this year, so it's always nice to help out. It's a nice play there by Lars."
Ottawa responded on a subsequent power play less than two minutes after Hagelin's marker, again drawing to within a goal when Artem Anisimov scored at 4:47 of the third.
Samsonov made another terrific stop midway through the third - this one on Brady Tkachuk - to preserve the Caps' slim lead. With under four minutes remaining, Ottawa's Colin White took a double-minor for hi-sticking Eller, putting the Caps on the power play for essentially the remainder of regulation.
Video: Reirden Postgame | January 31
Reirden used Radko Gudas alongside Dmitry Orlov on the blueline for some of that man advantage, taking extra precautions to guard against another shorthanded goal that might have forced overtime. In the waning seconds, Carlson set up Ovechkin for an empty-net, power-play goal, a tally that pushed Ovechkin past Messier and Carlson past Johansson for their respective milestones.
Ovechkin finished the night with 11 shots on net and 19 shot attempts.
"I missed a lot of the pucks, too," he muses. "You can see how my linemates and our team plays tonight. Every time they have a chance to find me out there, they tried to do it. Obviously, I have plenty of chances today to score more, but I'll take two and move forward."
Video: Postgame | January 31