Ovechkin WSH feature vs DET

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin is scoring goals at an Alex Ovechkin-like pace again, chasing down records and driving the Washington Capitals’ push toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 38-year-old forward has scored eight goals during a five-game goal streak to help the Capitals (35-26-9) move one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings (36-29-6) into the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference heading into a showdown at Capital One Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MNMT, BSDET).

Washington trails the Philadelphia Flyers by two points for third place in the Metropolitan Division with two games in hand.

“Everybody understands the situation,” Ovechkin said after scoring twice in the third period of a 3-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets here Sunday. “That’s why we fight all year, in training camp. We want to finish the season [strong]. In two weeks, we want to keep playing.”

After the Capitals missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2014, Ovechkin appears determined not to let it happen again. The Washington captain was named the NHL’s First Star of the week Monday after leading the League with seven goals in four games, including three multigoal games.

Ovechkin struggled through his first 43 games this season, scoring only eight goals. But a goal in the Capitals’ final game before the break for the 2024 NHL All-Star Weekend -- a 5-4 overtime loss at the Dallas Stars on Jan. 27 -- appeared to light a spark that has fueled him and his team through the past two months.

WPG@WSH: Ovechkin scores two goals in win

Ovechkin has scored 18 goals in his past 24 games to reach 26 for the season and 848 during his 19-season NHL career.

“I don't know,” he said in trying to explain his resurgence. “The puck goes in.”

With 12 regular-season games remaining, Ovechkin is four goals away from his 18th season with at least 30, which would break his tie with Mike Gartner for most in NHL history. He is two goals from joining Wayne Gretzky as the only players in NHL history to score 850, and 47 away from breaking Gretzky’s League record of 894.

“It’s not surprising,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. “It’s obviously great to see at a pivotal time of the year, too, so that’s huge. The captain [is] leading the troops and we’ve kind of fallen in line.”

Washington trailed Detroit by nine points following an 8-3 loss at Little Caesars Arena on Feb. 27. The Capitals have gone 8-4-0 since, including five wins in their past six games, while the Red Wings have lost nine of 12.

Ovechkin has led the climb, along with center Dylan Strome, who has 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in the past 12 games, and goalie Charlie Lindgren, who is 8-3-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and two shutouts since the loss in Detroit.

NHL EDGE: Behind Ovechkin's power-play goal

Ovechkin scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory at the Vancouver Canucks on March 16 and followed with two goals, including another game-winner, in a 5-2 victory at the Calgary Flames two nights later. He scored twice more in a 7-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday and another goal in 7-6 shootout victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday before scoring twice in the third against the Jets on Sunday.

“He’s probably the straw that’s stirring this drink in here,” said Winnipeg coach associate coach Scott Arniel, who watched Ovechkin up close for four seasons as a Washington assistant (2018-2022). “When he gets going, that team is up and running. No disrespect to anybody else, but he’s a force out there. … I’ve seen it before. When he gets hot, he gets really hot, and this is what you’re seeing kind of in the second half of the year.”

It’s come at the best time for the Capitals, who haven’t missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since a drought from 2004-2007, which included Ovechkin’s first two in the NHL (2006-2007).

After the Capitals were sellers before the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline on March 8, dealing defenseman Joel Edmundson (Maple Leafs) and forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov (Hurricanes) and Anthony Mantha (Vegas Golden Knights) for draft picks, Ovechkin vowed not to give up, saying, “We’re still fighting for a playoff spot.”

His teammates have followed his lead.

“You can tell he’s been through this a long time, 19 years now,” Washington coach Spencer Carbery said last week. “This time of the year is his time to shine and where he really, really wants to get his game at a high level, but also the entire group, as our captain.”