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Alex Ovechkin's eye on Cup after scoring No. 550

Capitals captain focused on winning first championship

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin scored his 550th NHL goal to help the Washington Capitals to a 5-3 victory against the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center on Wednesday.

That moved him past Ron Francis into 27th place in League history, six goals from tying Johnny Bucyk for 26th.

Ovechkin's goal, a wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that broke a 2-2 tie with 14.2 seconds remaining in the second period, also was the 205th on the power play in his NHL career. That moved him past Wayne Gretzky and into a tie with Joe Sakic for 14th in NHL history.

Video: BOS@WSH: Ovechkin zips a wrist shot past Rask for PPG

"It's nice to be in this company," Ovechkin said. "Obviously, passing those players means a lot, so I'm pretty happy. There's still a way to go."

Ovechkin, 31, is on one of his scoring surges right now. He has a goal in three consecutive games and seven goals and 10 assists in the past 12 games. Suddenly, he has 25 goals this season, three behind Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the League lead.

Ovechkin has won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for leading the League in goals six times, including each of the past four seasons, and has scored 50 or more goals seven times in his NHL career, including each of the past three seasons. With 31 games remaining, reaching 50 goals again seems like a longshot, but winning another Richard Trophy isn't.

"He scores in bunches," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "That's been his M.O. where he could go long stretches where he'll pile up a [lot] of goals. He's had sort of a quiet year, but then you look up and it's not that quiet."

As much as Ovechkin loves scoring goals, leading the League this season doesn't appear to be as much of a focus for him. In fact, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said before the season that he told Ovechkin, "It doesn't matter to us if you lead the League in goals."

Video: WSH@NYI: Ovechkin beats Greiss with a one-timer

Although Trotz said he wasn't aware of that conversation, he agreed with the sentiment. What Ovechkin does in the Stanley Cup Playoffs matters much more than anything he accomplishes in the regular season.

With that in mind, Trotz has trimmed his ice time about two minutes per game, from an average of 20:18 last season to 18:20 this season, with the hope of keeping him fresh for a long playoff run. Of course, fewer minutes will probably mean fewer goals too.

"He's going to score more than 30 goals this year, but if he scores 30 goals and we're able to go real deep in the playoffs or do something special at the next level, the ultimate, I think he would trade that any day," Trotz said. "I think any player that plays this game would do that."

In his 12th season in the League, Ovechkin wants a Stanley Cup now more than ever. But it's not so easy to turn off or turn down that competitive inner switch while waiting for the playoffs to start.

His inner drive to score is one of the reasons he's one of the best in League history at doing it. That's why linemate T.J. Oshie has no doubt Ovechkin is trying to figure out a way to get to 50 goals again.

"I think it matters just a much, but I think the postseason matters more to him," Oshie said. "I don't think you can have that mentality, that 50-goal mentality, every year and have it just go away, even if you're not playing [as many] minutes. I think in his mind, and probably in most of our minds, he's still getting 50 this year.

"If he doesn't, he doesn't, but I think - I know - that he wants to and he's going to work for it. But I don't think it's going to be the end of the world to him if he doesn't make it."

Even if he doesn't reach 50 goals, Ovechkin likely will pass a few more legends on the NHL all-time goals list before the season is over. With 15 more, he'd jump up to 22nd, passing Bucyk, Guy Lafleur (560), Mike Modano (561) and Joe Nieuwendyk and Mats Sundin (564 each).

Video: MET@ATL: Ovechkin beats the clock with late tally

But he'd have to score 24 goals in the final 31 games to pass Mike Bossy (573) in 21st place. Mark Recchi (577) is next in 20th.

"He's climbing that ladder almost every night here, so it's hard to ignore," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "I think he's aware of where he is and he wants to keep climbing."

But not at the expense of what he hopes to do in the playoffs.

"Obviously, individually, I like to win almost every award," Ovechkin said. "I want to win the big one and this organization wants to win the big one, so we're going to try, we're going to make a push, and we'll see what happens."

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