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Ovechkin passes Esposito at 718 NHL goals for Capitals

Forward reaches sixth in history in win against Islanders

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Ovechkin's 718th career goal

NYI@WSH: Ovechkin passes Esposito with 718th NHL goal

Alex Ovechkin hammers home his 718th career goal on a vintage power-play blast, passing Phil Esposito for sixth on the NHL's all-time list

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WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin passed Phil Esposito for sixth on the NHL goals list, with 718, when the Washington Capitals forward scored against the New York Islanders at Capital One Arena on Tuesday.

"It's history," Ovechkin said. "It's pretty good numbers and happy to be in that category. But just move forward. It's done. It's history. It was a very good match, big points and obviously big numbers."

Ovechkin scored his 12th goal of the season on a power play with 4:36 left in the second period of a 3-1 win.

The 35-year-old has scored 718 goals in 1,177 regular-season games in 16 seasons with the Capitals, who selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. Esposito scored 717 goals in 1,282 regular-season games in 18 NHL seasons with the Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers before retiring in 1981.

"I got to tell you, man, congratulations," Esposito said in a video played at the arena. "You are a fantastic hockey player, and I don't know how you score all those goals with the way these guys block shots with the great equipment that they wear. Good luck. Keep it going, but not against the Lightning (Esposito is vice president of corporate relations for Tampa Bay)."

Ovechkin has scored in four straight games, including goal No. 717 against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, and in five of the past six.

No. 718 was scored was from his familiar spot in the left face-off circle, assisted by Nicklas Backstrom and Justin Schultz.

"It doesn't matter which -- one-timer, wrist shot, redirect -- a goal is a goal," Ovechkin said. "It's always a nice feeling to get it. … Great job by 'Nicky' and 'Schultzy' to move the puck past, and for me I just have to hit the net. Finally."

Backstrom has an assist on 268 Ovechkin goals. They have been teammates since Backstrom made his NHL debut in 2007-08.

"We [started] together, I think, to build this relationship and build this chemistry, and I think we enjoy [playing] together," Ovechkin said. "And I think we all understand how we have to play, and if we have that joy, I think we'll have fun, and it's hard to stop, especially when Nicky has the puck and he's flying out there. It's fun to watch. I just have to be open all the time and try to put a puck in. It's fun to play with him. He's one of the best."

With an assist on T.J. Oshie's goal at 10:36 of the second, Ovechkin became the second active player to score 1,300 NHL points, joining Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton (1,521; 423 goals, 1,098 assists), and the 35th player in history.

Video: NYI@WSH: Ovechkin hits 1,300 points on Oshie's goal

Five players have scored more NHL goals: Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741), Jaromir Jagr (766), Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne Gretzky (894).

"My answer is pretty simple: We've seen him do it year after year. It's just so impressive," Backstrom said. "I think the way he shoots the puck, the way he scores, the way he plays the game is just fun to see. As a teammate, you're just enjoying every moment."

Ovechkin has scored 23 points (11 assists) in 25 games this season. The Washington captain missed four games while in the NHL COVID-19 protocol from Jan. 20-29.

"The beginning of the year just probably wasn't perfect for him with coming in late like we did to start the season and then him getting hooked up in quarantine and probably just wasn't the right start," Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. "But through it, he was still generating offense and generating opportunities, and now it seems that they're finding the back of the net a little bit more. I think the more you get into a rhythm, the more touches you get, the guys that make plays and score goals they need to find that rhythm and score goals and get the touches. So for me, it certainly has been a big difference. The results have been a big difference, I think, in the last few weeks where you see the opportunities going in the net."

Last season, Ovechkin tied David Pastrnak of the Bruins for the NHL lead with 48 goals. Ovechkin has led the NHL a record nine times, including the past three seasons. He is nine goals behind Auston Matthews of the Maple Leafs (21 goals) for the lead this season.

"He's such a great shooter," said Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who coached Ovechkin for four seasons with the Capitals (2014-18). "I termed him probably the greatest goal-scorer of maybe all time because there's no one like him from a standpoint physically. No one shoots the puck like him. So he's dangerous every time he's on the ice."

Tweet from @Capitals: And now a message from the great Phil Esposito for Alex Ovechkin on taking over sixth place on the all-time goals list!#ALLCAPS | #Gr8

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