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Ovechkin, Laine set to go head-to-head

Capitals forward, Jets wing enter showdown tied for League lead in goals with 40

by Brian McNally / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The race for the Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to the top goal-scorer in the NHL, heats up when Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals play Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets at Capital One Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, NBCSWA, TSN3, NHL.TV).

Ovechkin, the 32-year-old left wing, and Laine, 19, a second-year right wing, each has a League-high 40 goals with 14 games to go.

"It's pretty awesome just to be in this position to race for the goal-scoring title as a 19-year-old," Laine said. "It's pretty unreal. But the work is not done yet."

Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy six times in his career (2007-09, 2012-16). He is three goals behind Laine since the start of the 2016-17 season (73). Laine has made it a race this season with 15 goals in his past 11 games, including two five-game goal streaks in that span, and Ovechkin has been paying attention.

Video: TOR@WSH: Ovechkin nets 40th goal of season in front

"We look at the standings, look at the stats," Ovechkin said. "If you close to top three or top five, of course you pay attention. I think it's normal thing. I don't believe when someone says, 'I don't care about the stats,' and all of this kind of stuff. Of course they want points, they wants goals."

Laine, who turns 20 on April 19 and is tied with Brian Bellows and Wayne Gretzky for the third-most goals by a teenager in League history behind Jimmy Carson (92) and Dale Hawerchuk (85), has drawn comparisons to Ovechkin for the way he has begun his NHL career and his shot. He uses a long stick that changes the angle of shots and makes it difficult for goalies. 

"Those guys, they find a way," Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer said. "You can't give them too much time. You've got to pay attention to where they are on the ice… There's a lot of similarity. [Laine] shoots it, he pulls it in a little bit weird -- long stick -- and makes it really hard for us to read."

Video: WPG@PHI: Laine rockets home 40th goal of season

Ovechkin is seeking his 600th NHL goal. He did not score on a three-game trip to California and remains at 598. He is also pushing for his eighth 50-goal season. Ovechkin doesn't use the long stick that Laine does and likes the puck closer in to his skates, but the results have been the same for each player. 

"They're able to sort of contort and put pucks off their stick in areas where it's hard to read, it's got some bite to it when it comes at you and it gets on the goalies quick," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Ovi's done it for a long, long time. Laine has done it for the last two years and it looks like he might be able to do it for a long, long time. It'll be pretty special You've got Ovi, who's the king at it, and a young guy who's making some noise around the League."

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