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Ovechkin looks for 700th goal against former Capitals coach Trotz

Forward faces Islanders two away from reaching milestone

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin is going to score his 700th NHL goal eventually. New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz accepts that.

But Trotz hopes the Washington Capitals forward doesn't do it against his team at Capital One Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, ESPN+, SNW, SNP, TVAS, NBCSWA, MSG+, NHL.TV).

Ovechkin is two away from becoming the eighth player in League history to score 700 goals after being held without a point in the Capitals' 7-2 home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. 

This will be Ovechkin's final chance to get his 700th goal on home ice before the Capitals depart for a three-game road trip to face the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 13, Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 15 and Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 17. Ovechkin scored his 500th (vs. Ottawa Senators on Jan. 10, 2016) and 600th goals (vs. Winnipeg Jets on March 12, 2018) at Capital One Arena.

Video: WPG@WSH: Ovi buries rebound for 600th NHL goal

Trotz, who coached Ovechkin for four seasons with the Capitals, including when they won the Stanley Cup in 2018, knows as well as anyone that it's only a matter of time before the 34-year-old gets to the milestone.

"He's going to get them," Trotz said after the Islanders morning skate Monday. "Obviously, I've seen him get 500 and 600. Hopefully, I have to watch it on TV for 700. But he's going to get it and he's going to get it against someone."

Ovechkin, who has 698 goals in 1,138 regular-season games over 15 seasons, is seeking to join Wayne Gretzky (894 goals), Gordie Howe (801), Jaromir Jagr (766), Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717) and Mike Gartner (708) in the 700-goal club. Trotz doesn't expect Ovechkin to slow down after he gets to 700 and believes Gretzky's NHL record of 894 goals is in jeopardy.

"As I've said, I believe he's the greatest goal-scorer that's ever played to this point," Trotz said. "He's going to score a lot more goals. If I was a betting man, I would bet on Ovi breaking that goal-scoring record. In my mind, there's no doubt in my mind that he's going to do it."

Ovechkin and Trotz went through a lot together during their four seasons together with Washington. Despite all of their regular-season successes, including winning the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top regular-season team in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the Capitals had to endure disappointing second-round losses in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015, 2016 and 2017 before winning their first championship in 2018.

Ovechkin won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the playoffs after scoring a League-leading 15 goals during Washington's postseason run.

"For a lot of years, there was doubters on Alex and Alex has risen above that," Trotz said. "He's matured. He's a Stanley Cup champion. When I was here, we talked about how he's inspired people. He's inspired young guys that tie their laces and let it hang or wearing the yellow laces in the skates and they're tucking the shirt in and they're using his (stick) pattern.

"He's inspired so many young players and he continues to do that."

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm5: Ovechkin receives Conn Smythe Trophy

And he continues to score a lot of goals.

Ovechkin had 14 goals in his previous seven games before being unable to score against Philadelphia and is tied with Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the NHL lead with 40 goals this season. Trotz saw Ovechkin reach another level, though, with his evolution into a more complete player.

"I think (it's) his acceptance of the importance of all the other stuff, not just the goal-scoring, but the other stuff that goes with it," Trotz said. "Some systematic stuff, but just the game itself and leadership and all that. I think he really grew in that area and he's matured as a young man.

"When he came into the League he was a 20-year-old phenom and he's grown in this franchise. He's been the most important player in this franchise and one of the most important players in the National Hockey League in the last decade."

Ovechkin would be the first player to score 700 NHL goals since Jagr got his 700th playing for the New Jersey Devils against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on March 1, 2014. In fact, Ovechkin could become the fourth player to score his 700th goal against the Islanders.

Dionne scored his 700th while playing for the New York Rangers against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 31, 1987. Gretzky scored his 700th while playing for the Los Angeles Kings against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 3, 1991.

Trotz said the Islanders will approach trying to stop Ovechkin from joining them, "as just winning a hockey game." The Capitals will take a similar approach after a sloppy performance against the Flyers.

Coach Todd Reirden said the Capitals might have tried to force the puck to Ovechkin a few times to try to help him get to 700 goals on Saturday. They were reminded by the result that they need to play within their team framework and, if they do, Ovechkin will score eventually.

"We all know he's going to score two goals," Reirden said. "It's just when it happens and how it happens and the situation hasn't been drawn up, yet. We'll see how it is and how the rest of the story plays out, but the more we try to get him the puck and kind of try to do things outside of our normal team identity, then it probably doesn't help the cause.

"So, we've got to play the right way and do things correctly and then as a byproduct he's going to score as he has for all these years."

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