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Ovechkin grateful for memorable 2018 with Capitals

Won first Stanley Cup title, scored 54 goals, became father

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin wasn't going to let a goal drought or a disappointing 6-3 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday in the Washington Capitals' final game of 2018 ruin what was the best year of his life. 

There was plenty for the Capitals captain to be grateful for over the previous 364 days, including winning the Stanley Cup for the first time and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on June 7, and becoming a father for the first time, when his son, Sergei, was born on Aug. 18.

"For the organization, for my family, it's been a great year. For the fans, as well," Ovechkin said. "We're going to try to do it again in '19."

Despite letting leads of 2-0 and 3-1 slip away against the Predators, Washington (24-11-3) is in good position to make a run at repeating as Cup champions. Before the loss Monday, it had won four in a row, nine of 10 and 16 of 19 to move into first place in the Metropolitan Division with 51 points.

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Ovechkin continues to lead the NHL with 29 goals this season despite not scoring any in the past six games. His 54 goals in 80 games in 2018 are the most in the League. The 33-year-old left wing led the League with 49 goals last season to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for the seventh time.

But his six-game drought is his longest of this season and equals his longest from last season, when he went six games without a goal from Nov. 10-Nov. 20, 2017. The longest goal drought of his career was ten games from Feb. 22-March 12, 2017.

"It's OK," Ovechkin said. "It's just the end of the year, you know? Tomorrow is going to be a new day, a new year and new hockey."

Ovechkin is on pace to finish with 63 goals this season, which would be the second highest total of his 14-season NHL career. If he scores his 30th goal in the Capitals' next game at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; SN360, SNE, FS-MW, NBCSWA, NHL.TV), he would match his fewest games to reach the 30-goal plateau from 2007-08, when he scored 30 goals in 39 games and went on to finish with a career-high 65. 

His six-game drought sticks out, though, because it follows a six-game goal streak (Dec. 4- Dec. 15) when he had 10 goals, and an NHL career-best 14-game point streak (Nov. 16-Dec. 15) when he had 23 points (17 goals, six assists).

"I think it's kind of the ebbs and flows of goal scoring," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "We saw him score an outrageous number there for a while and it was not humanly possible really to continue at that pace in today's game. I think he's just got to continue doing what he's been doing. He's been getting a lot of the same chances and they're not going in at this point.

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"That's nothing to be concerned about. He's still ahead in the League in terms of what he's doing."

Reirden tried shuffling his line combinations in the second half of the game Monday after the Predators scored three goals in 4:33 to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead. Reirden initially replaced T.J. Oshie at right wing with Tom Wilson on Ovechkin's line with center Nicklas Backstrom. 

In the third period, Reirden reunited center Evgeny Kuznetsov with Ovechkin and Wilson on a line combination that worked well for the Capitals in the playoffs and at the start of this season.

After not getting a shot attempt in the second period, Ovechkin had two shots on goal on the power play in the third period, but could not end his drought. 

"I think Todd tried to mix it up a little bit, tried to do something, and we have pretty good chances obviously," Ovechkin said. "But we didn't score, and you can see that they'd have one shot and then they'd score. It's OK. You can't win every game. You just have to put it in the trash and move forward."

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