-- Washington left wing Alex Ovechkin
, whose prolific scoring has keyed the resurgent Capitals' dramatic turnaround under new head coach Bruce Boudreau
, is on the verge of scoring his 50th goal of the season earlier than any NHL player in 15 years.
The 22-year-old enters tonight's game against the Atlanta Thrashers
as the League's goals leader with 47, eight more than second-place Ilya Kovalchuk
of the Thrashers. Should Ovechkin tally three more over the Capitals' next four games, he would reach the 50-goal mark earlier than any NHL player since Buffalo Sabres
forward Alex Mogilny notched his 50th on Feb. 3, 1993.
Players Scoring 50 Goals Before March 1 (since 1993)
Date of 50th Goal Player
Feb. 3, 1993 Alexander Mogilny
Feb. 28, 1993 Teemu Selanne
Feb. 23, 1996 Mario Lemieux
Feb. 23, 1996 Jaromir Jagr
Feb. 29, 1996 Alexander Mogilny
Ovechkin is vying for his second 50-goal season in three NHL campaigns; he tallied 52 goals in 2005-06 en route to winning the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie and notched 46 in 2006-07, a total he already has eclipsed this season.
The Capitals, who ranked 30th in the NHL with a 6-14-1 mark when Boudreau made his debut behind the bench at Philadelphia Nov. 23, have posted a 21-11-4 record since. Ovechkin has tallied 33 goals in that span, 50% more than any NHL player; Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin
, Calgary's Jarome Iginla
and Minnesota's Marian Gaborik
have 22. Ovechkin has tallied the game-winning goal seven times under Boudreau, including three in Washington's past four victories, and has a League-leading season total of eight.
Ovechkin has 15 goals in 14 games since signing a 13-year contract extension Jan. 10, and has taken the League lead in goals and in points (76). Among the highlights of his recent run was a four-goal, one-assist effort, including the overtime winner, in a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens
Jan. 31 -- a game in which, at separate times, he suffered a broken nose and a cut lip that required stitches. The performance marked his second four-goal game in a just over a month (Dec. 29 at Ottawa), making Ovechkin the first NHL player since 1995-96 to record multiple four-goal games in a season.