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Capitals' Ovechkin takes aim at 500 against Rangers

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- If Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has a hat trick in his stick on Saturday, it'll be good enough for him to reach 500 goals in his 800th game.

Combining those milestones would make his 42nd regular-season appearance against the New York Rangers (1 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, CSN-DC, MSG), including his 23rd at Madison Square Garden, far more special than the others. It would also be three more goals against Henrik Lundqvist, giving him 21 for his career.

Currently, the only goalie to allow more goals to Ovechkin than Lundqvist is Kari Lehtonen (19). Ovechkin has 24 goals in 41 games against the Rangers, including 14 in 22 games at the Garden.

"We'll see, we'll see," Ovechkin said after practice at the Garden on Friday. "I don't think it's going to be a hat trick, but if I score one I'll be happy. He's a top goalie in the League and I don't think he's going to allow me to do that kind of stuff."

He's probably right, but nobody could call it a total shock if it were to happen. Ovechkin has 13 regular-season hat tricks in his career, including three four-goal games. However, he hasn't had a hat trick since Dec. 10, 2013 and he's never had one against the Rangers.

So the likelihood of him scoring three times Saturday, while possible, is slim. But the fact he's closing in on 500 goals at a point when he's about to play in his 800th game is the bigger point here anyway.

Ovechkin needs three goals in his next three games to become the fifth fastest player in NHL history to reach 500 goals, behind Wayne Gretzky (575 games), Mario Lemieux (605 games), Mike Bossy (647 games) and Brett Hull (693 games).

Phil Esposito, currently fifth on the list, scored his 500th goal in his 803rd game.

Ovechkin is also poised to become the first Russian-born player to score 500 goals in the NHL. He became the leading scorer among Russian-born NHL players earlier this season, when he passed Sergei Fedorov by scoring his 484th goal on Nov. 19.

"I think the Russian one got a lot of play, when he passed Fedorov, and I think he was more nervous on that one than he is now," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "He's going to score a lot more than 500 goals, I'm pretty sure on that. It's a big milestone. I think he's got other milestones that he wants to achieve as well, but 500 will be nice."

Ovechkin said being close to his 500th goal has brought back memories to when he scored his 250th career goal on Jan. 21, 2010 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena.

"And right now I'm close to 500, so the time is moving fast and you just realize that it's not you're second or third year anymore," Ovechkin said. "It's my 10th year in the League. I feel like I've been through a lot, you know."

He also said he feels he has a lot more to give, which is why although he's approaching 500 goals, he's looking forward to 600 and beyond.

"I still have lots of things to improve and lots of stuff to do," he said, "so the amount of games is going to be huge."

The amount of goals too.

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