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Ovechkin ties Esposito at 717 NHL goals for Capitals

Forward reaches sixth in history in game against Sabres

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Ovechkin nets 717th career goal

WSH@BUF: Ovechkin scores 717th goal to tie Esposito

Alex Ovechkin scores from the slot to record career goal No. 717, tying Phil Esposito for sixth on the NHL's all-time scoring list

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Alex Ovechkin tied Phil Esposito for sixth on the NHL goals list, at 717, when the Washington Capitals forward scored in a 6-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center in Buffalo on Monday.

Ovechkin scored Washington's sixth goal at 16:21 of the third period to tie Esposito.

"Obviously, it's nice to be in this company," Ovechkin said. "I just do what I have to do. I try to use my chances and move on."

The 35-year-old has scored 717 goals in 1,176 regular-season games in 16 seasons with the Capitals, who selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. Esposito scored 717 goals in 1,282 regular-season games in 18 NHL seasons with the Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers before retiring in 1981.

"I knew he was going to pass me," Esposito said Feb. 25. "It was just a matter of time."

Ovechkin has 11 goals in 24 games this season. The Washington captain missed four games while in the NHL COVID-19 protocol from Jan. 20-29.

He has scored a goal in three straight games and in four of the past five.

"The most important goals are still coming, so right now it's very important for me just to feel the rhythm of the game," Ovechkin said, "and I think our line (with center Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie), when we control the puck when we move through the neutral zone, it's fun to play."

Ovechkin is 14 goals behind Marcel Dionne, who is fifth with 731 goals in 1,348 regular-season games in 18 seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and Rangers. Dionne retired in 1989.

"It's amazing that he keeps doing it," Esposito said. "And he's going to keep on doing it because of that quick release. I love watching him score because he gets so darned excited about it. I just love it."

Mike Gartner (708), Brett Hull (741), Jaromir Jagr (766), Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne Gretzky (894) are the other players to score 700 NHL goals.

Ovechkin had last season cut short by 13 games and this one is reduced to 56 games due to the coronavirus, in addition to a labor-related shortened season of 48 games in 2012-13.

"Losing the games that he lost is going to be hurt his chances (of passing Gretzky) without a doubt," Esposito said. "But I don't know. What Wayne did is phenomenal, but if anybody could (break the record), I think it could be him."

Last season, Ovechkin tied David Pastrnak of the Bruins for the NHL lead with 48 goals. Ovechkin has led the League an NHL-record nine times, including the past three seasons. He is 10 behind Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews this season.

"There is something going on with Ovi just about every night right now with the postgame," Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. "Tonight, that is a big one. Phil, I grew up in Massachusetts watching Phil, so to be able to grow up and watch him and the player he was ... he was an unbelievable player, unbelievable goal scorer. Now to get a chance to work with Ovi and have these two guys sitting here at the same number is pretty, pretty incredible."

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