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Ovechkin has sights set on another 50-goal season with Capitals

Forward, two from 600 in NHL, needs 10 to reach milestone for eighth time

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- No sooner had Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 40th goal Saturday than he had set his sights on 50.

"Forty is nice, but 50 is better," the Washington Capitals forward said after he reached 40 for the ninth time in his NHL career in a 5-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.

Ovechkin's chase for 600 NHL goals is the more immediate milestone in his path heading into a three-game California trip, which begins against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSWA, NHL.TV). 

He's two goals away from becoming the 20th player in NHL history to reach 600, and if he does it in his next 13 games, he would be the fourth to take fewer than 1,000 games, joining Wayne Gretzky (718), Mario Lemieux (719) and Brett Hull (900), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Video: TOR@WSH: Ovechkin nets 40th goal of season in front

"I think he's a guy that focuses on certain goals, and in his area of scoring goals, that 50 mark is always big," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "The 600 will be something he'll have forever, but I think he'll put a lot of pride in it if he can get 50 this year. He'd put a lot of pride in that."

Ovechkin scored 50 or more goals seven times in his first 12 NHL seasons. Only Gretzky and Mike Bossy have done it more (nine each). Since 2013-14, Ovechkin is the only player in the League to score 50 in a season, and he has done it three times: 2013-14 (51), 2014-15 (53) and 2015-16 (50).

But after he dropped to 33 goals last season, it appeared his days of scoring 50 might be over. That didn't stop Trotz from setting 50 as the objective for Ovechkin before the season began. Now that Ovechkin is within reach of that number again, he appears driven to get to it.

"I think the way he looks at it, it's so hard to do and he had a down year [last season]," Trotz said. "He wants to show that he can still do it. He's got an opportunity to do it. If I was a betting man -- I'm not -- I think he can do it."

As Ovechkin has said, he has to get to 600 before he gets to 50. Trotz said he tried to help Ovechkin get to 600 on Saturday after he scored No. 598 at 6:19 of the first period.

"I kept putting him out on offensive draws to see if he could [get it]," Trotz said. "I was talking to him on the ice [Monday] and he had a couple opportunities in the second that he felt he could have got. And if he would have gotten it, I'm pretty sure he would have got that third one. He would have found a way.

"But he's going to get to that mark, hopefully sooner than later."

Video: WSH@CBJ: Ovechkin nets PPG in milestone game

The Capitals (37-21-7) are one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and two ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Ovechkin has been hot of late with six goals in his past seven games and eight in his past 11.

"He's going to get it," said linemate Tom Wilson, who set up Ovechkin's goal against Toronto. "He probably is the best goal scorer of our generation. It's pretty fun when every time you get him the puck there's a good chance he's going to put it in the back of the net. … I know he might be shooting a little more. I think in the Toronto game he shot from behind the net at one point, but that's just his game. He's a shooter and he's a goal scorer."

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