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With 499 in overtime, Ovechkin can score 500 at home

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- With two goals on Saturday, Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin gave himself the opportunity to score a milestone goal for the second time this season in the only building he has and may ever call home in the NHL.

Ovechkin's goals, including the game-winner in Washington's 4-3 overtime victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, gave him 499 in 800 NHL games. His next opportunity to score No. 500 will be Sunday at Verizon Center against the Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SN, CSN-DC).

The Capitals don't play again until Thursday, at home against the Vancouver Canucks.

"I'm just going to take it game by game," Ovechkin said. "If I score, I score. If not, there's still plenty of games left. I'm still going to score one goal sooner or later, I think."

Ovechkin has scored 251 goals at Verizon Center, including one on Nov. 19, when his 484th passed Sergei Fedorov to become the leading scorer among Russian-born NHL players.

If Ovechkin scores Sunday, he'll do so in his 801st game, making him the fifth fastest player in NHL history to reach 500 goals, trailing Wayne Gretzky (575 games), Mario Lemieux (605 games), Mike Bossy (647 games) and Brett Hull (693 games). Phil Esposito scored his 500th goal in his 803rd game.

"Our fans, the people that have supported him for so long, they've seen a lot of his goals and a lot of his celebrations, it would only be fitting if he can get it done at home," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "He's got a chance to do that [Sunday]. I don't think he's nervous about it or anything like that. I think he was more nervous about chasing Fedorov down."

Ovechkin's 498th goal, his 184th power-play goal, came with 15 seconds left in the first period. It was gift-wrapped to him by Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, who made an errant tape-to-tape pass from behind the net to Ovechkin below the right circle. Ovechkin easily, and quickly, scored to give Washington a 1-0 lead.

His second goal, the overtime winner, will be added to his highlight video.

The Rangers had two chances to end the game from in front of the crease, but Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made a save on left wing Rick Nash and then got some help from defenseman Nate Schmidt, who reached in to block center Derek Stepan's attempt off the rebound.

The puck came off of Schmidt's stick and popped free to Ovechkin in the slot. He curled around the net, gained some speed, and made an end-to-end solo rush going around forward Rick Nash, cutting across and shooting through defenseman Ryan McDonagh and past goalie Henrik Lundqvist at 1:25 of overtime.

"I just started full speed and I saw Nash kind of wave to somebody to take their side," Ovechkin said. "I used my speed to beat him 1-on-1, just made a move in the middle and put it in."

He celebrated by sliding on his knees down the wall in front of the Capitals bench.

"That was nice," said Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, whose game-tying goal with 5.7 seconds left in the third period gave Ovechkin the chance to score in overtime. "You don't see maybe a highlight goal every game, but it's moments like this, he just shows up and you can't really do anything about it. It's just amazing."

Trotz said he could tell Ovechkin was going to score on that rush because he had "that look."

"He's a difference-maker when he gets that look," Trotz said.

Trotz appreciated the celebration too. He appreciates all of Ovechkin's celebrations.

"If you don't like the celebrating, then you're taking the kid out of the game," Trotz said. "That's what makes him special. I mean, watch him celebrate when Nick Backstrom scores, it's the same. He still has that child-type energy and enthusiasm. When us older people lose it, we sort of lose a piece of ourselves. That's what makes him great. He loves the big moments. He loves to score goals. He loves to be a part of it. That's a great quality. That's the love of the game."

One can only imagine the celebration the 30-year-old will put on if he scores No. 500 Sunday. He said he's not thinking about it, that he probably won't until he wakes up and starts focusing on the game, but the opportunity to do it at home certainly adds to the drama.

It did in November, when he was chasing Fedorov.

"I was happy for him that he only has 499 now," Backstrom said. "Now we're home for two games, so hopefully he gets a chance to do it at home in front of our fans, maybe his family and friends. I think that would mean a lot for him. Hopefully we'll get done at home.

"No pressure."

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