Alex Ovechkin aims to continue his torrid start to the season on Sunday night when the Washington Capitals host a Pittsburgh Penguins team that could have captain Sidney Crosby back in the lineup.
Ovechkin scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season and 742nd career on Friday to move past Hall of Famer Brett Hull into fourth place all-time in NHL history.
A three-time Hart Trophy recipient, Ovechkin trails only Wayne Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801) and Jaromir Jagr (766) in NHL goals.
“It means a lot,” Ovechkin said following Washington’s 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. “When you start playing and you came to the NHL, you never felt like you were going to be in that position and with those names, but it is a special moment for me.”
Ovechkin has recorded six points (two goals, four assists) during the Capitals’ three-game winning streak. He has 64 points (36 goals, 28 assists) in 65 career contests versus the Penguins.
Fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov has set up five goals over the last three games to give him a team-leading 13 assists this season. He collected six points (two goals, four assists) in eight encounters with the Penguins last season, while Ovechkin had five points (one goal, four assists) in six games versus Pittsburgh.
Former Penguin Conor Sheary scored the go-ahead goal with 1:22 remaining in the third period on Friday.
Sheary stressed the importance of secondary scoring as a means to keep the Capitals forging ahead.
“Ovi is going to score. Kuzy is going to score,” Sheary said, per the Washington Post. “That top line is playing really well for us, and if we can get the bottom nine going and keep scoring these big goals, I think we can roll together some wins here.”
Pittsburgh rolled up six wins in eight meetings with Washington in 2020-21, however it has fallen on hard times this season. The Penguins fell for the sixth time in their last eight games (2-4-2) following a 6-3 setback to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.
Evan Rodrigues collected two goals and an assist in the third period, and Kasperi Kapanen had one of each for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins could see a ray of light with Crosby poised to return to action after missing five games while in NHL COVID-19 protocol. The three-time Stanley Cup winner contracted the virus after playing in the Penguins’ 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 30.
“We’ll have to see how everything goes, but he’ll be skating (Saturday) and we’ll take it day-by-day here,” said assistant coach Todd Reirden, who has guided the ship with head coach Mike Sullivan also in COVID-19 protocol.
Crosby has had his way with Washington, recording 80 points (28 goals, 52 assists) in 60 career contests.
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who went into the protocol on Nov. 3, and Sullivan are also scheduled to rejoin the team on Sunday in Washington.
“That’s what we’re hoping for, is that he will be behind the bench (Sunday) in Washington providing that everything goes along as planned,” Reirden said.
–Field Level Media