Alex Ovechkin’s quest to become the eighth player in NHL history to score 700 goals moves to the scene of his greatest triumph when the Washington Capitals face the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas on Monday afternoon.
It was in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena on June 7, 2018, that the Capitals scored two third-period goals to pull out a 4-3 victory over the Golden Knights and skate off with the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.
Ovechkin led the league with 15 goals in those playoffs en route to receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Ovechkin is third in the league this season with 40 goals but has been stuck on No. 698 for the past four games, his longest scoring drought of the season. He attempted 16 shots in Washington’s last game, a 3-1 loss at Arizona on Saturday night. Eight ended up on goal, five were blocked and one of the three others hit the post.
“Of course, you want to get it over with and move forward,” Ovechkin told NHL.com following Saturday’s game. “You can’t be focusing and thinking like, ‘Oh, I didn’t score. It’s over.’ Sooner or later it will come.”
“He’s getting himself into good spots,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “That’s really the least of my concerns. … He’s getting himself in some scoring areas, which is the key for him. For me, it’s more about our team just being able to help him out and try to be able to produce a little more through our four lines.”
Reirden was asked if he’d like to get Ovechkin’s chase for 700 out of the way so he could concentrate on other things with his team, which is just 3-5-0 in its last eight games.
“It is what it is,” Reirden replied. “It’s out there. It’s a luxury that we have a player like this that you can be talking about these types of situations with. That’s part of the game, and part of when you’re dealing with star players and where they’re overcoming milestones.”
Washington, which had a four-game road win streak snapped by the Coyotes, has the NHL’s best away record (21-7-1). The Capitals will be facing a Vegas team that has won two straight at home, including a 1-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Marc-Andre Fleury had allowed a total of nine goals in his previous two starts and was pulled for just the second time this season in a 4-0 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday. He bounced back to record his 60th career shutout by stopping 19 shots against the Islanders.
Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers (64) is the lone active goaltender with more shutouts than Fleury.
“It gets so frustrating when you allow that many goals,” Fleury said. “I think there was some bad luck sometimes, but our team played team played very well defensively tonight.”
“I was really happy,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “We talked about how we gave up five even-strength goals last game (a 6-5 overtime win) against St. Louis, so we wanted to clean that up.
“Coming down the stretch into playoff hockey you have to be willing to win 1-0 or 2-1. … I thought we handled the game real maturely, made good decisions and didn’t beat ourselves.”
–Field Level Media