Caps beat Jets, Ovechkin scores twice for 2nd all time

The Washington Capitals came home for a final tilt before the holiday break against the Winnipeg Jets. Coming off an overtime win less than 24 hours earlier, energy was a question. One thing was certain–there was work to be done on both an individual and team level. The Capitals are in the hunt to qualify for the playoffs and with Alex Ovechkin continuing his quest to score the most goals in a career. The fans would go home deliriously happy as both objectives moved forward in grand style this night.

Winners of their last three, DC’s hockey team began the game motivated for more standings points. The Capitals played an effective counterpunching game that gave them the edge in scoring chances for the first half of the game. They were finally rewarded late in the period when Ovechkin gave them the lead. He pushed the puck to Dylan Strome who dropped it back to the captain at the right circle. Jets goalie David Rittich could not pick up the shot as it slipped through his pads. The goal, which tied Gordie Howe for 801 was scored at 18:22 of the period.

The Capitals continued to bring the attack to the Jets in the second period. Winnipeg responded in kind, forcing the Capitals to defend against several dangerous rushes. Lindgren’s best save came 11 minutes as he robbed Adam Lowry on a rush play that forced him to do the splits. Several minutes later, at the tail end of a power play, Sonny Milano took a pass from Conor Sheary and put the Capitals up by a pair at 12:46. The goal is Milano’s fifth of the season.

The home team appeared to tire in the final period as the Jets overtook them in shots on net and dominated the attack. As has been his form in all of his starts, Lindgren was more than equal to the task. The Capitals were also forced to play the majority of the period without John Carlson. He left the game after taking a slapshot near his right ear, blood dripping onto the ice. The injury had a noticeable effect on the crowd and the team when it happened, but they would somehow manage to maintain focus.

Nic Dowd scored at 3:49 on a nicely executed give-and-go exchange with Garnet Hathaway from 20 feet away. Dowd put away the snap shot after parking himself in from of the net. Jets center Kevin Stenlund spoiled Lindgren’s shutout bid at 9:59. Former Cap Axel Jonsson-Fjallby fired the puck high on Lindgren and Stenlund scored from the second chance rebound in front of the net.

With time dwindling, Winnipeg emptied their net. The stage was set for potential history. Ovechkin took the ice to the roar of the CapitalOne crowd. He finally took control and fired a shot from 120 feet away. The puck skipped down the ice and agonizingly smacked off the left post. He would get another chance about a half minute later when the Capitals gained the zone. Ovechkin crossed with Evgeny Kuznetsov and prepared to fire at the open net. He at first seemed reluctant to score and set up Kuznetsov for the goal. Kuznetsov promptly passed the puck back to his captain, urging him to take the moment. Ovechkin, pinned along the near boards, spun away from Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey and without a look to the net fired it home to finally pass Mr. Hockey.

All of CapitalOne Arena, containing Ovechkin’s family in attendance, exploded with joy. The game was stopped for a few moments to allow fans and both teams to pay their respects and admiration to the man who had just scored his 802nd NHL goal. A congratulatory video was played featuring Mark Howe, son of Gordie and an NHL Hall of Famer in his own right. The official time of the record-breaking goal was 19 minutes exactly. The game clock ticked down and the game ended with another win for the Capitals. Immediately after, the entire Jets bench emptied onto the ice to congratulate Ovechkin in a handshake line on his accomplishment.

NOTES—Head coach Peter Laviolette announced in his post-game conference that Carlson had been taken to the hospital to be placed under treatment and observation. The Capitals narrowly avoided another injury when Marcus Johansson went face first into the boards. He would return later in the game. Lindgren made 25 saves for his eighth win in nine starts. Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are legal holidays in the NHL schedule so the Capitals’ next scheduled game is Tuesday the 27th in New Your against the Rangers with a scheduled start time of 7 PM ET.

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