WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season Thursday to become the second NHL player to score that many in each of his first 15 seasons.
The Washington Capitals forward scored a hat trick in a 5-2 win against the New Jersey Devils at Capital One Arena to match Mike Gartner, who scored at least 30 goals in his first 15 seasons from 1979-80 through 1993-94, including his first nine seasons with the Capitals.
“It never gets old, but without my team, without my teammates, I’d never reach [those] milestones, I’d never reach those numbers,” Ovechkin said. “Obviously, it’s a team effort. It’s still pretty cool. I’m not going to lie. But it’s a long way to go and I just have to keep going.”
Ovechkin also joined Gartner and Jaromir Jagr as the only NHL players to score at least 30 goals in 15 straight seasons at any point in his career. Jagr had 15 consecutive 30-goal seasons beginning with his second NHL season with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991-92 (he scored 27 as a rookie).
“It’s pretty crazy how many new things I can see,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. “It seems like every week at least that he’s breaking someone’s record. And they’re not cupcake records, either, which is real impressive. I’ve said this before: I don’t think that as a teammate you realize what’s happening. It kind of becomes maybe a little more normal than if you’re in a different job or on a different team even.”
Ovechkin scored his 29th goal on a 5-on-3 power play with 4:43 remaining in the first period, his 30th with 52 seconds left in the period, and his 31st with 4:18 left in the third period off a spinning pass from Tom Wilson.
“It was sick, obviously,” Ovechkin said of Wilson’s pass. “Not lots of great players can do that, but you can see how he’s grown up as a player, as a leader, and basically he can do everything out there. You can see when he makes that pass, and even [linemate Nicklas Backstrom] said, ‘Wow, what a play.'”
Ovechkin, who has led the NHL in goals eight times, including last season, is third in the NHL this season behind Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (36) and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34).
Ovechkin has 689 NHL goals, one behind Mario Lemieux for 10th in NHL history, three behind Steve Yzerman for ninth and five behind Mark Messier for eighth. Ovechkin scored twice in a 2-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday to move ahead of Teemu Selanne into 11th place.
“[Mario was] one of my idols when I’m growing up,” the 34-year-old said. “… I have a time to play against him, was on the ice with him a couple times. It’s pretty big. It’s huge. Those names, they’re legends, and to be close to those guys, it’s pretty impressive.”
Ovechkin would become the eighth NHL player to score 700, joining Wayne Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801), Jagr (766), Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717) and Gartner (708).
“I think if you want to continue to play good in this league, you have [to adapt],” Ovechkin said. “Because the game has changed, goalies change, and you have to continue to work, continue to get better. … Without your teammates, without your trust from your coaching staff, so it’s not impossible.”