WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin scored twice to reach 600 goals and Evgeny Kuznetsov had the overtime winner as the Washington Capitals returned to first place by beating the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Monday.
Ovechkin scored in each of the first two periods to get to 42 this season. The Russian winger became the 20th player and fourth-fastest in NHL history to 600 goals and is on pace to lead the league in goals for the seventh time.
Kuznetsov made it a night of celebration for Washington by scoring on a breakaway 4:11 into overtime.
Ovechkin's historic performance was crucial on a night when Jets winger Patrik Laine scored his 16th in the past 12 games to get to 41 this season. Nikolaj Ehlers also scored a 4-on-4 goal for Winnipeg, which got 40 saves from Connor Hellebuyck.
Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer stopped 26 shots in his third consecutive start.
The anticipated showdown between the NHL's top goal scorers lived up to its billing from the drop of the puck. "Excited to play hockey" against the team he grew up rooting for, Laine skated with the confidence he has exhibited throughout his recent run.
But it was Ovechkin who struck first. With the Capitals on a 5-on-3 power play, Ovechkin settled the puck and fired a wrist shot past Hellebuyck 4:35 into the game. Just 58 seconds later, an inexplicable turnover by Washington's Lars Eller put the puck on Ehlers' stick for the tying score.
Ovechkin put three shots on goal and had eight total attempts in the first period, looking determined to track down his milestone score. At the 5:33 mark of the second period, Ovechkin got three chances at the side of the net and put a rebound past a sprawling Hellebuyck to become just the fourth player in history to score 600 in under 1,000 games.
Wearing his famous gap-toothed smile, Ovechkin was mobbed by his teammates as his wife, Nastya, celebrated in the crowd.
"Pretty amazing feeling, pretty cool feeling," Ovechkin said after the second period. "My wife is here. She just got back from Moscow. She said, 'I have a feeling you're gonna score 600 tonight.'"
Many of the Capitals fans who have watched Ovechkin dazzle the NHL since 2005 gave him a lengthy standing ovation in the moments after his goal and after the video montage that followed during the next timeout.
For all the talk about their goal duel, Ovechkin and Laine made it clear scoring this time of year is about contributing to victories. Winnipeg and Washington are each aiming for a playoff run.
Laine did his part 5:02 into the third period, beating Grubauer to tie it at 2 and move one back of Ovechkin for the league lead. In the process, Laine passed Wayne Gretzky for third in goals by a teenager with his 77th.
NOTES: The only players to score 600 faster than Ovechkin are Gretzky (718 games), Mario Lemieux (719) and Brett Hull (900). ... Ovechkin could be the first player to lead the NHL in goals at age 32 or older since Phil Esposito in 1974-75. ... Grubauer made his third consecutive start over No. 1 goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 1-5-2 with a 4.83 goals-against average and .854 save percentage in his past eight games. ... Ds Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey and Fs Alex Chiasson and Travis Boyd were healthy scratches for Washington. ... Jets G Steve Mason is out two to three weeks after a knee scope. C Mark Scheifele is expected to miss his fourth consecutive game Tuesday with an upper-body injury. D Dmitry Kulikov returned to Winnipeg with an upper-body injury, with coach Paul Maurice saying there would be a further update later this week.
Jets: Visit the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Capitals: Visit the New York Islanders on Thursday in the first half of a home-and-home back-to-back.
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