Ovechkin gets 300th goal; eyes first Stanley Cup

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Ovechkin gets 300th goal; eyes first Stanley Cup

TORONTO - Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin slotted another career milestone on Tuesday, scoring his 300th goal in a 3-2 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

A pure-bred sniper now averaging 50 goals a season, the playful Russian has throughout his career delighted in celebrating each tally as if it were a Stanley Cup winner.

But despite the significance of his first-period power play marker, Ovechkin’s joy was muted in comparison, a small fist pump, a group hug and back to work.

With a trophy case groaning with scoring titles and individual honors, it is team goals, not personal ones, that matter to Ovechkin as the Capitals moved into top spot in the Eastern Conference, clinched the Southeast Division title and set their sights on a Stanley Cup.

“When you score 300 goals in six years it’s a big accomplishment,” Ovechkin told reporters. “I play for a great team and great teammates, who give me great chances to score.

“[The win] was huge for us; we clinched our division and we want to be first overall.”

For the last three years, Ovechkin or Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby have had their name engraved on the “Rocket” Richard Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top goal scorer. But this season another name will appear on the silverware.

Crosby looked headed toward his greatest scoring season until two cranium-rattling hits early in the New Year knocked the Canadian Olympic hero out of action.

Despite missing three months with a concussion, Crosby’s 32 goals are still one better than Ovechkin, whose absence from the scoring sheets cannot be so easily explained.

For only the second time in his career, Ovechkin will not score at least 50 goals, his previous low of 46 coming in his sophomore campaign.

One of the NHL’s most feared sharpshooters, Ovechkin has been trying to reign in his natural instincts and become a more complete two-way player, embracing the defensive philosophy being pitched by coach Bruce Boudreau.

The free-wheeling Capitals learned a tough lesson last season when they led the NHL in scoring, won the Presidents’ trophy as regular season champions but then crashed out in the first round of the playoffs. This season the Capitals have put a higher premium on defense, ranking fourth in goals against.

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