OTTAWA — Alex Ovechkin has chance to make history against the Ottawa Senators again, but the Senators have no interest in being a part of it.
After failing to score in his past three games, Ovechkin remains one goal behind Gordie Howe for second in NHL history with 801 heading into the Washington Capitals’ game against the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN5, RDS, NBCSWA, SN NOW).
The left wing scored his 500th goal against Ottawa on Jan. 10, 2016 in Washington and has continued to inexorably climb the NHL goals list since then, leaving only Howe and Wayne Gretzky, the League record holder with 894 goals, ahead of him.
“I grew up a Gretzky fan in my era, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, and to think that this guy is right there with Gordie … it really is amazing,” Senators coach D.J. Smith said. “In today’s world with all the video and the goaltending, today’s goalies, how good they are, the system play, he just continues to score. It really is amazing.”
Ovechkin, who has 20 goals in 34 games this season, appeared as is if he were going fly by Howe after scoring his 29th NHL hat trick to reach 800 goals at the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 13. But the 37-year-old remained stuck on 800 through a three-game Capitals homestand, failing to score in a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Dec. 15, a 5-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and a 4-3 overtime victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.
The Senators similarly would prefer to watch Ovechkin catch Howe against another team.
“Obviously, very aware of what he’s coming up on here and I’ve been watching this guy since I can remember,” Senators forward Drake Batherson said. “Obviously, one of the guys I looked up to growing up and it’s always special when we play against him and, hopefully, we can keep him off the board tonight … You want to see him get that, but just not against our team.
“Maybe after the Christmas break, we’ll see it on TV, but, hopefully, not tonight.”
Ovechkin has scored 35 goals in 52 games against Ottawa in his 18 NHL seasons, including a four-goal game in an 8-6 Washington win at the Senators on Dec. 29, 2007, and a hat trick in a 5-4 shootout victory at Ottawa on Oct. 5, 2017.
The Senators managed to hold Ovechkin without a point and limited him to two shots on goal in a 5-2 victory in their first meeting with the Capitals this season at Canadian Tire Centre on Oct. 20. They know they’ll need a similar performance Thursday to delay his next milestone goal at least one more game.
“It’s been the same challenge every time playing against him just the way he shoots the puck, the way he’s so dangerous every time he has it,” Ottawa defenseman Thomas Chabot said. “Obviously, it’s a big challenge for us tonight, but I think we’re looking forward to it and, obviously, if you can find a way to maintain him, I think you maintain a big part of their offense.”
But Smith knows it’s only a matter of time before Ovechkin breaks through.
“He’s a huge man with great hands and an absolute desire to score and willing to do anything to do it, block shots, whatever he’s got to do to score,” Smith said. “That’s why, clearly, we’re sitting here and he’s on that verge.”