Washington’s Alex Ovechkin is having a better offensive season than anyone in more than a decade, but he’s got other things on his mind.
Fresh off scoring his 60th goal of the season, Ovechkin will try to help the Capitals move closer to a playoff spot on Tuesday as they face the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.
Ovechkin scored twice in Friday’s come-from-behind, 5-3 win over Atlanta, becoming the first player to reach the 60-goal mark since Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96. Ovechkin, whose previous best was 52 goals in his rookie season of 2005-06, also tied the Capitals’ club mark set by Dennis Maruk in 1981-82.
“It’s always fun to score goals, especially when it’s an important game,” said Ovechkin, the NHL leader with 106 points.
But when asked how many more goals he could score, Ovechkin sounded more concerned with his team’s playoff drive.
“I don’t know. I don’t think about it. I just do my job,” he said. “I don’t think about personal goals. It’s just the team. We have to take every point we can get.”
Ovechkin also had two assists for the Capitals (37-31-8), who are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, just two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with six games remaining.
“It’s just funny, because when he scored the 60th goal, no one was thinking about the 60th goal, we were thinking we’re at 3-2 and we’re coming back, and Alex was thinking the same thing,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “There was no hoopla - I think someone went and got him the puck, but he didn’t get all excited about the 60th goal, it was the game that he was interested in, and I think that’s where we’re all focused.”
The Capitals play their next three on the road before wrapping up the season with a three-game homestand. Washington, which has won five of six, is 17-16-5 on the road and has won four of six away from the Verizon Center.
“We want to make sure that when we come home, I guess the biggest thing, is that we’re still in it and we’ve got the ability to win it with three games at home,” Boudreau said.
The Capitals have dropped their last three games against Carolina (41-30-5), which owns a five-point lead over Washington in the Southeast. Ovechkin has 15 goals and 12 assists in 22 career games against the Hurricanes, including four goals and four assists in the last four meetings.
The Hurricanes won for the 11th time in 13 games on Thursday, prevailing 2-1 in a shootout in Florida. Trevor Letowski scored the lone goal for Carolina, which had scored five goals in each of its previous two games.
“It’s nice that they’re chasing us because you see that effort on both sides,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s all about the points, and we were able to come away with two.”