No player has scored more goals than Alex Ovechkin since the Russian star entered the league in 2005. The Los Angeles Kings, however, are one of two teams that have managed to keep him in check.
Ovechkin leads a Washington Capitals team seeking its fourth straight win as it faces the Kings on Thursday night.
Ovechkin made an immediate impact as a rookie in 2005-06 with 52 goals, and has found the back of the net 199 times in his career. That tops the player with the second-most goals during that period, Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk, by 32.
The reigning Hart Trophy winner’s league-leading 36 goals have helped keep Washington (33-15-4) in first place in the Southeast Division this season. It’s been a strong follow-up to an outstanding 2007-08, when he became the first player to score 60 in a season since Mario Lemieux in 1996.
Ovechkin has failed to record a goal against only San Jose and Los Angeles (21-21-7). He has four assists in three games versus the Kings.
The Capitals could have used some goals from Ovechkin in their first matchup with the Kings this season, a 5-2 loss at Los Angeles on Nov. 20.
Ovechkin has five goals in his last two home games, but did not record one in a 5-2 victory over New Jersey on Tuesday night. He had two assists in a game in which Michael Nylander had two goals as Washington snapped the Devils’ season-high eight-game winning streak.
The victory was the Caps’ third straight after losing two in a row.
Nylander notched his first multi-goal game since Dec. 29, 2007. The veteran center has three goals and an assist in his last four games.
“He doesn’t like to shoot,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We have a few of those guys, and then we have one guy (Ovechkin) who shoots every chance he gets. He makes up for those guys.”
Coaches have urged Nylander to shoot more throughout his 14 seasons in the NHL, but he sees himself more as a passer.
“I should have done that for many years,” said Nylander, who has 207 goals. “It’s good when you are shooting to see the puck go in.”
Nylander has seven goals on the season after setting a career high with 26 for the New York Rangers in 2006-07. He has not scored in 10 straight games against the Kings.
Mike Green was held off the scoresheet in his only contest against Los Angeles, but has four goals and five assists in his last four games overall. He leads NHL defenseman in goals with 16.
Green is part of a Capitals attack that has scored 16 goals during its three-game run.
Los Angeles got just enough scoring to pick up its first win on a five-game road trip, beating Ottawa 1-0 on Tuesday night. The Kings lost the trip opener 4-3 to Montreal on Saturday night, but that was the only defeat they’ve suffered in their last five games.
Los Angeles, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002, remains in the hunt in the Western Conference.
“We have a really young hockey club. It’s really important that we review, reassess and evaluate our play on a daily basis,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “That’s the way we have to approach things if we want to be successful.”
Los Angeles continues to get strong play from rookie Jonathan Quick, who made 29 saves against the Senators for his third shutout of the season. He’s won four of his last five starts and has a 2.36 goals-against average in 2008-09.
Quick has been splitting time with Erik Ersberg, who has a 2.44 GAA. Ersberg made 19 saves in November’s matchup with Washington.