4 things we learned in the NHL: Ovechkin is an inevitability

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin. (Nathan Denette/CP)

Another accolade for Ovi, Carey Price and Morgan Rielly join exclusive company, and a spotlight shining on the stigma, comprise the four things we learned in the NHL on Wednesday night.

Alexander Ovechkin is an inevitability

Trying to stop Alexander Ovechkin from scoring is like trying to stop the sun from setting at dusk — you can scheme and hope and do your best and eventually, it’s just going to happen.

As he’s now done a league-leading 37 times this season, Ovechkin scored during Wednesday’s Washington Capitals-Toronto Maple Leafs game, moving him into a tie with Sergei Fedorov for the most NHL points by a Russian-born player with 1,179.

If that wasn’t enough, the goal also ensured that Ovechkin and teammate Nicklas Backstrom would record at least 50 points in the same season for the 10th time. It’s a small club. The only other active duos to do so are Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Morgan Rielly joins elite company

Morgan Rielly may not be an all-star, but he is penning his name next to some all-time great Maple Leafs in Toronto’s record books.

With an assist last night, Rielly became just the fifth Leafs defenceman to record consecutive 50-point seasons.

Of that short list of names, Rielly was the third-fastest to hit the mark — reaching 50 points in just 49 games played. Only Borje Salming (42 games played in 1976-77), Babe Pratt (44 games played in 1943-44), and Bryan McCabe (45 games played in 2005-06) accomplished the feat faster.

Not bad for a guy who won’t be skating in this week’s annual winter exhibition game.

Carey Price etches himself on Canadiens’ Mt. Rushmore of goalies

Sustained excellence is a defining differentiator that separates the good from the great. On Wednesday night, Carey Price gave even more proof he belongs among the greats.

With a win over the Arizona Coyotes, Price recorded his ninth career 20-win season, moving him into a three-way tie with Canadiens legends Jacques Plante and Patrick Roy for the most such campaigns in franchise history.

Only five active goaltenders can say they’ve achieved such a sustained streak of success, and only three of them — Marc-Andre Fleury (11 times), Roberto Luongo (12 times), and Henrik Lundqvist (13 times) — have done it more often than Price.

Shining a spotlight on the stigma

Sometimes sports transcend being a passion or a pastime and instead serve as a platform for something bigger.

On Wednesday night, both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens hosted their seventh annual Hockey Talks events, a joint initiative with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to promote mental health awareness.

There are plenty of numbers to explain the significance of that cause. Per CAMH’s website: In any given year, one in five Canadians experience a mental illness or addiction problem; 34 per cent of Ontario high-school students indicate a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress such as anxiety or depression; 4,000 Canadians die each year by suicide.

Wins and losses are, in the end, ephemeral. Years from now, no one will remember the Leafs won a late-January game against the Capitals. But if sports can have even the smallest chance to shift someone’s perspective on their own struggles, it’s one that teams and players alike ought to embrace.

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