MONTREAL — Alex Ovechkin knows the name Maurice (Rocket) Richard mainly from winning the trophy named after the Montreal Canadiens legend for top NHL goal-scorer of the year six times.
The name came up again Monday night when the Washington star scored career goal 544, tying The Rocket’s lifetime total late in the Capitals’ 4-1 victory over the Canadiens.
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“It’s nice to be in history, it’s nice to be tied with the legend,” said Ovechkin. “Still, I have lots of years to go and I’m going to try to do my best.”
Richard retired in 1960 as the league’s all-time goals leader and his total ranks only 29th now, but 31-year-old Ovechkin looks like he has plenty of seasons left to add to his total. Next targets up are Michel Goulet’s 548 career goals and Ron Francis’ 549.
The Russian star also picked up two assists to leave him one short of 1,000 in his career, which he can reach with a point in a game Wednesday at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It means I’m getting older,” Ovechkin said. “I remember my first year, my first game, like it was five minutes ago.
“Time moves forward and time moves quick, so you just have to enjoy every second and every moment and, when you have an opportunity, try to do something special.”
Ovechkin saved his special moment for 16:36 of the third period when, on a power play, he whipped a wrist shot to the top corner past Carey Price from just beyond the top of the left face-off circle.
His long-time linemate Nicklas Backstrom said nothing Ovechkin does on the ice surprises him any more.
“It’s impressive how he shoots,” said Backstrom. “First of all, he’s got the best wrist shot in the league.
“It’s so quick. You see, he snapped a wrist shot from the blue line there and it went in. So that’s just the way he is. It’s always exciting to play with him because anything can happen out there. He’s so dangerous. He scores from all angles. It makes it fun to play with him.”
Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Brett Connolly also scored for Washington (26-9-5), which saw goalie Braden Holtby‘s career-best shutout streak end at 169 minutes 12 seconds when Tomas Plekanec scored in the third period for Montreal (25-10-6).
One a night of milestones, Capitals coach Barry Trotz worked his 1,400th regular season game, tying Pat Quinn for eighth place all time and picked up his 684th win, tying Quinn for sixth. He is to catch Ron Wilson for seventh place with 1,401 games when Washington hosts Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
The Canadiens looked flat for the first two periods of their first game at home after a stretch of seven road games in which they went 4-1-2
Paul Byron returned after missing a game with an upper body injury, leaving six regulars still out with injuries — Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais, Andrew Shaw and defencemen Andrei Markov and Greg Pateryn.
“The Capitals didn’t give us many scoring chances,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, whose club heads out for two more road games in Winnipeg and Minnesota this week. “They were solid defensively while, at the same time, we weren’t sharp.
“We didn’t have the same execution and concentration. We lost a lot of pucks.”
The Capitals were the sharper team in the first period and took the lead at 11:03 when Ovechkin faked a slapshot from the point and moved in for a wrist shot that produced an easy rebound for Backstrom to tuck in for his 10th of the season.
Former Canadien Lars Eller was serving an interference call when Plekanec tied it with one second left in the power play as he first hit the post with a backhand, then scored during the resulting scramble in front of Holtby at 7:18 of the third. The Capitals called for a review for goaltender interference, but video showed it was Holtby’s teammate Brooks Orpik who knocked him over.
Only 54 seconds later, Kuznetsov turned Jeff Petry inside out and beat Carey Price on a rush.
Kuznetsov stole the puck from price at the side of the net and fed Connelly for a goal from the right circle at 11:00, while Ovechkin’s goal sealed the win.
T.J. Oshie sat out for the Capitals with an upper body injury. Washington outshot Montreal 39-23.