Alex Ovechkin on Thursday became the second player to score 30 goals in each of his first 15 NHL seasons. His next goal will place him in the top-10 of the NHL's all-time goal-scoring list.
Ovechkin will get his first chance at tying Hall of Fame member Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time on the scoring list Saturday afternoon when the Washington Capitals visit the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Ovechkin enters with 689 career goals, putting him one behind Lemieux for 10th all-time. He also is three behind Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time and five behind Mark Messier, who is eighth on the career list.
"It never gets old, but without my team, without my teammates, I'd never reach that milestone, I'd never reach those numbers," Ovechkin said. "(Lemieux was) one of my idols when I'm growing up. I get lucky I have a time to play against him, was on the ice with him a couple times. It's huge."
The 34-year-old Ovechkin is on the verge of entering the upper echelon of the NHL's all-time goal-scoring list because of his past two games, in which he's scored five goals. He notched his 25th career hat trick in Thursday's 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils when he also joined former Capital Mike Gartner as the only players to record at least 30 goals in each of his first 15 campaigns.
Ovechkin got his hat trick after getting his mouth bloodied on an inadvertent high stick by New Jersey's Miles Wood. Ovechkin has seven goals in seven games this month after scoring four in 13 games during December.
"He always plays better when he's a little (angry), so there you go," Washington center Nicklas Backstrom said. "It was drawn up like that. He came back, got a little mad, scored two and then he was just waiting for the third."
Washington, the NHL Eastern Conference leader, enters with a nine-point lead on the third-place Islanders and is 10-7-0 in its past 17 games since winning six in a row from Nov. 27-Dec. 6.
The Islanders have lost three of their past four games (1-2-1) and are 12-11-2 since getting a point in 17 straight games (15-0-2) from Oct. 12-Nov. 23. New York has sandwiched losses to the rival New York Rangers around an impressive 8-2 home win over Detroit on Tuesday.
On Thursday, the Islanders took a 3-2 home loss to the Rangers, who got the tiebreaking goal by Chris Kreider in the final minute after Derick Brassard committed a cross-checking penalty.
"I thought our performance was good," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "At the end of the day, we took an unnecessary cross-checking penalty and I felt like we deserved at least a point. I thought we played well for the most part, but we made a poor decision at the end and they capitalized on."
Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier scored the goals for the Islanders, who produced 22 of their 40 shots in the first period and also went 0-for-5 on the power play.
The teams split the first two meetings this season. T.J. Oshie scored a power-play goal with less than three minutes left in the second period to give Washington a 2-1 win on Long Island on Oct. 4, while the Islanders posted a 4-3 victory in Washington on Dec. 31.
--Field Level Media