Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) reaches to celebrate with right wing T.J. Oshie (77) after scoring in the first period against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Alex Ovechkin joins NHL’s exclusive 600-goal club

Caps’ captain is fourth-fastest player to 600 behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull

Alex Ovechkin put back a rebound and skated into the spotlight as the latest member of the NHL’s 600-goal club.

The captain of the Washington Capitals scored twice Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets to reach the milestone in his 990th regular-season game. Ovechkin became the fourth-fastest player in NHL history to 600 behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull.

Ovechkin’s rebound goal past Connor Hellebuyck 3:53 into the second period was his 42nd of the season as he tries to hit 50 for the eighth time. His first goal 4:35 into the first period came on a 5-on-3 power play as the Russian winger looked determined to reach 600 after several games on the doorstep.

Capitals fans who have watched Ovechkin shine as the most productive goal scorer of the past decade-plus gave him a standing ovation for almost a minute after he reached the mark. Chants of “Ovi! Ovi!” continued as he waved from the bench in the moments after and during a video montage at the next timeout.

After scoring 33 goals in 2016-17, his second-lowest total in a non-lockout-shortened season, the 32-year-old Ovechkin’s resurgence made his climb to 600 all the more impressive. No player 32 or older has led the NHL in goals since Phil Esposito in 1974-75.

“He probably is the best goal scorer of our generation,” said Tom Wilson, who had the primary assist on Ovechkin’s 600th. “It’s pretty fun when every time you get him the puck there’s a good chance he’s going to put it in the back of the net.”

Ovechkin recaptured sole possession of the NHL lead against Jets winger Patrik Laine, who had tied him after idolizing the star forward growing up. Even while hoping Ovechkin wouldn’t score No. 600 against Winnipeg, Laine can’t help but appreciate the scoring pace.

“That’s pretty amazing to reach that,” Laine said Monday morning. “Six-hundred goals in under 1,000 games, it’s pretty unreal.”

Two former Capitals teammates, Matt Hendricks and Mathieu Perreault, were watching from the Jets’ side when Ovechkin reached his latest round number in a career full of accomplishments.

“When I played here, it’s funny, you always want to get the puck on his stick,” said Hendricks, who was in the penalty box for Ovechkin’s first goal. “He has that ability to change games just like that. … Ovi’s a terrific talent.”

Perreault, who played with 684-goal scorer Teemu Selanne in Anaheim, said Ovechkin reaching 600 so quickly was indescribable.

“The way he can shoot the puck and score goals is beyond what you can even think about,” Perreault said. “I can tell my grandkids, my kids, I played with Ovechkin. He’s going to be a legend of the game.”

Ovechkin has been an impressive scorer for a long time, but had to adapt his game several years ago when opponents figured out how to stop some of his usual moves. Barry Trotz taking over as Capitals coach helped Ovechkin round out his overall game and avoid the kind of lull that goal-scorers typically hit when they turn 30.

The growth in Ovechkin’s game isn’t lost on players and coaches around the league who have watched his career.

“When he came in (he was) a hitter almost — a shooter and a hitter,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “He was a very physical player, covered an awful lot of ice during the games. And he’s matured into kind of picking his spots, he’s still a hard guy to play against, physically very, very strong.

“But he uses the people around him better, maybe. And that’s true of all players. But his game has really changed. He’s really grown and matured.”

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Princeton rock hound makes history with fossil find

Paleontologist Dr. Bruce Archibald says Princeton is becoming famous for giving up rare fossils

Cure for Alzheimer’s disease remains elusive

Complexity of the brain still defies discovery of drug treatment

World Down Syndrome Day: The up side of Down

A Kelowna family’s journey with Down Syndrome: ‘There is tremendous beauty in these kids’

Volunteer groups line up for municipal funding

Princeton council has $70,000 budget

Okanagan can learn from Washington’s wine industry growth

Winery owner cites importance of industry collaboration

Princeton skaters create ‘magic’ on ice

Between donations at the door, a raffle, and a 50-50 draw about $4,000 was collected.

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

VSO to perform ‘Star Wars’ music while 1977 movie plays on big screen

Three shows for the classic at iconic Orpheum Theatre this summer

Police look for suspects in armed robbery

Information wanted on North Shuswap robbery, police impersonation, burnt vehicle, motorhome theft.

Life takes an unpredictable turn for well-known South Okanagan baker

Walla Artisan Bakery and Café owner Benjamin Manea diagnosed with ALS

B.C. emergency alert system being tested Wednesday

Alarm tone and message will play on TV and radio

BC Conservatives pumped by poll results

Surge in popularity has BC party picturing elected representatives in Victoria

Vancouver Island university develops program to help kids cope with overdose crisis

A child and youth care professor worked with students to develop projects focused on children, families and communities dealing with opioids.

Liberals tried pilot project with Facebook data whistleblower in 2016: source

Cambridge Analytica has been accused of improperly using information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts

Most Read