COLUMBUS, Ohio — Soon after Alex Ovechkin became the 20th player in NHL history to score 600 career goals, the news was tweeted from the Washington Capitals official twitter account.
Verbal bouquets and admiration were tossed Ovechkin’s way, but so too was a counterpoint from some of his critics. “But how many Stanley Cup has he won?” they ask, rhetorically.
Ovechkin is well aware of his team’s postseason shortcomings and until the Capitals, at the very least, reach an Eastern Conference Final with Ovechkin as captain, the narrative will follow.
But to suggest, as some of his critics do, that Ovechkin does not care or that he can’t be bothered with the Stanley Cup Playoffs is hogwash. Game 6 of the Capitals first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets was the latest example.
With a chance to eliminate the Blue Jackets with a win, the Capitals found themselves tied 1-1 midway through the second period. Washington failed to cash in on two power-play opportunities early in the second, and a goal from Columbus captain Nick Foligno had erased a 1-0 Blue Jackets deficit.
Momentum was shifting to the home team, but Ovechkin would soon quiet the sellout crowd of 18,637 at Nationwide Arena.
With 7:10 remaining in the second period, Ovechkin restored the Capitals lead, winning a one-on-one battle with Columbus defenseman David Savard just north of the crease and banking in a rebound past Sergei Bobrovsky. It was hardly a highlight-reel tally, but it was the type of blue-collar goal that comes in handy this time of year.
Ovechkin’s 50th career playoff goal gave Washington a 2-1 lead.
Minutes later, Ovechkin was using the wheels as he tried to gain the offensive zone, only to be held up by Columbus defenseman Seth Jones — nine years Ovechkin’s junior.
Jones was whistled for a two-minute minor penalty for holding, sending Ovechkin and the Capitals to the power play with 2:50 remaining in the second period.
Seventy-three seconds later, Ovechkin blasted a one-timer from the left faceoff circle to give Washington its first two-goal lead of the night. With 1:37 remaining in the second period, Washington led 3-1.
Meanwhile, in fewer than six minutes in a potential series-clinching game, Ovechkin scored a go-ahead goal at even-strength, drew a penalty on the opposition’s top defenseman, and scored on the ensuing power play.
Devante Smith-Pelly would ultimately get credit for the game-winning goal in the Capitals’ 6-3 victory, but with momentum slipping away in the second period, Ovechkin turned the game around.
To his critics who doubt his play come springtime, pull up the final 7:10 of the second period of Game 6 against the Blue Jackets. Ovechkin didn’t win the Stanley Cup on Monday (it’s been decades since the Cup was last awarded in April), but his play in the second period brought him and the organization a step closer toward reaching the elusive goal.