|Ovechkin hits 60-goal mark, keeps focus on Washington Capitals' playoff hopes|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 21 March 2008 23:51|
Ovechkin became the first player in 12 years to score 60 goals in a season, but his focus Friday night was on the Washington Capitals' key victory and where his team stands in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
``I just do my job. I don't think about personal goals,'' Ovechkin said after reaching the 60-goal mark with a pair in the Capitals' 5-3 victory over the host Atlanta Thrashers. ``It's just the team. We have to take every point we can get.''
No one in the NHL had hit the 60-goal mark since the 1995-96 season when Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr both did it. Ovechkin's previous best was 52 goals, accomplished in his rookie season of 2005-06.
``It's always fun to score goals, especially when it's an important game,'' he said.
In other NHL games, it was the New York Islanders 3, New Jersey 1; Philadelphia 4, the New York Rangers 3 in a shootout; Toronto 4, Buffalo 1; Minnesota 2, Vancouver 1; and San Jose 2, Anaheim 1.
Nicklas Backstrom scored two goals 32 seconds apart in the closing minutes to give the Capitals a 4-3 lead. Backstrom pushed Washington in front with 3:28 remaining, and Boyd Gordon sealed the important victory with an empty-netter.
The Capitals haven't reached the postseason since 2003.
``It was a huge third period for us,'' Backstrom said. ``We talked about going to the net before the third period. Every point is very important right now.''
Ovechkin assisted on Washington's final two goals, giving him a four-point night and increasing his league-leading total to 106. The Capitals moved within one point of eighth-place Boston and the postseason cutoff with six games remaining.
The Capitals won their fifth in six games, while the Thrashers lost their fifth in a row and 13th in 15. Atlanta, the Southeast Division champion last season, was eliminated from any playoff contention.
``We've had a hard time, pretty much the whole year, putting together a 60-minute game,'' Atlanta captain Bobby Holik said. ``At least that's one thing we're consistent with.''
Islanders 3, Devils 1
At Newark, N.J., Kyle Okposo snapped a tie with 2:35 remaining by scoring his first NHL goal, and the New York Islanders ended a six-game losing streak with a victory at New Jersey.
Trent Hunter added an empty-net goal with 18.8 seconds left to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead and drop the Devils into a tie with Pittsburgh atop the Atlantic Division. Both teams are 42-25-7 with eight games remaining and lead the New York Rangers by three points.
New Jersey had a chance to jump Montreal for first in the Eastern Conference, but still trails the Canadiens by one point.
Flyers 4, Rangers 3, SO
At Philadelphia, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter each scored in the shootout and Richards had a goal in regulation to lead the host Flyers over the New York Rangers.
The Flyers again blew another late lead in the third period, this time letting a 2-0 advantage midway through the third and a 3-2 edge with 1:51 left in regulation slip away.
Jaromir Jagr scored a tough goal with under 2 minutes remaining to force overtime.
The Flyers improved to 2-5 in shootouts when Richards and Carter scored on Philadelphia's first two shots. Martin Biron was perfect and the Flyers won for the second time in seven games against the Rangers.
Philadelphia jumped over Boston into seventh place in the Eastern Conference with seven games left.
Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 1
At Buffalo, N.Y., Vesa Toskala stopped 35 shots and Toronto topped inconsistent Buffalo with a key road win.
Jason Blake, Matt Stajan and rookie Anton Stralman had a goal and assist each for the 12th-place Maple Leafs, who moved within five points of eighth-place Boston.
Darcy Tucker also scored in helping Toronto win its fifth straight road game, its best string since closing the 2003-04 season with five.
The Sabres had a three-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 10th place, a point behind Washington.
Wild 2, Canucks 1
At Vancouver, British Columbia, Branko Radivojevic scored 1:33 into the third period and Niklas Backstrom made 30 saves to lead the visiting Wild.
Brian Rolston also scored for the Wild, who won for the third time in nine games. Minnesota, which has points in seven straight (3-0-4), moved three points ahead of the Canucks and Calgary, and five up on Colorado in the tight Northwest Division.
Sami Salo answered Radivojevic's goal on a power play three minutes later, but the Canucks lost for the third time in nine games.
Sharks 2, Ducks 1
At San Jose, Calif., Jeremy Roenick and Joe Thornton scored, and San Jose tightened its hold on the Pacific Division lead by holding Anaheim without a shot in the third period.
Evgeni Nabokov earned his NHL-best 43rd victory for the Sharks, whose remarkable third-period defense put them seven points ahead of second-place Anaheim in the three-team race for the Pacific title. After Roenick put San Jose ahead early in the third period, the Ducks never tested Nabokov again.
The Sharks' 14th win in 15 games vaulted them seven points ahead of Anaheim and 10 in front of the third-place Dallas Stars.