The NHL has tried for years to make an impact on American television with little or no success, but this game had a bit of everything and showed what is great about the NHL. The game's two biggest stars put on a clinic for all to witness. Sidney Crosby set the tone in the first period with a pair of goals that brought his goal scoring total even with Ovechkin at 39, and tied his own personal high with 23 games to go. Crosby is well on his way to his first 50-goal season.
With the Pens up by a pair, and the Caps' 13-game winning streak in jeopardy, Alexander Ovechkin showed why he is the reigning back-to-back MVP and Rocket Richard winner. If ever there was an example of a player willing his team to victory, and carrying them on his shoulders, it was Sunday.
Power to take over
Like all great players, Ovechkin has the ability to seize the moment, and change the course of a game on his own. In his own building, with a packed house and a national TV audience, Ovechkin not only took over the game, but also in doing so showed he's taking over the race for the Art Ross, the Richard and the Hart Trophies.
With a hat trick, he pulled the Caps into overtime and pushed his league-leading goal total to 42. In overtime, he added an assist on the game-winning goal to give the Washington Capitals their 14th straight victory and an opportunity to match the NHL record of 17 wins, set by Mario Lemieux's 1992-93 Penguins.
Over a week ago, Henrik Sedin was leading the NHL in scoring and had built up a four-point cushion. On Sunday, Ovechkin sent a message to the entire NHL that the scoring race is over - like a world-class thoroughbred he is quickly pulling away from the pack. He now leads the race for the Art Ross by eight points, and the Richard by three. For the week he had six goals and 10 points in four games, and in the last 17 games he has 36 points, registering his name on the scoresheet in all but one game.
At this pace he is a lock for his second career Art Ross, but it's the Hart and the Richard Trophies where Ovechkin has an opportunity to make history.
In good company
With another goal-scoring championship he will become the first player in the 12-year history of the Rocket Richard Award to win it three consecutive times. If he keeps his Caps rolling and wins the Hart Trophy, he will be just the third player in NHL history to win three straight Hart Trophies. He would join Wayne Gretzky (eight in a row) and Bobby Orr (three) as the only ones to accomplish this feat. The likes of NHL greats Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Bobby Clarke, Stan Mikita, Guy Lafleur, and Dominik Hasek have each won back-to-back, but Ovechkin is now poised to join the company of arguably the two best players of all-time.
With team and individual records as motivation, it's scary to think just how great, the Great 8 can be. One thing is for sure, it's going to be fun watching!
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