Alex Ovechkin reaches 800 career goals with hat trick

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
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CHICAGO — Soaked with beer and still wearing his No. 8 jersey, Alex Ovechkin held three pucks in his right hand as he posed for a picture with the rest of the jubilant Washington Capitals in the visiting locker room at the United Center.

Three pucks that added up to 800.

Ovechkin became the third NHL player to reach 800 career goals when he scored three times, touching off a wild celebration for his team and an appreciative Chicago crowd.

“Soon as it happened, kind of relief,” Ovechkin said after Washington’s 7-3 win over the Blackhawks. “Kind of happiness in general.”

Ovechkin scored on his first two shots, beating Blackhawks goaltender Petr Mrazek 24 seconds into the game before stuffing one home on a power play with 11:46 left in the first period. The 37-year-old winger then completed his 29th career hat trick when he knocked Anthony Mantha‘s pass over a sprawled Mrazek 6:34 into the third.

“When he got the first goal today, I was like, `This is the night,”‘ teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov said.

The rest of the Capitals jumped off the bench to celebrate after the milestone goal, and hats rained down on the ice from the crowd of 16,181. Fans in Chicago then chanted “Ovi! Ovi!” – drawing a wave from Ovechkin.

The star forward moved within one goal of Gordie Howe for second all-time. Wayne Gretzky holds the record with 894 goals.

“It’s a big number,” Ovechkin said. “It’s the best company (you can) ever imagine since you started playing hockey.”

Ovechkin also praised the crowd for its response.

“Even in the warmup, I was feeling that energy right away,” he said. “The fans watch me and the fans want to see that historical moment.”

When it was over, Ovechkin jumped onto the ice one last time to salute the cheering fans. He then gave his stick to a boy wearing a Capitals jersey above the tunnel to the visiting locker room.

Shortly after he got to the back, he was showered with beer by his chanting teammates. Goaded into making a speech, Ovechkin said it was special to accomplish the feat with the team.

“It was awesome,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was just awesome to be on the bench and be a part of it, a part of history.”

Ovechkin has seven goals in his last four games and a team-high 20 on the season. His previous four goals were all empty-netters.

The Capitals play seven of their next nine at home.

“I think once he’s going to be No. 1 he can have a sense of relief,” Mantha said. “Until then, I think he’s on the hunt, and that’s what we love about him.”

Ovechkin has been one of the NHL’s most dangerous scorers practically since he got two goals in his debut with Washington on Oct. 5, 2005, against Columbus.

The 12-time All-Star has nine seasons with at least 50 goals, including a career-high 65 during the 2007-08 season. The three-time MVP, who won the Stanley Cup in 2018, had 50 goals and 40 assists in 77 games last season.

“It’s mind blowing,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “How many guys can score goals at his rate in the season, let alone year after year after year? He’s one of a kind, for sure.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.