Ovechkin finds goal-scoring groove downs stretch for Caps

Alex Ovechkin is heating up down the stretch for the NHL-leading Washington Capitals.
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WASHINGTON (AP) Alex Ovechkin is heating up down the stretch for the NHL-leading Washington Capitals.

Ovechkin has two goals and two assists over his past four games, all Capitals victories as they try to lock up home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Russian superstar on Saturday became just the third player in league history to score 30-plus goals in each of his first 12 seasons, joining Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky, a testament to his consistency and value to Washington.

''I think he's pretty casual with some of the greatness, the stuff he's done,'' coach Barry Trotz said after a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. ''Alex has been a great player in the league and has been consistent in that one area that he's fantastic at.''

Ovechkin is off his 50-goal pace from last season but is still tied with linemate T.J. Oshie for the team lead. He has led the Capitals in scoring every season since entering the league.

Since a career-worst 10-game goal drought, Ovechkin has three in his past five. Over that stretch, the 31-year-old has 33 shots on goal, 60 attempts and has drawn a handful of penalties.

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''He knows what time it is,'' Oshie said. ''He's a veteran guy now. He's poised to make a good run here and lead us through hopefully a deep postseason.''

Told by Trotz of his 30-goal milestone and the exclusive company he joined, Ovechkin said it was nice to be in history and added, ''More history to come.'' The most prolific goal-scorer of this generation and his team have yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs, even though Ovechkin is almost a point-a-game player in the postseason.

Based on Washington's salary-cap situation with Oshie, winger Justin Williams, defenseman Karl Alzner and trade-deadline pickup Kevin Shattenkirk all set to be unrestricted free agents this summer, this may be the best chance at a Cup that Ovechkin gets for a while. Clicking with Oshie and Capitals leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin appears ready to make a difference when it matters most.

''It's a fun time right now,'' Ovechkin said Tuesday. ''You have to be ready, you have to be focused and you have to try to do your best to be in the playoff mode.''

With Metropolitan Division rivals Columbus and Pittsburgh on their heels in the Presidents' Trophy race, the Capitals go into a season-high five-game road trip needing points. Ovechkin is delivering in that department.

''`O' scored in the last couple games straight, so that's always a good sign,'' Trotz said.