Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday moved a couple of steps closer to Wayne Gretzky’s goals record, while Hendrix Lapierre scored the first of his NHL career as the Washington Capitals made their season opener a great one for scoring instead of fighting.
The fisticuffs never materialized against the New York Rangers, and the Capitals made their 5-1 victory memorable for Ovechkin passing Marcel Dionne to become fifth on the career goals list.
Ovechkin after scoring his 731st and 732nd goals in pursuit of Gretzky’s record was more enthused about Lapierre getting his first.
“I told him before: ‘Just shoot the puck,’” Ovechkin said. “He’s a talented kid ... and, obviously, I hope he’s gonna have a great future.”
Ovechkin needs 163 goals to pass Gretzky, while Lapierre was all smiles after his parents, grandparents, brother, sister and girlfriend witnessed his NHL debut as part of a sellout crowd.
“For a first game, I don’t think I could have asked for a better one,” Lapierre said.
The hype going in was more about the aftermath of incidents between these teams last season.
Penalties — nine of them — derailed the Rangers all night.
“Especially against a team like Washington you don’t want to take too many penalties,” center Mika Zibanejad said. “That’s something we have to get better at in the future and think about, but without taking anything away from our aggressiveness and playing hard.”
Washington goals followed a few of those penalties. After T.J. Oshie opened the scoring on the power play in the first quarter, Justin Schultz added a power-play goal in the second and Lapierre scored 24 seconds later on a two-on-one rush.
Ovechkin added another on the power play from his trademark spot in the faceoff circle to make it 4-0. Chris Kreider scored on the power play for New York midway through the third period, but that was the only goal Vitek Vanecek gave up on 24 shots against.
And Ovechkin was not done: He scored a short-handed goal — just the fifth of his career — to put the game out of reach.
Ovechkin said jokingly afterward that he always tells assistant coach Scott Arniel that he is ready to play on the penalty kill. The Capitals will pass on that, and let Ovechkin keep scoring goals for the rest of his new, five-year contract.
Alexandar Georgiev allowed five goals on 27 Capitals shots, getting the nod in the first half of a back-to-back with regular starter Igor Shesterkin expected to be in net for the Rangers’ home opener.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and senior vice president of player safety George Parros were in attendance for the first Rangers-Capitals meeting since a game last season included six fights in the first five minutes.
Blais and Washington defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk got into it less than two minutes in, but officials stepped in between them and other potential combatants before anyone could drop the gloves.
Also on Wednesday, it was:
‧ Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1
‧ Avalanche 4, Blackhawks 2
‧ Oilers 3, Canucks 2 (SO)
‧ Ducks 4, Jets 1
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