TORONTO — Alex Ovechkin reached another career milestone Wednesday but any celebration was muted as the Washington Capitals’ slide reached seven games.
Ovechkin’s goal in a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs was the 1,179th point of his career, tying Sergei Fedorov for the most NHL points by a Russian-born player.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Caps go into the all-star break winless in seven (0-5-2) after dropping decisions to Columbus, St. Louis, Nashville, the Islanders, Chicago, San Jose and Toronto. Washington has been outscored 36-17 over that stretch.
The Capitals (27-17-6) don’t play again until Feb. 1 when they host the Calgary Flames.
“We have a break. Let’s move on,” a subdued Ovechkin, who called the milestone “special,” said after the game.
“I think the break is coming at a good time for us,” Caps coach Todd Reirden said. “We understand there’s a lot of work to be done when we get back. I have a lot of confidence in our leadership group and the group in that room that have been through adversity and shown their true colours when push comes to shove. That’s what I expect when we get back.”
Washington went 16-3-0 during a stretch of November and December, so the example is there.
Ovechkin, involved in a nasty collision with teammate T.J. Oshie in the first period, tied Fedorov with a booming low shot from the top of the face-off circle that beat goaltender Frederik Andersen blocker-side at 3:51 of the second period.
“He’s powerful and has a quick release,” Andersen said. “He’s got a pretty whippy stick as well and that curve is tough to read off his stick. Great shot.”
It was Ovechkin’s league-leading 37th goal of the season, coming in his 50th game. He is on pace for 59 goals this season.
Fedorov, who finished his career with Magnitogorsk Metallurg of the KHL after the 2008-09 NHL season, had 483 goals and 696 assists in 1,248 NHL games over 18 seasons with Detroit, Columbus, Anaheim and Washington.
The 33-year-old Ovechkin, in his 14th NHL season, increased his total to 644 goals and 535 assists in 1,053 regular-season games.
Thomas Vanek (Austria), Frans Nielsen (Denmark), Antoine Roussel (France), Mats Zuccarello (Norway) and Anze Kopitar (Slovenia) are the only active players to lead their respective countries in points.
“You can’t say enough about what’s he’s done for the growth of the game, the National Hockey League, in Russia. What he’s done as a Russian player,” said Reirden. “The accomplishments he’s had are amazing, They speak for themselves but how he’s able to do it year after year after year — different ways —is a real credit to how his game’s still growing. He still wants to get better every day and that’s the thing that makes him so special.”
It was Ovechkin’s 38th career goal against Toronto. That leads all active NHL players, despite his ranking tied for 11th among active players in games played against the Leafs (47 games). He also has 29 assists against Toronto.
While the high-scoring Russian celebrated in the second period, he took his lumps in the first.
Ovechkin ended up prone on the ice after running into Oshie near the Washington bench 7 1/2 minutes into the game. The Capitals captain, who appeared to take the brunt of the collision on his face, was down for a while but eventually got up and made his own way to the bench where he sat shaking his head.
He soon was ordered off the bench by the NHL spotter for concussion protocol.
Ovechkin, who had crunched Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly earlier in the game, appeared headed to the boards to check a Toronto player but pulled away at the last minute and turned into Oshie who was heading the other way down the ice.
Chandler Stephenson took Ovechkin’s place on Washington’s top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Oshie. Ovechkin returned late in first period.
Backstrom had opened the scoring at 18:47 of the first period, collecting his 13th goal and 50th point of the season. It marks the 10th time that Ovechkin, whose 57 points include 20 assists, and Backstrom have each recorded at least 50 points in the same season.
The only other teammates to do that are Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby (2006-07 to 2018-19) and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (2007-08 to 2017-18).
Ovechkin arrived in Toronto on the heels of a hat trick in a 7-6 overtime loss to San Jose on Tuesday.
The hat trick moved him past Dave Andreychuk (640) for 14th in NHL goal-scoring. He is 13 goals shy of passing Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (656) for No. 13 on the list.
It was his 23rd career hat trick — including two against Toronto — and his third this season. He is tied with Jari Kurri for the 10th-most hat tricks in NHL history.
He has scored hat tricks against 15 different clubs.
Ovechkin, voted captain of the Metropolitan Division team, has opted to skip Saturday’s all-star game in San Jose to rest. He will sit out the Calgary game after the break as per league rules for missing the showcase game.
Factoring in this season and last, Ovechkin has played 156 games including the playoffs.