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Alex Ovechkin nears 700 goals with another hat trick

WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin doesn't think he's ever been this hot in a 15-year career that has included eight NHL scoring titles.

If he continues at his present pace, he'll join the 700 career goal club by this weekend.

Ovechkin recorded his 27th career hat trick and raised his career goal total to 698 during a furious five-minute stretch of the third period, rallying Washington to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night and continuing an incredible stretch for the 34-year-old.

With 14 goals in his past seven games, he's closer to becoming the eighth player to join the elusive club than many would've suspected a month ago. Though there isn't much time to reflect on it.

"Not yet," he said. "I'm still playing. But after the year, yeah, I'm pretty sure me and my family and my friends are going to talk about it."

Ovechkin's career-best recent flurry has pushed him to 40 goals on the season and back into the top spot in his chase for a ninth Maurice Richard Trophy, two ahead of Boston's David Pasternak. The Capitals also lead the Bruins by a point in the race for the President's Cup.

And No. 700 could come as early as Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, which would be fine by him -- he'd prefer to reach the milestone sooner than later.

"Yeah, obviously," Ovechkin said. "If you're going to think about it too much, you're never going to get it. So I have to go out there and play."

Even within this recent run, Tuesday night's performance to single-handedly lift the Capitals to victory stood out.

With 6:10 remaining, just over two minutes after the Capitals fell behind, Ovechkin one-timed a feed from T.J. Oshie to tie the game at 2-all. Seventy seconds later, he rebounded his own miss off goaltender Jonathan Quick's pads and put Washington in front.

He added an empty-netter with 1:46 to play, moving within 10 goals of Mike Gartner for seventh on the NHL's all-time goals list.

"In less than five minutes, he took over the game," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "And we won the game because of that. That's what superstars do. We're fortunate to have him.

"I say it all the time. That D.C. and the surrounding areas are just so fortunate to be able to witness what we're seeing in front of our eyes and have seen over the last number of years. This is a real, real special player."

John Carlson added his 14th goal and 50th and 51st assists for Washington, which rebounded after opening a four-game homestand with a loss to Pittsburgh. Braden Holtby made 29 saves in the win, including a flurry of impressive stops in the second period, during which the Kings were clear aggressors.

"He obviously kept us in the game when we weren't as sharp and gave up some good chances," Reirden said. "And he made some huge saves for us in a couple surges that they had."

Jeff Carter scored his 15th and 16th goals for the Kings, putting Los Angeles briefly in front when he redirected Drew Doughty's pass to the left post with 8:27 to play.

Quick stopped 20 shots in the seventh loss in eight games for last-place Los Angeles, which sits five points adrift of the next-worst team in the Western Conference.

"Our ability to close and finish out games hasn't been very good," Kings coach Todd McLellan said. "And that's the next step in our evolution.

GAME NOTES

  • Doughty picked up his 495th point in his return after missing three games with an undisclosed injury, moving him past Rob Blake into first all time among Kings defensemen.

  • Kings C Anze Kopitar's point streak was halted at six games.

  • Washington recalled G Vitek Vanecek from AHL Hershey and scratched G Ilya Samsonov, who departed Tuesday's morning skate early after taking a blow to the head.

  • The Capitals also recalled D Martin Fehervary.

  • Nicklas Backstrom played his 941st game, passing Kelly Miller for fourth most in Capitals history.

UP NEXT

Kings: Visit New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

Capitals: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.