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Ovechkin nets 50th, adds assist, Capitals top Hurricanes 4-2

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 50th goal, reaching that mark for the sixth time and tying a team record with the 472nd of his career, and added an assist to help the Washington Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 Tuesday night.

With his team pushing to make the playoffs, the three-time NHL MVP got No. 50 at 11:12 of the first period, giving Washington a 2-0 lead when he took a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and sent a shot from just inside the left circle past goalie Cam Ward.

Only five other players reached the half-century mark at least six times: Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy had nine such seasons, and Mario Lemieux, Marcel Dionne and Guy Lafleur had six.

When he netted his 50th, Ovechkin dropped his left knee to the ice and pumped his right glove, then thrust both arms overhead. Many fans responded with chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” and then rose to give him a standing ovation when the goal was announced. Sitting on the bench, Ovechkin acknowledged the support with a wave.

Ovechkin’s career goal total matches former player Peter Bondra’s with the Capitals. Ovechkin is playing in his 10th season for Washington, and Tuesday’s game was his 755th, more than 200 fewer than Bondra’s 961 with the franchise.

The player known as Alex the Great scored his 48th and 49th goals in Washington’s previous game, a 5-2 victory at the New York Rangers on Sunday.

On Tuesday, after Carolina made it 2-2 with goals from Eric Staal and Nathan Gerbe, Washington went back in front on goals 82 seconds apart late in the second period by Brooks Laich and Joel Ward.

Laich broke the tie by putting in Jason Chimera’s pass with about 3 minutes left in the period, before Joel Ward made it 4-2 by sneaking his stick between defenseman Brett Bellemore’s skates to poke in a cross from Ovechkin. The assist was the Russian left wing’s 419th, moving him past Michal Pivonka for the second-most by a Capitals player, behind only current teammate Nicklas Backstrom’s 422.

Braden Holtby made 23 saves for Washington, which began the day seventh in the Eastern Conference and closing in on a playoff berth.

But after getting past Carolina, which is last in the Metropolitan Division and has lost four of six, Washington enters a difficult stretch to end the regular season. Next up is a three-game road trip beginning Thursday at Montreal, followed by visits to Ottawa and Detroit. The Capitals then finish by hosting Boston and the Rangers.

All of those upcoming opponents are either already assured of heading to the postseason or competing with the Capitals for the East’s wild-card spots.

NOTES: Capitals D Mike Green was credited with the opening goal on the game’s first shot, when he sent the puck toward the crease, and a deflection off Hurricanes D Justin Faulk’s skate got past Ward. … Ovechkin already owned Capitals career records for points, power-play goals, game-winning goals and shots. … Staal’s goal was his 22nd; this is his ninth season with at least 20. … Hurricanes F Riley Nash missed his second game in a row with an upper-body injury. … Carolina plays at Florida on Thursday.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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