* With just over six minutes remaining in regulation, Alex Ovechkin scored a natural hat trick in a span of 4:24 to collect his third three-goal performance in six appearances and move within two of the illustrious 700-goal milestone.
* On a night when Ovechkin continued his pursuit of one rare milestone, Joe Thornton reached another with his 1,500th career regular-season point.
* Offseason acquisition Andre Burakovsky enjoyed a career night and continued a recent string of success as the Avalanche close in on their 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series showdown.
OVECHKIN CONTINUES UNRELENTING PURSUIT OF 700-GOAL MILESTONE
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin continued his unrelenting pursuit of the 700-goal milestone Tuesday by tallying three straight times in a span of 4:24 during the third period to move within two of the benchmark achieved by just seven others in NHL history.
* Ovechkin, who scored his third hat trick in his last six appearances (12-1—13), recorded the 11th 40-goal season of his NHL career (40-17—57 in 53 GP) and overtook Boston’s David Pastrnak (38-37—75 in 54 GP) for sole possession of first place in the 2019-20 Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy race. He moved past Mario Lemieux and Marcel Dionne (both w/ 10) for sole possession of the second-most 40-goal seasons in NHL history – trailing only Wayne Gretzky (12).
* Ovechkin became the first player to score three hat tricks over a span of six games since 1992-93, when Alexander Mogilny (w/ BUF) and Teemu Selanne (w/ WIN) combined for the feat. Ovechkin also joined Selanne on another elite NHL list Tuesday; he recorded his 110th regular-season game-winning goal to pass Patrick Marleau and Brendan Shanahan (both w/ 109) and match Brett Hull and ‘The Finnish Flash’ for fourth place on the League’s all-time list.
* Ovechkin, who scored his first natural hat trick, established a career high for fastest three goals in a game. It was his 27th career hat trick in the regular season overall, moving him past Maurice Richard (26) for sole possession of eighth place on the NHL’s all-time list.
THORNTON REACHES 1,500-POINT MILESTONE
Sharks icon Joe Thornton collected two assists to become the 14th player in NHL history to record 1,500 career regular-season points (415-1,085—1,500 in 1,620 GP). Thornton, who was selected first overall by Boston in the 1997 NHL Draft, became the second No. 1 pick to reach the milestone – joining Mario Lemieux (690-1,033—1,723 in 915 GP).
BURAKOVSKY’S CAREER NIGHT POWERS AVALANCHE’S SIX-GOAL OUTBURST
Andre Burakovsky (1-3—4) collected a career-high four points – his fourth straight outing with at least two (4-6—10) – as the Avalanche (29-16-6, 64 points) scored six or more goals in a game for a League-leading ninth time (tied w/ TBL).
* Burakovsky (17-22—39 in 48 GP), an offseason acquisition, collected his 12th multi-point game of the season and established a single-season career high for points. Only two players have posted a longer run of multi-point games in 2019-20: Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (5 GP; Jan. 14 – Feb. 1) and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov (5 GP; Jan. 16-31).
* Cale Makar (0-1—1) registered his 38th point of 2019-20 (11-27—38 in 43 GP) to establish an Avalanche/Nordiques franchise record for most in a season by a rookie defenseman. Makar sits one point behind Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (8-31—39 in 53 GP) for the most among all rookie skaters.
* The 2019-20 season can mark the fourth in NHL history to feature a defenseman becoming the first rookie to reach 40 points (outright or tied); Bobby Orr (w/ BOS) and Nicklas Lidstrom (w/ DET) did so in 1966-67 and 1991-92, respectively, while Rangers teammates Tony Granato and Brian Leetch combined for the feat in 1988-89.
* Colorado, with wins in four of its last five contests, will play five more games before hosting Los Angeles at the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series on Feb. 15. The Avalanche moved within one point of the Stars (30-18-5, 65 points) for second place in the Central Division standings.
STAMKOS, KUCHEROV GUIDE LIGHTNING IN RETURN TO AMALIE ARENA
The duo of Steven Stamkos (1-0—1) and Nikita Kucherov (0-2—2) continued their recent strings of success as the Lightning (33-15-5, 71 points) secured their seventh straight win at AMALIE Arena. Tampa Bay, which played its first home game since Jan. 14, holds the League’s second-longest active home win streak behind Vancouver (9-0-0 dating to Dec. 19, 2019).
* Stamkos and Kucherov each extended their point streaks to eight games, the longest by any Lightning player in 2019-20. Their recent offensive success extends beyond their current stretches all the way to the start of the calendar year, with Kucherov’s 22 points pacing all players and Stamkos’ 21 tied for the second most over that span.
MERZLIKINS, RASK AND VASILEVSKIY CONTINUE WINNING WAYS
Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins (32 saves) and Boston’s Tuukka Rask (25 saves) each posted shutout performances, while Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (27 saves) stifled Vegas as the trio extended their respective streaks Tuesday:
* Merzlikins (7-0-0 dating to Jan. 11) joined Washington’s Ilya Samsonov (7-0-0 from Dec. 27, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020) as the second rookie goaltender to post a seven-game win streak this season. The 2019-20 campaign marks the second time in as many seasons that multiple such netminders accomplished the feat: Jordan Binnington (9-0-0 w/ STL) and Carter Hart (8-0-0 w/ PHI) both did so in 2018-19.
* Merzlikins posted his fourth shutout of the season to move into a tie with Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck for the most among all goaltenders in 2019-20. He can become the third rookie goaltender in the NHL’s expansion era (since 1967-68) – and second Blue Jackets netminder – to conclude a regular season leading all netminders in shutouts, joining Tony Esposito (15 in 1969-70 w/ CHI) and Steve Mason (10 in 2008-09 w/ CBJ).
* Rask, who has not allowed more than two goals in each of his last seven games, has yet to lose in regulation at TD Garden in 2019-20 (11-0-6). Only nine other goaltenders in NHL history have recorded at least one point in each of their first 17-plus home appearances from the start of a season – a feat last achieved by San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov in 2008-09 (17-0-1).
* Vasilevskiy improved to 14-0-2 in his last 16 appearances dating to Dec. 17, 2019 (2.10 GAA, .930 SV%, 2 SO) and matched the longest point streak by a Lightning goaltender, a mark set by Nikolai Khabibulin in 2002-03 (12-0-4).
MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM A BUSY TUESDAY
* Brayden Schenn (2-1—3) reached the 20-goal mark (20-26—46 in 54 GP) for the fifth time in his career and Justin Faulk (0-1—1) found the score sheet in his first contest against his former team as the Western Conference-leading Blues (32-14-8, 72 points) extended their home point streak to 11 games (10-0-1).
* Drew Doughty (116-379—495 in 903 GP) collected an assist to pass Hockey Hall of Fame member and current Kings general manager Rob Blake (161-333—494 in 805 GP) for the most regular-season points by a defenseman in franchise history. Fellow blueliner Matt Dumba, meanwhile, scored his fifth career regular-season overtime goal to move into a tie for the most in Wild history (w/ Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns).
* After Montreal fell behind 3-0, Ilya Kovalchuk netted the decisive goal in the shootout to lift the Canadiens (25-23-7, 57 points) to their second three-goal comeback win of the season (also: Oct. 5, 2019 at TOR). Montreal posted multiple three-goal comeback wins in a single season for the sixth time in franchise history (also: 2013-14, 1992-93, 1990-01, 1983-84 and 1946-47).
* John Carlson (14-51—65 in 54 GP) collected 1-2—3 and required the fewest games to reach the 50-assist mark by a Capitals defenseman, shattering the previous low of 63 set by Mike Green in 2009-10. He became the NHL’s fifth different blueliner in the last 30 years to reach the 50-assist mark in 54 games or fewer and first since Sergei Zubov in 1993-94.