Alex Ovechkin scores 700th career goal; can he break Wayne Gretzky’s record?

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin scored his 600th NHL goal on March 12, 2018.

One Stanley Cup title and less than two years later, he scored his 700th goal Saturday afternoon at the New Jersey Devils with a big shot from the right faceoff circle in the third period.

After being stuck at 698 during a five-game goal drought, Ovechkin now has goals in back-to-back games.

He is the eighth NHL player to score 700 goals and the second fastest. He did it in his 1,144th game. Wayne Gretzky needed 886 games and Brett Hull reached the milestone in 1,157 games.

And Ovechkin is the quickest to go from 600 goals to 700, doing it in 151 games, compared with Gretzky's 169.

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin has been the top goal scorer of his generation. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

That leads to the question about whether Ovechkin will be able to reach 895 in his career and break Gretzky's goal-scoring record that once was considered unbreakable.

The Capitals captain was aided by a streak that saw him score 14 goals in nine games around the All-Star break. He had three hat tricks during that stretch.

With 21 games left in the season, he is expected to pass No. 7 Mike Gartner (708) by the end of the season and pull closer to No. 6 Phil Esposito at 717.

That means he would have to play five more seasons and average 35 to 37 goals a season to pass Gretzky.

But Ovechkin, 34, has not shown much signs of slowing down. He has 42 goals this season and has finished with fewer than 35 in a season just once in the past six seasons, topping 50 goals four times. He has won six of the last seven goal-scoring titles.

He will have to stay healthy, but that also hasn't been a problem. He hasn't missed more than four games in a season since 2009-10. The only two games he missed the past two seasons was a league-mandated suspension each season for skipping the All-Star Game.

Ovechkin's current contract ends after 2020-21, but he and the Capitals are expected to work out something. And he'll have his key teammates along for the ride: The Capitals' top two centers (Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov) are signed for five seasons beyond this one, as is top defenseman John Carlson, the team's power-play quarterback.

But Ovechkin hasn't needed the power play and his devastating one-timer from the faceoff circle as much to pad his goal totals. His recent stretch includes only three power-play goals,  and he's showing more versatility in his scoring.

Other factors could affect his chase, including whether there's another lockout. Ovechkin has been through two, including the season-long 2004-05 lockout that delayed the start of the 2004 No. 1 overall pick's career.

He'll also have to avoid prolonged slumps. In addition to the five-game drought, he was limited to four goals in December before breaking out in January.

Gretzky recently said he thinks Ovechkin could pass his mark.

Speaking at the All-Star Game, Gretzky told "There's no question in my mind that he has a real legitimate chance of doing it. The two things that you need; You've got to stay healthy, and he's proven that over his career. He plays hard and he stays healthy. And, secondly, you've got to be on a good team — and he plays on a good team."

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