Rocket Richard race heating up between Stamkos, Ovechkin

Earlier this week, we highlighted the absolute scorching scoring streak that Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin has been on lately, tallying 11 goals and 15 points in his past 10 games. Well, with last night’s effort, Ovechkin took over the league lead in scoring with 27, one more than Steven Stamkos and three more than John Tavares and Jeff Carter.

Ovechkin’s go-ahead goal for the league lead came in last night’s victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Late in the first, with only a few dozen seconds remaining, center Nicklas Backstrom lofted the puck through center ice ahead of Ovechkin, who was streaking up the right wing. Ovechkin beat out the defenders who were scrambling to get back, corralled the puck and cut across the front of the net to send a backhand into a wide open net.

The goal ended up giving Washington a commanding 3-0 lead at the end of the first, but Tampa Bay made a game out of it in the subsequent two periods, tying the game and sending it into overtime. Washington eventually won 6-5 with a goal from defenseman Mike Green halfway through the overtime period. The Capitals have now won seven in a row and hold a four-point lead over the Winnipeg Jets for the top spot in the Southeast Division.

With the hot streak that he’s currently riding, Ovechkin could win the Rocket Richard trophy for the first time since 2008-09 when he led the league with 56 goals in 79 games. Stamkos has won twice since then, tying with Sidney Crosby for the league lead in 2009-10 at 51 goals apiece, and then outright winning last season after scoring 60 goals in 82 games.

Stamkos, however, has experienced a bit of a goal drought recently. He’s only managed one goal in his past seven games, and five in his past 10. But with 12 points in his last 10, Stamkos could make a serious run at the Art Ross trophy as league-leader in points. He currently has 52 points on the season, four fewer than Sidney Crosby, who leads the league with 56. Crosby hasn’t played since March 30, however, after suffering a broken jaw when he took a puck to the face.

The real surprise in the race for the Rocket Richard trophy has got to be Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter. Although injuries hampered him for much of last season, he still managed to tally 21 goals in 55 games split between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Kings. Typically a 30-40 goal scorer, Carter has 24 in 42 games this season, although his five assists have left something to be desired on the offensive end of things. Still, with a goals per game average of .57 this season, Carter is scoring at a career best pace – even better than in 2008-09 when he tallied 46 goals in 82 games for a .56 goals per game average.

New York Islanders phenom John Tavares is also quietly putting together a solid campaign and putting himself in contention for the Rocket Richard with 24 goals in 42 games. Tavares scored a career-high 31 goals last season, Tavares would be on pace to net 46 if this were a full 82 game season. His 42 points leads the team in scoring and with 47 points on the season, good enough for seventh in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders could make a post season appearance for the first time since 2006-07 when they lost to the Buffalo Sabres in the Conference Quarterfinals.

With only a handful of games remaining in the regular season, it will be a sprint to the finish between these four players, although Ovechkin and Stamkos look like the favorites at this point to capture the Rocket Richard trophy.


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