WASHINGTON — Bidding for a third consecutive MVP award, Alex Ovechkin took over the NHL lead in goals and points Friday night, scoring twice to reach 50 goals and adding an assist in the Washington Capitals' 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
Ovechkin set up Nicklas Backstrom's goal in the first period, then scored himself in the second and third. With one regular-season game left, Ovechkin leads Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby by one goal, and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin by one point. Neither the Penguins nor the Canucks played Friday.
Not much else of consequence was at stake in this game. League-best Washington already was assured of home-ice advantage throughout the postseason; Atlanta already knew it will miss the playoffs.
Ovechkin joined Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy — pretty heady company — as the only players to score at least 50 goals in four of their first five NHL seasons. The Russian left wing's career-high total was 65 in 2007-08.
This season's No. 50 broke a 2-2 tie and came at the 9:49 mark of the third period. Ovechkin took a pass from Alexander Semin and, while moving to his right, snapped a wrist shot past goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Ovechkin raised his fists, then slammed back-first into the glass and was mobbed by teammates while fans began chanting "M-V-P!" Skating over to the bench, Ovechkin paused to glance up and watch a replay of his goal on the overhead videoboard.
Moments later, when that screen showed the Russian left wing sitting on the bench, he waved to the crowd, and most of the spectators gave him a standing ovation.
Backstrom wound up with two goals and an assist on the night, too, to reach 100 points in a season for the first time, while Semin finished with three assists.
The Capitals trailed 2-1 before Ovechkin tied it at 16:04 of the second, taking a pass from Semin and winding up for a big slap shot from the top of the left circle. As the puck snapped past Pavelec, Ovechkin raised his arms overhead, his stick in his right glove.
There was plenty of pregame pomp and circumstance, with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly presenting the Capitals with the Presidents' Trophy, given to the team with the most points. Washington clinched that last weekend, and kept adding to its lead: Friday's victory was the team's fifth in a row and allowed the Capitals to tie a franchise mark with 30 home wins in a season.
During the ceremony, Ovechkin never actually touched the silver-and-glass piece signifying the best regular-season record.
Indeed, it appeared that Ovechkin did not even look at the trophy.
The Capitals, after all, have their sights set on a more significant accolade: a Stanley Cup championship.
NOTES: Capitals G Jose Theodore earned his 30th win of the season. ... Evgeny Artyukhin and Clarke MacArthur scored for Atlanta. ... Before the game, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau made the case for Mike Green to win his first Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman. "He's had the best year as a defenseman in the NHL — overall, defensively, offensively. And he plays on the team that is No. 1, and he's the No. 1 catalyst from the defense that we have. We have the No. 1 power play in the league. He's on it all the time." ... Washington's healthy scratches: D Tom Poti, D John Erskine, C David Steckel, RW Mike Knuble, RW Matt Bradley. ... Capitals forwards Boyd Gordon and Morr"ison and Boyd Gordon both played after being sidelined by injuries.