For Alexander Ovechkin this season is going to be difficult.
If in the first part he regularly scored, was at the top of the sniper race and regularly helped Washington to take over, then after the New Year, both he and the team began a difficult stage.
During this period, the "capital" suffered 15 defeats and flew out of the top eight in the East, and their leader lost sight.
If in the first three matches of 2023 he scored six goals at once, then in the next 17 he limited himself to only four.
And he received two more heavy blows already outside the site.
First, his father passed away, and then long-term partner Dmitry Orlov was exchanged to Boston.
And if you believe the media, the Russian himself took this extremely negatively.
Despite all the hardships, recently Ovechkin began to gradually rectify the situation.
First, he gave two assists in the confrontation with the Rangers, and then hit the Buffalo gate, but in the meeting with Anaheim he again performed rather faded and did not chalk up a single point, although he disturbed the opponent's goalkeeper three times.
But progress was evident and it only remained to wait for Alexander to truly “break through”.
And this happened already in the away match with San Jose, in which he scored three points at once - for the first time since January 1.
Then he scored a hat-trick and took part in the defeat of Montreal on home ice.
By the time Ovechkin stepped onto the stage, the Capitals were already 4-2 up.
The Sharks got off to a great start and, thanks to the efforts of Tomas Gertl and Alexander Barabanov, secured a comfortable advantage for themselves, but subsequently conceded four times in less than 11 minutes.
And this was largely made possible thanks to the newcomer of the team, Craig Smith, who moved to the US capital from Boston.
The ex-forward of the Bruins scored a double and clearly demonstrated that he was able to benefit the club.
In the third period, "San Jose" ran to recoup and even made more shots on target than "Washington".
But all their hopes for a return were dispelled by Ovechkin.
At first, his signature click from the office helped distinguish T.J. Oshi.
The American turned out to be quicker than everyone on the penny and worked on finishing.
And then Alexander himself broke out with a double and approached the “eternal” achievement of Wayne Gretzky at a distance of 79 goals.
And it took him less than seven minutes.
Both goals turned out to be atypical for him.
First, he burst into the opponent's zone on the right flank and hit exactly in the far top corner, and then played a spectacular combination with league debutant Vincent Iorio.
The first attempt to bring the captain to a strike position was unsuccessful, but the 20-year-old Canadian was not at a loss, went around the gate and again found Ovechkin with a pass.
He sent the puck to the top nine in touch and again took Kaapo Kyahkönen by surprise.
It is noteworthy that the Finn became the 168th goalkeeper of the league, "injured" by the Russian captain of "Washington".
In the history of the league, only Patrick Marleau (177) and Jaromir Jagr (178) managed to leave more goalkeepers out of work.
However, the first has already hung up his skates, and the second is playing out in his native Czech Republic and is unlikely to be able to add to this list.
Two and a half minutes before the end, Dylan Strome set the final score of the match (8:3), but the dispute for the title of the main star was already over.
She was recognized as Ovechkin, who not only reached the mark of 60 points for the regular season, but also took 12th place in the table of the best snipers with 35 goals, and could soon return to the top 10.
Mark Scheifli, Bo Horvath and Jack Hughes have just one more clean hit, and the unstoppable Connor McDavid (52) leads the way.
In addition, Ovechkin tied with Mario Lemieux in the number of games with two or more goals in the final period (both 27) and approached the record for the number of games with more than one goal in the NHL.
In both indicators, the legendary Wayne Gretzky is in the lead (36 and 189, respectively).
Among other things, Ovechkin managed to move a little forward in the ranking of the best scorers in the history of the NHL.
With 1470 points, he overtook Stan Mikita and settled in 16th place.
True, it is unlikely that it will be possible to rise higher in the near future.
At the moment, he is 12 points ahead of Sidney Crosby, who is still in good shape, and very far from Paul Coffey (1531).
As for Washington, he caught up with Florida, Ottawa and Buffalo in points (all 68 each) and continued to fight for a ticket to the playoffs.
True, it will be extremely difficult to take the upper hand in it.
Pittsburgh, which occupies the eighth position, is three points ahead of the competition and has two games in hand.
The Senators have the same amount, and the Sabers have played three games less at all.