By JAY COHEN | AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — When it was over, when No. 800 was safely tucked away and Washington's fifth straight win was complete, Alex Ovechkin jumped on the ice one last time for another round of cheers.
Gordie Howe is next, and Wayne Gretzky is coming up very quickly.
Ovechkin scored three times to become the third NHL player with 800 career goals, and the streaking Capitals beat the lowly Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 on Tuesday night.
“It’s a big number,” Ovechkin said. “It’s the best company (you can) ever imagine since you started playing hockey.”
Ovechkin moved within one goal of Howe for second all-time. Gretzky has the record with 894 goals, but the 37-year-old Ovechkin is showing no signs of slowing down.
“I think once he’s going to be No. 1 he can have a sense of relief,” said Anthony Mantha, who had the primary assist on Ovechkin’s 800th goal. “Until then, I think he’s on the hunt, and that’s what we love about him.”
Mantha, Nic Dowd, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Dmitry Orlov also scored for Washington. Conor Sheary had two assists, and Charlie Lindgren made 26 stops.
The Capitals went 6-2-1 during a nine-game stretch that included only one home date. They play seven of their next nine at home, beginning Thursday night against Dallas.
“Now we just have to have a strong push before Christmas and then get the three days off,” forward Evgeny Kuznetsov said.
Chicago dropped to 1-11-1 in its last 13 games. It has scored just four goals during a four-game slide.
“I thought we battled back, but it’s Ovechkin," Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “There were a couple of unfortunate bounces, and he makes you pay on those.”
Ovechkin scored on his first two shots, beating Petr Mrazek 24 seconds into the game before stuffing one home on a power play with 11:46 left in the first period. The winger then completed his 29th career hat trick when he knocked Mantha's pass over a sprawled Mrazek 6:34 into the third.
The rest of the Capitals jumped off the bench to celebrate after the milestone goal, and hats rained down on the ice from the crowd of 16,181 at the United Center. Fans then chanted “Ovi! Ovi!” — drawing a wave from Ovechkin.
“The fans here in Chicago were terrific, the way that they saluted him,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “For him to get a hat trick on the road to get to 800 was just a special night.”
Ovechkin has seven goals in his last four games and a team-high 20 on the season. His previous four goals were all empty-netters.
“It’s mind blowing,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “How many guys can score goals at his rate in the season, let alone year after year after year? He’s one of a kind, for sure.”
Toews, Max Domi and Tyler Johnson scored for Chicago, and Mrazek finished with 23 saves.
It was Johnson's first game since Oct. 25. He had been sidelined by a right ankle injury.
Washington forward Dylan Strome played his first game back in Chicago since he signed a $3.5 million, one-year contract with the Capitals in July. He was traded from Arizona to Chicago in November 2018 and scored a career-high 22 goals for the Blackhawks last season.
“It's been really fun to play on this team,” Strome said. “There's incredible guys. Good coaching staff. Top to bottom, I think it's been a really, really easy transition for me.”
Capitals center Lars Eller was scratched with an upper-body injury. He is day to day. ... Blackhawks forward Andreas Athanasiou missed the game because of a family funeral. ... Chicago assigned defenseman Filip Roos to Rockford of the American Hockey League. ... Capitals defenseman Erik Gustafsson returned to the lineup after he missed Sunday’s 5-2 win at Winnipeg with an upper-body injury.
Capitals: Host the Stars on Thursday night.
Blackhawks: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.
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