Alex Ovechkin scores the 802nd goal, passing Gordie Howe for second all-time

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Alex Ovechkin took the next step in his pursuit of hockey history Friday night, scoring his 801st and 802nd career goals to pass Gordie Howe to No. 2 on the NHL’s all-time list.

The notable goal was an empty net just inside the blue line with 1:00 left in the game in the Washington Capitals’ 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets at Capital One Arena. The home crowd erupted into a frenzy, and then watched the captain celebrate in overjoyed joy with his teammates on the ice. The Russian star’s first goal of the night came from a rush from the circle near the end of the first period.

“He is very emotional,” said Ovechkin. My parents watched it from home. My wife is here, the kids are here, friends. Doing it with a home audience, it’s special. They gave me full support, which is very big. It’s a historic moment. It’s good to be in this category of players. It’s really cool. “

The only name above Ovechkin now is “The Great One” – Wayne Gretzky’s 894-goal, once thought unreachable, goal at the top of the mountain. And given that the 37-year-old Ovechkin’s scoring pace has barely slowed with age, it’s likely to be a matter of when — not if — the legendary No. 8 surpasses 99.

“It’s crazy to see this number being huge, which is quite an achievement for his game and for him and for his family as well,” said longtime Capitals teammate Dmitry Orlov. “The way he’s going now, sure is great, and you hope he keeps it healthy – and another day, another milestone.”

Ovechkin’s no-look goal came about in somewhat comical fashion. After the Jets pulled goaltender, David Ritech, with less than three minutes left in the game, the home crowd chanted Ovechkin’s name. The crowd was ready for Capitals coach Peter Laviolette to put Ovechkin on the ice for a blank attempt—the cheers only rose as the clock ticked.

Ovechkin got on the ice with 1:42 left in the game and made a run into an empty net that hit the post and flew out. Moments later, with the Capitals in the attacking area and the net open in front of him, Ovechkin passed to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who quickly decided he didn’t want to shoot and instead gave it back to Ovechkin.

Laviolette said afterwards that he and Vechkin had a conversation before the game and decided he would give Ovechkin regular minutes if any blank opportunity came up.

“It’s the kind of situation that if you have a chance to take it, you take it,” Ovechkin said. “I give it to Cozy, and he’s like, I don’t want to take it.” But after that, it became special.”

Kuznetsov said, “I’d probably feel bad if I scored up there, and half the world would probably be mad at me. You know, I’ve got a lot of haters…a reputation, whatever.”

Howe passed away in 2016 at the age of 88. Ovechkin met him at the 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal. He said the autographed photo of Ovechkin and Howe together in the dressing room is still the “best thing” of Ovechkin in his collection.

“Obviously, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky’s stick, Mario Lemieux’s stick — [the photo is] It might have been the first,” he said.

On hand for No. 801 and 802 were Ovechkin’s wife, Nastya, and his two sons, Sergei, 4, and Ilya, 2. They were all present for Washington’s final three home games, when Ovechkin had a chance to catch Howe but couldn’t. t lamp light.

On Friday, with all eyes on him, Ovechkin made sure to put on a show. Sergei and Ilya went into the Capitals locker room after the game and posed for photos as they held their father’s No. 801 and 802.

“You never thought that when you got into the league, you’d beat any Gordie Howe record or Wayne Gretzky record or any record,” Ovechkin said. “I felt like, well, maybe you’re going to play in the NHL, you’re going to be good and you’re going to try to do your best — but the whole situation is happening right now, it’s a miracle. You know, it’s very special.”

Ovechkin’s first goal on Friday equaled Howe’s record 18:22 into the first period to give Washington a 1-0 lead. His wrist shot from the circle passed Ritesh, Ovechkin’s 166th goalkeeper in his stellar career.

Then the chase continued for a second.

“When you see what Alex does on a daily basis, I think anything is possible,” said Laviolette. “The way he plays. The way he scores. The way he shoots the puck. His love for the game. His passion and purpose for the game. Anything is possible.”

Ovechkin has nine goals in his past nine matches. For the season, he has 22 goals in 36 matches – an average of 50 goals. The Capitals struggled to start the year, but the captain helped his injury-hit team stay on its feet.

“It’s on full swing again for another great year,” said Laviolette. “He’s in great shape. He obviously has tremendous ability and talent when it comes to what he does. He loves the game. He has passion and purpose when he takes the ice. I think all of those things combined and the fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of games, it all adds up to The ability to play consistently.

Ovechkin’s abilities had long been praised by his teammates, but as he topped one legend after another during his run on the goal list, the appreciation reached a new level.

“Seven or eight years ago, nobody talked about it, even though it was on the same path as it is now,” defender John Carlsson said this month. “It went from ‘Maybe, sort of’ to ‘Holy crap, that’s coming too soon. “…you get to play with a guy for 13 years who beat those guys in the history books, and it’s pretty cool stuff.”

With No. 802 behind him, Ovechkin can take a moment to breathe. But the expectations don’t end at number two.

“Everyone is waiting for Gretzky’s record, and it won’t be easy,” said Orlov. “Everyone knows that, and he does too. It’s a lot of work and sometimes luck too. There’s a long way to go.”

Forward Anthony Mantha added: “I think once he’s a number one, he can feel comfortable. Until then, he’s on the hunt – and that’s what we love about him.”


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