Alex Ovechkin scores the 800th NHL goal, standing behind Gordie Howe


CHICAGO — When Alex Ovechkin entered the Washington Capitals’ locker room on Tuesday night, a big smile was on the captain’s face, and his teammates were waiting — with cans and cans of beer.

In a flash, Ovechkin was drenched from every corner as cheers and playful shouts rose from the loudly rowdy group before Ovechkin delivered an emotional speech. It was a fitting celebration of a milestone night, when the Russian superstar scored a hat-trick for the 800th goal of his remarkable career.

“It’s a big number,” he said. “The best company you could ever imagine since I started playing hockey to be in this category – the 800.”

Ovechkin’s first hat-trick of the season helped the Capitals win 7-3 over the Chicago Blackhawks. He became the third player in the NHL to reach the 800-goal milestone, surpassing another hockey icon, The Imminent Pat. Ovechkin, 37, is one goal shy of tying Gordie Howe for second on the all-time list. Which is the 95th of passing Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894.

Ovechkin’s historic goal came at 6:34 of the third period. Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Kuznetsov made the two assists on goal, giving Washington a 5-2 lead.

The goal came right up front after Ovechkin collected a feed from Mantha and beat Blackhawks goaltender Petr Mrazek. Kuznetsov initially had the ball and was looking to pass the ball to Mantha, but said he fumbled the ball a bit, sending it up in the air. Mantha had a split second to shoot or pass, and the forward chose the latter.

“I saw someone come through the back door with a right stick and you don’t assume it’s Ovi, just because we don’t play together, but that was after [line] Mantha said.

Hats rained down on the United Center ice and the bench was quickly swept to congratulate their captain in a cheery dogfight. Chants of “Ovi! Ovi! Ovi!” swept through what had been a quiet square moments before.

“I feel like when he scored the first goal today, I was like, ‘Uh, this is tonight,'” Kuznetsov said.

Ovechkin scored his first goal just 24 seconds into the game, when he converted from the left circle. His second stake was a power play goal at 8:14 of the first. Ovechkin jammed into the puck at the left pole and, suddenly, the teacher came in handy.

“It doesn’t matter if you get two,” he said. “…it immediately sticks in your mind that you have to find another one [goal] Just to get ahead, just swipe it and move on. At the earliest [the 800th goal] An event, some kind of relief, some kind of happiness in general. “

Ovechkin scored seven goals in his past four games as the Capitals returned to the playoff picture with five straight wins. In all, he has 20 goals in 31 games, putting him in good stead for 53. His team struggled to start the season, but the Capitals captain is showing no signs of slowing down.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “When you see it from a different seat, you focus on figuring out how to stop [Ovechkin] and how to keep him in check. And when you coach him, you see his love for the game, his toughness, his drive and his desire to make a difference.”

Since 2020: Ovechkin, with 700 goals (and counting).

Ovechkin can now set his sights on catching — and passing — Howe. Washington’s next game is Thursday against Dallas at Capital One Arena, where the D.C. team hopes its energetic crowd can help keep its recent surge going.

Washington’s Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Nick Dodd, Mantha, Dmitry Orlov and Charlie Lindgren scored 26 tackles. Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Toews and Max Dumy scored for Chicago. Mrazek saved 23 times.

Ovechkin stayed even with his heats chasing goals, a defining trait of his since entering the NHL as a curious, fearless 20-year-old in 2005. In those days, he simply wanted to play the sport he loved.

“At the time, I just want to play. I don’t want to think about numbers,” he said. “I just want to have fun and enjoy my life in the NHL.”

Current and former players gushed about Ovechkin’s desire and passion for hockey, with former Capitals teammate Brian Sutherby calling Ovechkin’s confidence and arrogance “infectious” in an NHLer.

“He’s the most passionate hockey player I’ve ever played with,” said Sutherby. “He wanted to win more than anyone I ever played with. … There were many nights that first year that you sat on the bench knowing you were watching something absurd and something most players couldn’t do — and you knew this kid was going to go on and be Hall.” Famous People. “

As he neared his latest feat, Ovechkin would save pucks, sticks, jerseys, and gloves from every goal he scored. He stores it in his Virginia basement—which is starting to get very crowded. Ovechkin said his wife, Nastya, is ready for some of those memorabilia to find a new home.

He said, “She doesn’t like it.” “Every time I put on gloves and helmets, she says, ‘When are you going to get rid of them?'” I go, “We’ll see.”

Alex Ovechkin’s 50 goals over the years

As Ovechkin chases Howe and then takes aim at Gretzky, each goal brings new memories and milestones as it leaves teammates, opponents, and hockey fans in awe.

“You can’t buy those moments,” Kuznetsov said. “These are the memories.”

Notes: Center Lars Eller has yet to play after he left skiing early Tuesday morning. Washington announced before the game that he suffers from an upper body injury daily. Nicholas Op-Koppel entered the squad in his place. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson is back in the lineup, replacing Lucas Johansen, after missing Sunday’s win over Winnipeg with an upper body injury. Washington’s five-game winning streak is the longest since they won seven straight games in March 2021.

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