On Tuesday night in Chicago at the United Center, Alexander Ovechkin launched himself into NHL history by becoming only the third player to join the 800 Goal Club.
He accomplished the significant feat in style by scoring a hat trick to highlight Caps 7-3 win over the Blackhawks on ESPN. The Great Eight joined exclusive company by becoming the third hockey player to reach 800 goals.
Prior to Tuesday night, only Gordie Howe and record holder Wayne Gretzky had ever done it. Now, Mr. Hockey and the Great One have company. The legendary Ovechkin has been chasing history for a while. In what is a brilliant Hall Of Fame career spent entirely as a Washington Capitals player since being taken first overall in 2004, the ageless 37-year old shows no signs of slowing down.
After a slow start to ’22-23, he has seven goals over the last four games. All victories for the re-emerging Caps who have won five in a row to get back in the highly competitive Metro Division. In their first 20 games, Ovechkin scored nine goals. Since Nov. 23 against the Flyers, he’s picked it up by getting 11 over the last 11.
In doing so, he’s climbed into a tie with Bo Horvat for fifth in goal scoring with 20 goals. Connor McDavid leads the league with 26 followed by Jason Robertson (23), Tage Thompson (23) and Leon Draisaitl (21). Ovechkin hit 50 for the ninth time in his illustrious career last season. He’s back on pace to reach 50 with his recent scoring binge.
This is his 18th season. After being forced to sit out what would’ve been his true rookie year due to the lockout canceled ’04-05, all he’s done is light up opposing goalies like nobody else. When he was able to steer in an Anthony Mantha pass in front into an open Blackhawks net at 6:34 of the third period, that made history.
The reaction from an emotional Ovechkin, teammates and even Hawks players and an appreciative crowd told the story. This was a huge deal. The way they came out to congratulate him from the Caps bench signified how remarkable a moment this was. The way the Blackhawks and their fans saluted him was something special. All Ovechkin could do was acknowledge everyone by saying thank you. It was very classy.
The hat trick was the 30th of his career. It was a fitting way for Ovechkin to reach 800. He’d scored an early pair during the first period. One came just 24 seconds in on his patented shot from John Carlson. The other saw him sneak in fron his office to put a rebound home on the power play. His record 292nd. Nobody has scored more power play goals. Nobody probably ever will.
He also assisted on the Caps third goal from Trevor van Riemsdyk that made it 3-1 during the second period. Although Chicago cut it to 3-2 on a goal from captain Jonathan Toews, the Capitals would pull away. A Nic Dowd tally made it a two-goal game after two periods.
In the third, the obvious storyline is would he get number 800. It didn’t take long for Steve Levy to have the call. On a turnover behind their net, the Blackhawks watched Mantha get to a loose puck in front and work it over for an easy tap in for Ovechkin. There it was. Eight hundred goals for the amazing Ovi. They showed an old photograph of a younger Ovechkin with Howe in the locker room. A nice touch.
Mark Messier talked about remembering getting number 500 against Calgary at MSG on Nov. 6, 1995. He did in style too by going for a hat trick. The victim was Rick Tabaracci. The third goal I can still fondly remember. He went with his patented one leg wrist shot from the right circle. Messier couldn’t recall notching a hat trick to reach 400. He finished his Hall Of Fame career with 694 goals.
When a special player like Ovechkin can render a pair of legends in Messier and Chris Chelios speechless over what they’ve seen, that speaks to what he’s accomplished. Even with pauses due to a lockout for ’12-13 and the Covid interrupted ’19-20 that also delayed ’20-21, he continues to produce.
Sixteen of eighteen seasons have included the Great Eight scoring 30 or more goals. He’s hit 40 or better in a dozen years. A nine-time Rocket Richard winner for pacing the league in goals, Ovechkin is otherworldly. With 800 goals and counting, he needs one to tie Howe for second all-time. He trails Gretzky by 94 goals for the all-time goal scoring record.
Who would’ve ever thought there would be a player that could chase Number 99 down? Ovechkin looks like he will. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he maintains the pace and stays healthy.
It’s an amazing time to be a hockey fan. The excitement will continue as he gets closer to 894.