“It’s very emotional,” Ovechkin mentioned. “My dad and mom watched it from house. My spouse is right here, youngsters right here, mates. Doing it with the house crowd, it’s particular. They provide me full assist, and that is fairly huge. It’s a historic second. It’s good to be on this class of gamers. It’s fairly cool.”
The one title above Ovechkin’s now could be that of “The Nice One” — Wayne Gretzky’s 894 objectives, as soon as believed to be unapproachable, are on the high of the mountain. And on condition that the 37-year-old Ovechkin’s scoring tempo has barely slowed as he has aged, it’s probably a matter of when — not if — No. 8 passes the legendary No. 99.
“It’s simply loopy to see, and it’s a large quantity, and it’s a nice accomplishment for his sport, for his individual and for his household, too,” longtime Capitals teammate Dmitry Orlov mentioned. “The best way he’s going now, for certain it’s superior, and also you hope he’s going to remain wholesome — and one other day, one other milestone.”
Ovechkin’s no-look, empty-net objective got here in a little bit of a comedic trend. After the Jets pulled their goaltender, David Rittich, with just below three minutes left in regulation, the house crowd chanted Ovechkin’s title. The group was prepared Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette to place Ovechkin on the ice for an empty-netter try — and the chants solely received louder because the clock ticked down.
Ovechkin received on the ice with 1:42 left within the sport and had a long-shot try at an empty internet that hit the put up and clanked out. Moments later, with the Capitals within the offensive zone and the open internet in entrance of him, Ovechkin handed it to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who shortly determined he didn’t wish to shoot and as an alternative gave it again to Ovechkin.
After this objective, just one different human being in historical past has scored extra NHL objectives than Alex Ovechkin.
Take a minute. Bear in mind this. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/8U5nzxNeaV
— NBC Sports activities Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 24, 2022
Laviolette mentioned afterward that he and Ovechkin had a dialog earlier than the sport and determined he would give Ovechkin regular minutes if any empty-nett alternative arose.
“It’s the form of scenario the place if in case you have an opportunity to take it, you are taking it,” Ovechkin mentioned. “I give it to Kuzy, and he’s like, ‘I don’t wish to take it.’ However after that, it’s particular.”
Kuznetsov mentioned: “I’ll really feel most likely unhealthy if I rating over there and half of the world most likely will likely be so mad at me. You recognize, I do have plenty of haters … the popularity, no matter.”
Howe died in 2016 at 88. Ovechkin met him on the 2009 All-Star Recreation in Montreal. A signed picture of Ovechkin and Howe collectively within the dressing room stays Ovechkin’s “high factor” in his assortment, he mentioned.
“Clearly, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky’s stick, Mario Lemieux’s stick — [the photo is] most likely the highest one,” he mentioned.
Alex Ovechkin met Gordie Howe throughout the 2009 All-Star Recreation in Montreal. No. 8 has a signed picture of him and Gordie from that second.
He known as the picture “most likely my high factor in my assortment.” pic.twitter.com/3hvzBBppWw
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) December 19, 2022
Readily available for Nos. 801 and 802 have been Ovechkin’s spouse, Nastya, and two sons, Sergei, 4, and Ilya, 2. All have been in attendance for Washington’s previous three house video games, when Ovechkin had his probabilities to catch Howe however couldn’t gentle the lamp.
On Friday, with all eyes on him, Ovechkin made certain he placed on a present. Sergei and Ilya each went to the Capitals’ locker room after the sport and posed for pictures whereas they held up their father’s historic No. 801 and No. 802 pucks.
“You by no means thought it’s going to occur while you got here into the league, you’re going to beat any Gordie Howe document or Wayne Gretzky document or any document,” Ovechkin mentioned. “You felt like, okay, possibly you’re going to play within the NHL, you’re going to be good and also you’re going to attempt to do your greatest — however the entire scenario occurring proper now, it’s a miracle. You recognize, it’s fairly particular.”
Ovechkin’s first objective Friday tied Howe’s document 18:22 into the primary interval to present Washington a 1-0 lead. His wrist shot from the circle received previous Rittich, the 166th goaltender Ovechkin has scored on in his outstanding profession.
Then the chase was on for a second.
“If you see what Alex does every day, I believe something is feasible,” Laviolette mentioned. “The best way he performs. The best way he scores. The best way he shoots the puck. His love for the sport. His ardour and objective for the sport. Something is feasible.”
Ovechkin has 9 objectives in his previous 9 video games. For the season, he has 22 objectives in 36 video games — a 50-goal tempo. The Capitals struggled to start out the 12 months, however the captain has helped his injury-ravaged staff keep afloat.
“He’s on tempo once more for an additional nice 12 months,” Laviolette mentioned. “He’s in nice form. He’s clearly received large potential and expertise in the case of doing what he does. He loves the sport. He’s received a ardour and a objective when he takes the ice. I believe all of these issues mixed and the truth that he’s been in a position to play in plenty of video games, all of that provides as much as being able to play constant.”
Teammates have lengthy praised Ovechkin’s talents, however as he ticked off one legend after one other throughout his march up the objectives record, the appreciation reached at a brand new degree.
“Seven or eight years in the past, nobody even talked about it, although he was clearly on the identical trajectory he’s now,” defenseman John Carlson mentioned this month. “It went from ‘Perhaps, form of’ to ‘Holy crap, that is coming round fairly quickly.’ … You get to play with a man for 13 years that has overwhelmed these guys within the historical past books, and it’s fairly cool stuff.”
With No. 802 behind him, Ovechkin can take a second to breathe. However the expectations don’t finish at No. 2.
“Everyone seems to be ready for the Gretzky document, and it’s not going to be straightforward,” Orlov mentioned. “Everybody is aware of it, and he does, too. It’s plenty of work and generally luck, too. There’s a lengthy solution to go.”
Added ahead Anthony Mantha: “I believe as soon as he’s going to be primary, he can have a way of reduction. Till then, he’s on the hunt — and that’s what we love about him.”