Alex Ovechkin passes Gordie Howe with 802nd goal, moves to No. 2 all-time


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

An empty-net goal inside the blue line with 1:00 left in the Washington Capitals’ 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at Capital One Arena was the key goal. The home crowd went into a frenzy and then saw the longtime captain on the ice cheering with his teammates. The Russian star scored the first goal of the night late in the first period on a penalty kick.

“It’s very exciting,” Ovechkin said. “My parents watched from home. The wife is here, the children are here, the friends are here. It’s special to do it with home people. They give me full support, which is huge. This is a historic moment. It’s nice to be in that category of players. That’s pretty cool.”

The only name above Ovechkin’s now is “The Great One” – Wayne Gretzky’s 894 goals are at the top of a mountain that was once considered unattainable. Given that Ovechkin’s scoring rate, now 37, has slowed with age, it’s important when No. 8 surpasses the legendary No. 99.

“It’s crazy, it’s a huge number and it’s a huge achievement for his game, for him and for his family,” longtime Capitals friend Dmitry Orlov said. “The way he’s going now is amazing and you hope he stays healthy – another day, another milestone.”

Ovechkin’s no-look, empty-net goal came in comically. The home crowd chanted Ovechkin’s name after the Jets pulled goaltender David Rittich with just over three minutes left in regulation. The crowd was ready for Capitals coach Peter Laviolette to put Ovechkin on the ice for an empty net attempt, and the chants only got louder as the clock ticked down.

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With 1:42 left in the game, Ovechkin stepped up the ice and took a long shot into an empty net that hit the post and was cleared. Moments later, the Capitals were in the offensive zone and with an open net in front of them, Ovechkin passed it to Yevgeny Kuznetsov, who decided he didn’t want to shoot right away and passed it back to Ovechkin instead.

Laviolette later said he spoke with Ovechkin before the game and decided to give Ovechkin regular minutes if there were any empty opportunities.

“If you have an opportunity, you can take it,” Ovechkin said. “I gave it to Cuzi, and he’s like, ‘I don’t want to take it,’ but after that, it’s special.”

Kuznetsov said: “If I score there, I’ll feel bad, maybe half the world will be mad at me. You know I have a lot of haters… reputation, whatever.”

Howe died in 2016 at the age of 88. Ovechkin met him at the 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal. He said the autographed picture of Ovechkin and Howe in the locker room is still the “best thing” in Ovechkin’s collection.

“Obviously, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky’s stick, Mario Lemieux’s stick… [the photo is] Probably the best,” he said.

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In numbers 801 and 802 were Ovechkin’s wife Nastya, 4-year-old Sergey and 2 sons Ilya. Ovechkin had a chance to catch Howe, but all have been in Washington’s last three games. t light the lamp.

With all eyes on him on Friday, Ovechkin made sure to put on a performance. After the game, both Sergey and Ilya went to the Capitals locker room to pose with their father’s historic puck #801 and #802.

“When you come into the league, you never think it’s going to happen, you’re going to break the records of Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky,” Ovechkin said. “You feel like maybe you’re going to play in the NHL, and you’re going to be good and try to do the best you can β€” but the whole situation right now is a miracle. You know it’s really special.”

Ovechkin’s first goal on Friday tied Hough’s record at 18:22 and gave Washington a 1-0 first-quarter lead. A wrist shot from the circle went past Rittich, Ovechkin’s 166th career goal.

Then the chase lasted for a few seconds.

“When you see what Alex does every day, I think anything is possible,” Laviolette said. “The way he plays. The way he scores. The way he shoots the puck. His passion for the game. His passion, his goal for the game. Anything is possible.”

Ovechkin has scored nine goals in the past nine games. For the season, he scored 22 goals in 36 games, which is on pace for 50 goals. The Capitals have struggled to start the year, but the captain has helped keep an injury-ravaged team on its feet.

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“He’s on pace for another great year,” Laviolette said. “He’s in great shape. It’s obvious that he’s got a lot of skill and talent in doing what he does. He likes games. He has a passion and a purpose when he takes the ice. I think all of those things come together and the fact that he’s been able to play a lot of games, it’s all about being able to play consistently.”

While teammates have long praised Ovechkin’s skills, the appreciation has reached a new level as one legend after another emerges as he tops the scoring charts.

“Seven or eight years ago, he was on the same path as he is now, and no one was talking about it,” defenseman John Carlson said this month. “It went from ‘Maybe’ to ‘Holy shit, it’s coming out very soon.’ … You get to play for 13 years with a guy who beat these guys in the history books, and that’s pretty cool.”

Ovechkin, with No. 802 behind him, can breathe for a moment. But the wait doesn’t end at No. 2.

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

Additional forward Anthony Manta: β€œI think once he’s number one he can relax. Until then, he’s hunting and that’s what we love about him.”


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