Alex Ovechkin scores 800th goal, one behind Gordie Howe


CHICAGO — Alex Ovechkin took another big step in his pursuit of the NHL’s all-time goalscoring record on Tuesday night, scoring the 800th of his remarkable career. The Washington Capitals captain scored his first hat trick of the season to become the third NHL player to reach that total, and surpassing another hockey icon is imminent.

Ovechkin, 37, is one goal away from tying Gordie Howe for second on the all-time list. And he’s 95 shy of surpassing Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894.

The Russian star’s scoring goal came 6:34 into the third period in a 7-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Anthony Mantha and Evgeny Kuznetsov got the assists on goal to give Washington a 5-2 lead.

Ovechkin’s tally came just ahead after picking up a pass from Mantha and beating Blackhawks goaltender Petr Mrazek. An exuberant celebration ensued as hats rained down on the United Center ice. The Capitals bench quickly broke free to congratulate their captain in a cheery dogpile to chants of “O-vi!” O-vi! O-vi!” engulfed what had been a quiet arena moments earlier.

Ovechkin scored his first goal of the night just 24 seconds into the game when he converted from the left circle. His second goal was a power play goal at 8:14 of the first. Ovechkin jammed the puck to the left post and suddenly the milestone was within reach.

Ovechkin has scored seven goals in his last four games as the Capitals returned to the playoffs with their fifth straight win on Tuesday. He has 20 goals in 31 games this season. His team struggled to start the season, but the Capitals captain shows no signs of slowing down.

“It’s pretty amazing,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “When you see him from a different bench, you focus on how to stop [Ovechkin] and how to keep it under control. And when you train him, you see his love of the game, his durability and his drive and desire to make a difference.

From 2020: Ovechkin to 700 goals (and more)

Ovechkin can now aim to catch – and pass – Howe. Washington’s next game is Thursday against Dallas at Capital One Arena, where the Capitals are hoping an energetic home crowd will help sustain their recent surge.

Ovechkin has remained calm as his goal rush intensifies, a hallmark of his since entering the NHL at the age of 20, curious and fearless, in 2005. Back then, he just wanted to practice the sport he loved.

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

Current and former players have gushed about Ovechkin’s desire and passion for hockey, with former Capitals teammate Brian Sutherby calling Ovechkin’s confidence and arrogance as a young kid “infectious”.

“He’s the most passionate hockey player I’ve played with,” Sutherby said. “He wanted to win more than anyone I’ve played with. … There have been many nights in that first year where you’re sitting on the bench and you know you’re watching something ridiculous and something most players can’t do – and you knew that kid was going to go on and be a Hall of Famous. »

Alex Ovechkin’s 50th goals over the years

As he neared his final milestone, Ovechkin saved pucks, sticks, jerseys and gloves from every goal he scores. He stores them in the basement of his house in Virginia – which is starting to get very cluttered. Ovechkin said his wife, Nastya, is ready for some of those memories to find a new home.

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

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

“To see where it is, 800 goals, it’s really hard to fathom,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It’s pretty special to watch.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk, Nic Dowd, Mantha and Dmitry Orlov also scored for Washington.

Notes: Center Lars Eller did not play after leaving morning practice on Tuesday. Washington announced before the game that he was day to day with an upper body injury. Nicolas Aube-Kubel entered the line-up in his place. … Defenseman Erik Gustafsson returned to the roster, replacing Lucas Johansen, after missing Sunday’s victory in Winnipeg with an upper-body injury.


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