WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin danced alone in the middle of the ice after hitting the puck again.
He wasn’t alone for long.
Seconds after Ovechkin scored his 767th goal to overtake Jaromir Jagr in third place on the NHL career list, he was surrounded by his Washington Capitals teammates as fans roared in approval. Songs of “Ovi! Ovi!” filled what had been his home arena for nearly two decades, and they returned after a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders that will be remembered more for Ovechkin’s recent milestone than the eight-round streak that followed. shootout.
“I think everyone wants me to score that goal,” said Ovechkin. “Everyone involved in this milestone. I would say I’m very happy and grateful to be on this team for so long, especially with these guys.”
Ovechkin’s goal to finish behind legends Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howie capped a tumultuous spell for the longtime Russian-born captain and the face of the Stanley Cup-winning hockey franchise in the US capital. Amid the invasion of his homeland in Ukraine ordered by Vladimir Putin, whom he has long supported, and with his wife and children stuck at home in Russia, Ovechkin got a brief chance on the ice to become the greatest individual enjoy the achievements of his career.
“It was tough, but we’re athletes and we just have to do our job and focus on what we do best,” said Ovechkin. “We just play hockey and enjoy our moment.”
Ovechkin’s moment came at 4:58 of the third period when fellow countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov won a faceoff to put the puck on his good friend’s racquet. Ovechkin beat another good friend in Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov to finally draw even with Jagr, whose unproductive tenure at Capitals from 2001-04 left him unpopular with Washington fans.
The 36-year-old from Moscow hasn’t had such problems at home, even since Putin invaded Ukraine last month. During a tour of western Canada, Ovechkin was intermittently booed and received a standing ovation from Capitals fans, who cheered him on and chanted his name throughout his 17-year career in North America.
Ovechkin was quick to point out his sad reality that wife Anastasia and sons Sergei and Ilya Aleksandrovich were not among the 18,000+ spectators who witnessed that goal.
“Of course it sucks if my kids haven’t seen it, my wife hasn’t seen it, my parents, but they watch at home,” he said. “They are happy and that is the most important thing.”
The next major milestone for Ovechkin is #800 – a plateau only reached by Gretzky and Howe in hockey history. Ovechkin needs 35 goals to overtake Howe and 128 to break Gretzky’s record of 894, long considered unattainable.
“You never know what’s going to happen in the future,” Ovechkin said. “You never know what will happen tomorrow. I’m glad I made it and we made it as a team. It’s just a time now, and if I can make it, I will.”
Ovechkin scored in the shadow of the 2018 Capitals Stanley Cup banner while Barry Kross was on the away bench. Despite coaching Washington to their first title in franchise history, Ovechkin became playoff MVP.
There have been many doubts over the years that Ovechkin could continue scoring like this and catch up with Gretzky in his mid-30s. Despite is not one of them.
“The only thing I’ve learned about Ovi over my time is that if you doubt Ovi or say he can’t, he’ll step in,”diot said. “He just digs in and is determined. And I think over time he’s learned to probably train a little bit differently. It’s pretty amazing.”
Ovechkin is also three goals away from reaching 40 for the 12th time of his NHL career. That would tie Gretzky for the most 40-goal season in history.
“Right now he’s just a friend, teammate,” Kuznetsov said while sitting next to Ovechkin. “He’s so close to us and we don’t even talk about how he achieved all these milestones. I’m pretty sure that one day, when I retire, he’ll still be friends with me, we’ll sit down somewhere and think about and remember some of those milestones.”
In a pre-recorded congratulatory video message, Jagr joked that Ovechkin should keep going because he hasn’t hung up his skates yet.
“Keep scoring because as you know I haven’t retired from hockey yet and there’s a chance I’ll come back to the NHL and chase after you,” said Jagr, who at 50 still plays for the team that he owns the Czech Republic.
Ovechkin said Jagr would have been higher on the list had he not been in the Russian-backed KHL for three years. But Ovechkin has also lost time to two lockouts and the pandemic, making his rise even more impressive.
Ovechkin, who is under contract until the age of 40 in his current season, would need to average 29 goals over the next four years this season to overtake Gretzky before his current contract expires.
NOTES: Washington rookie Axel Jonsson-Fjallby scored his first NHL goal and joked of Ovechkin, “I’ll probably beat him.” Anthony Mantha also scored in the first third and shootout for the Capitals, who made 29 saves from Vitek Vanecek and have been 5-0-1 in their last six games. … Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri and Anders Lee scored for the Islanders, whose winning streak ended in three. Lee’s goal with 1:59 left sent the game into overtime after Ovechkin put the Capitals ahead.
Islanders: Visit the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Capitals: Attend the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday nights.
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https://www.local10.com/sports/2022/03/16/ovechkin-scores-767th-goal-passes-jagr-for-3rd-on-nhl-list/ Ovechkin is now third in the NHL scoring list, Caps beat Isles in SO