Alex Ovechkin barely seemed on the empty internet when he shot the puck into it and set off a wild celebration along with his teammates and amongst Washington Capitals followers.
With a no-look empty-net aim, Ovechkin made extra historical past and moved one other step nearer to breaking one among hockey’s most hallowed information.
Ovechkin scored objectives 801 and 802 Friday night time to maneuver into second place on the NHL profession checklist. After beating Winnipeg Jets goaltender David Rittich within the first interval to match Gordie Howe, Ovechkin virtually reluctantly scored from simply contained in the blue line with a minute left to move “Mr. Hockey.”
Solely Wayne Gretzky with 894 has scored extra, and Ovechkin is now 93 objectives from breaking a document that has lengthy appeared unapproachable.
“Step-by-step, guys,” Ovechkin mentioned after posing with sons Sergei and Ilya and the milestone pucks. “Nonetheless a great distance.”
Whereas it’s going to take at the least a pair extra years to see if it’s attainable for Ovechkin to problem Gretzky, shifting previous Howe warranted loads of celebration. Followers chanted, “Ovi! Ovi! Ovi!” all through Washington’s 4-1 win, by no means louder than after he hit the empty net.
Teammates did the identical within the locker room throughout a closed-door celebration, which adopted Jets gamers lining as much as shake Ovechkin’s hand at middle ice.
“I believe it’s simply to point out respect, and it’s historical past for them as properly,” Ovechkin mentioned. “The sport is the sport, however as quickly because the whistle blows, it’s all about hockey. We respect one another.”
Ovechkin hit the publish on his first shot on the empty internet and handed up one other try by giving the puck to countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov — and getting it again. Even when he didn’t wish to make historical past this manner, Washington’s longtime captain was going to do what it took to ice his crew’s fourth consecutive victory.
“It’s the form of state of affairs the place when 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.”
Teammates leapt off the bench in celebration and the world aim counter flipped to 802. A video tribute from Howe’s son Mark followed.
“On behalf of Gordie Howe, the man you simply handed, and from (my) mom Colleen and the complete Howe household, we simply wish to congratulate on what a implausible achievement,” Mark Howe mentioned in representing his father, who died in 2016 at age 88. “You’ve been a pleasure to look at.”
Ovechkin made the hockey group watch him chase Howe for greater than per week after recording a hat trick to turn out to be simply the third participant with 800 objectives. He endured a four-game aim drought earlier than breaking by means of Friday.
“After the hat trick to get 800, it took a short time to get 801 and 802,” mentioned middle Dylan Strome, who assisted on Ovechkin’s first aim of the sport. “To see the puck go in was simply aid, I’m positive, from everybody.”
Ovechkin after tying Howe didn’t look happy with stopping at 801. He obtained a breakaway early within the second interval and was denied this time by Rittich — the 166th completely different goaltender he has scored on — and had just a few different probabilities as the sport progressed.
With the Capitals main 3-1 late and Rittich pulled for an additional attacker, followers chanted for Ovechkin to get onto the ice. He and coach Peter Laviolette had mentioned not forcing the state of affairs, however when it was Ovechkin’s flip, he didn’t miss his alternative.
“There’s something good about what he does offensively when the goalie is out of the online, as properly,” Laviolette mentioned. “We didn’t change something and it’s a fairly particular second, fairly particular night time.”
It made it extra particular for Ovechkin to have spouse Nastya and his sons in attendance. Minutes after 4-year-old Sergei and 2-year-old Ilya sat on his lap within the locker room, Ovechkin additionally beamed understanding his dad and mom had been watching from their dwelling in Moscow.
“Very emotional,” Ovechkin mentioned. “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.”
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