Alex Ovechkin joins elite company with 800th career goal, throws in a hat trick

Alex Ovechkin made his push for 800 career goals in the most Ovi way imaginable: with a hat trick.

The Washington Capitals captain scored goals Nos. 798 and 799 in the first period Tuesday night in Chicago, then added another in the third to join Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky as the only players in NHL history with 800 goals.

Ovechkin’s four-point performance — he also recorded a primary assist — propelled the Caps to a 7-3 victory, their fifth in a row.

Ovechkin arrived in the Windy City warm. He left red hot, having recorded his first hat trick of the season — with seven goals in the last four games — to help fuel Washington’s longest winning streak since March 2021, vaulting the Caps to within a point of the New York Rangers for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“As soon as it happen(ed), kind of relief,” Ovechkin said of his hat trick tally. “Kind of happiness and enjoying it.”

“It’s a big number. It’s the best company anyone can imagine since you started playing hockey to be in that category — 800. I’m the third person who ever scored that many goals. Without my teammates, without organization, fans, my family, I would never get that number.”

Ovechkin’s historic marker came 6:34 into the third period with the Caps already ahead 4-2. Just as he’d been all night, No. 8 hovered just outside the blue paint, ready to pounce. And when Anthony Mantha’s cross-crease saucer pass landed, Ovechkin made no mistake, drawing his stick back and then burying it into the net behind a sprawled Petr Mrazek.

“Good bounces,” Ovechkin said of his first two tallies. “The third one, Mo gave me a nice pass and I have to put it in. Puck was on my curve, so I just know I have to put it up and it’s in.”

Added Mantha: “I could have shot it but then I saw someone coming backdoor with a right-handed stick. You don’t assume it’s Ovi, just because we’re not playing together. But it was after the change. And he ended up putting it in the back of the net and then all of a sudden you turn around and the whole bench is on the ice cheering him on.”

The crowd at United Center, which featured a fair number of Capitals fans, showered the ice with hats and gave the 37-year-old a standing ovation as his teammates spilled off the bench to congratulate their leader. Chants of “Ovi! Eggs!” reverberated inside the arena.

“That’s great,” Ovechkin said of being recognized by the Chicago crowd. “Cheering my name, throw the hats. Even in the warmup, I was feeling that energy right away. The fans watch me and they want to see that — historical moments.”

The scintillating performance sets up arguably the most anticipated home stand in franchise history as Ovechkin closes in on Howe for second place on the all-time goals list. Ovechkin needs one goal to catch Mr. Hockey and two goals to pass him. The Caps host the Dallas Stars on Thursday, the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and Howe’s Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

Ovechkin is also 94 goals away from tying Wayne Gretzky for the top spot and 95 from breaking a record many thought might never be challenged, much less surpassed.

Asked which milestone is going to fill him with more relief — passing Howe or catching Gretzky — Ovechkin cracked a smile.

“Let’s take it step-by-step,” he said with a weary chuckle.

Washington has played eight of the last nine games on the road. They’ll get a rare day off at home on Wednesday.

“Right now,” Ovechkin said, “it’s finally go home, spend time with my wife, play with the kids.”

If the pressure has worn down Ovechkin, he’s done a good job hiding it, Caps Coach Peter Laviolette said.

“No grind; he just goes about his business,” he said. “Or he certainly doesn’t lead onto that. We don’t talk about it much. He knew it was going to come at some point, that he was going to score more goals.”

“But three tonight,” Laviolette continued, “that’s pretty special. In Chicago, which is a great hockey city. The fans here in Chicago were terrific, the way that they greeted him.”

Ovechkin’s greatness was not lost on Blackhawks coaches and players, either. Chicago coach Luke Richardson was a defenseman on the Columbus Blue Jackets when No. 8 made his NHL debut on Oct. 5, 2005, in Washington and remembers the game like it was yesterday.

“I was in the first game he played and he had two goals,” Richardson told reporters. “I remember him running over a defenseman, scoring two goals and they won 3-2. He was an impact player from Day 1 and he still is now. It’s pretty impressive and he plays the same way — he’s driven.”

“I remember how excited he was when their team won (his debut). I still see now on video, when someone takes him away, and the power play is smart enough to utilize that and they score, I see him celebrate. He looks like it is scored the goal. That’s a great captain, a great teammate.”

After the milestone goal, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and alternate captain Patrick Kane came over to shake Ovechkin’s hand.

“When we play on the ice, it’s not friends,” Ovechkin said. “But as soon as the whistle stops (play), we respect each other. What they (have) done to the league and to the team is incredible, as well.”

The drive Richardson mentioned was on display early Tuesday as Ovechkin wasted little time imposing his will on a Blackhawks’ team that’s lost 12 of its last 13 games.

Ovechkin’s first goal came on a fortuitous bounce just 24 seconds in. John Carlson shoveled the puck towards the Chicago net, where it hit Ovechkin and landed in his skates. He found the puck before Toews and Seth Jones, and whacked it up and over Mrazek to put the Caps ahead 1-0.

It was Ovechkin’s 12th goal in the opening minute of a game, tying him with Howe, Phil Esposito and Dave Taylor for third all-time. Only Sidney Crosby (14) and Mark Messier (13) have more. It also marked the 66th time in Ovechkin’s career that he opened the scoring on the road, passing Brett Hull (65) for the most in that category.

Just 7:50 later, Ovechkin capitalized on the power play, corralling a deflected (and bouncing) puck at the side of the net before coaxing it over the goal line to put the visitors ahead 2-0.

Mantha said he and Dylan Strome sensed a day earlier that Ovechkin was going to have a big night.

“We said he’s going to get three to five tonight,” Mantha recalled. “When he gets hot, you just never know when he stops.”

Washington, which controlled the game from the outset, took a two-goal lead into the third period.

Then Ovechkin did his thing.

“You know what? “It was awesome,” Laviolette said. “It was awesome to be on the bench and be a part of it, a part of history.”

Said Toews: “Pretty incredible milestone There’s some sense that when we’re out of this moment, it’s one of those things you’ll look back on. One of the great players of all time, so all due respect to him and scoring three goals to do it, getting himself an ovation and the ‘Ovi’ chant in our building. It didn’t feel great on our side but lots of respect for him.”

(Photo: Jamie Sabau / USA Today)


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