Alex Ovechkin celebrates his 600th career goal. (Alex Brandon/AP)
For a moment, Alex Ovechkin was alone, dropped to his knee and celebrated.
As he got up and skated toward the boards, his Capitals teammates rushed to greet him. Ovechkin enjoyed an accomplishment that only 19 other players in NHL history could say they achieved. Only three other players have done it faster.
In a 3-2 overtime win on Monday against the Winnipeg Jets, Ovechkin scored his 600th career goal.
He joined Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky as the only players to score 600 goals in under 1,000 games. He also leads the NHL with the most goals since the 1998-99 season, despite not debuting until 2005.
“Pretty amazing feeling,” Ovechkin said during the second intermission. “Pretty great feeling. My wife is here. She just got back from Moscow. She said, ‘I have feeling you’re going to score 600 tonight.’”
Ovechkin’s record-tying goal came in an unfamiliar fashion. In the second period, Ovechkin stood in front of the net, knocking in a rebound past Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck with 16:07 left. Normally, Ovechkin’s goals come from the left circle with plenty of space. It’s rare for him to throw himself in the trenches.
But he was determined.
This was a mark that Ovechkin admitted to chasing, and acknowledged he was counting down with each goal scored. Prior to Monday’s game, he needed two goals to get to 600.
“This morning he was really quiet,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He knew he was going to get it done today. The great thing about Ovi is, when he puts something to it in his mind, he was going to get it done tonight. We were talking all as a coaching staff about it this morning.”
Ovechkin didn’t have to wait long for his 599th goal. Just three minutes into the first period, Winnipeg’s Bryan Little was called for tripping, setting the stage for a power play. Then only 35 seconds later, the Jets’ Matt Hendricks committed a tripping penalty — giving the Capitals a 5-on-3 advantage. Ovechkin and Capitals thrived off the extra space, with the puck zipping around the bunched group of Jets defenders.
With 43 seconds left on the two-man advantage, Ovechkin fired off a shot from the left circle — which went right through Hellebuyck’s legs.
The first goal sparked Ovechkin, who fired off shot after shot attempt. By the end of the first period, the Russian had eight shot attempts with three on goal. On another power play, Ovechkin drifted around the ice with his stick raised slightly, ready to fire off a one-timer.
Ovechkin, though, eventually broke through, and the fans at Capital One Arena gave him a standing ovation. The Capitals even had a montage ready to honor the accomplishment, airing it during a stoppage a few minutes later.
“When you look at those numbers, you don’t even think it’s 599, 600,” said forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had the game-winner in overtime. “But then when you understand, holy [expletive] that’s a lot of goals.”
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said he told Ovechkin that he’s looking forward to the next 100 goals.
“As I said several years ago, we should never take Alex for granted,” Leonsis said. “It’s really remarkable what he’s accomplished and how focused he is on our team playing well and for him to score goals and when we win games, it’s been great. I’m very proud of him.”
Ovechkin’s 600th goal was also a reminder of how this season has been a return to form for the 32-year-old. Last season, the Russian had only 33 goals with a career-low 16 goals at even strength.
But Ovechkin is back to dominating. He entered the Jets matchup tied with Winnipeg forward Patrik Laine for leading the NHL in goals with 40. Unlike Ovechkin, Laine is just 19 years old — making him another young star that Ovechkinhas to fend off.
Before the game, Ovechkin joked he was still young, too.