Alex Ovechkin is, without question, the greatest player in Washington Capitals history. This reality was already settled by the time he brought the Capitals their first Stanley Cup in 2018, which established Ovechkin not only as a Washington great but an all-time great. However, he had many brilliant moments before hoisting the Stanley Cup. One of those moments came back in 2008 when he scored two goals, including an overtime winner, against the Blue Jackets. Let’s take a look back at history and revisit this epic game.
Alexander Ovechkin’s Rise
Alex Ovechkin was a phenom heading toward the 2004 NHL draft. He spent four years playing in the Russian Super League before the Capitals selected him first overall in the 2004 draft. His arrival as a star in the National Hockey League was made known in his debut when he scored two goals against Columbus. Ovechkin scored 52 goals in his rookie season and led all rookies in goals and points. He became the first rookie in 15 years to make the All-Star team. Ovi was a star right out of the gate.
This exceptional starting status only continued to grow leading into 2007–08. He signed a massive 13-year, $124 million extension with the Capitals in the final year of his rookie contract. He led the league in goals as a rejuvenated Washington squad landed in Columbus for a crucial game against the Blue Jackets. After finishing the previous season with just 70 points, the upstart Capitals entered the game 24–24–5 and in the playoff hunt — with moderate online sportsbook odds — to make the postseason.
Source: Roberto Nickson via Unsplash
A Slow Start
As is true of great athletes, Ovechkin often performed best when his team was in a hole. And on this night in Columbus, his team quickly found themselves in a 2–0 spot. A pair of penalties found the Blue Jackets playing at a three-on-five disadvantage. With under three minutes to play, Rick Nash connected on an unassisted shorthanded goal to give the Blue Jackets a 1–0 lead. It was the first three-on-five goal in the history of the franchise. Less than a minute later, Jason Chimera seized on the momentum with his 9th goal of the season, making it 2–0 to end the first period.
With the Capitals in ninth place in the conference, this was a crucial game, and it couldn’t have started in a worse or more embarrassing fashion. However, thanks to Ovi, Washington wasn’t going to go quietly. He connected on his league-leading 44th goal of the season in the second period to cut the lead in half. Just a few minutes later, Alexander Semin tied the game with a goal of his own. At the end of the second period, the game was tied at 2–2.
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A Chaotic Third Period
This is a game we are still talking about over a decade later, so it shouldn’t surprise us that the third period was chaotic. The games we remember the most are virtually always messy, and this third period proved the same. Nash scored his second goal of the game early in the period, making the Capitals desperate. That’s when the chaos reached a new level.
In July of 2007, defenseman Tom Poti signed a four-year contract with Washington to put some help around their young offensive star in Ovechkin. In total, Poti played 230 games with the Capitals. During those 230 games, he scored just 11 goals. Luckily for the Capitals, one of those goals was the equalizer with under seven minutes to play in this game. The Capitals had been shut out two of the last three games prior before scoring three goals in regulation.
Ovechkin Ends It in Overtime
Headed into overtime, both teams were desperate for a win, fighting for their playoff lives. The Blue Jackets were in the midst of their first playoff run as a team and entered the game on a three-game losing streak. They also lost their starting goalie when he was run into by two defenders and left the game with neck pain.
Conversely, Washington was making their first playoff run with their new superstar. The franchise quickly realized that their window to win the Stanley Cup would open soon, as Ovechkin is the kind of player that propels a team into championship contention. This season was a first step.
So much was on the line that night that it’s easy to forget some 15 years later. However, after being given new life thanks to Poti’s equalizer, Ovechkin wouldn’t let this game escape the Capitals. Under three minutes into overtime, Ovi netted a cross-ice pass from Poti to win the game for Washington, skating to the corner and jumping into the glass before his teammates mobbed him.
What the Win Meant
The overtime thriller put Washington above .500 for the first time since October as they slowly climbed up the standings. A seven-game winning streak to end the season boosted the Capitals into the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and started 15 years with Ovechkin, where Washington made the playoffs 14 times and won a Stanley Cup. Many moments led us to believe Ovechkin was great and that he would lead the Capitals to the Cup, but this one is near the top.