Late in his shift during the third period of Tuesday's tilt between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks, Anthony Mantha got his stick on a bouncing puck in front. And as he looked past a sprawled-out Petr Mrazek by his feet, he spotted a right-handed blade wide open on the other side of the net for a surefire goal. Mantha passed it, and in that moment, didn't realize it was going over to Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin made no mistake, lifting the puck to complete the hat trick and secure his 800th NHL goal.
"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," Mantha explained. "But it was after the change. And he ended up putting it in the back of the net."
Ovechkin had come on for Sonny Milano, who was at the tail-end of his shift. Mantha, along with teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov, who got the secondary assist on Ovechkin's strike, didn't realize that the Russian had even gotten on the ice.
"It was a good change by Sonny. So many players will just go on the ice… he hustled. He wants to score. He already has 800, but he wants to score more," Kuznetsov added.
READ MORE ON WHN: Washington Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin Discusses Hitting 800, Emotions That Come With Milestone
Then, as Ovechkin started screaming in celebration and all of the Capitals piled onto the ice, Mantha realized that he had just assisted on his captain's milestone tally.
"All of a sudden you turn around, and the whole bench is on the ice cheering him on," Mantha said, adding later, "At first, I didn't recognize him. After the fact I did."
While Ovechkin's at the milestone mark, Mantha said that he doesn't think Ovechkin is going to let his guard down until he climbs all the way up to the top of the NHL's all-time goals list.
"I think once he’s gonna be No. 1, he can have a sense of relief," Mantha, who now has points in four straight games, laughed. "Till then, he’s on the hunt. And that’s what we love about him.”