Just around six minutes into the third period of Tuesday's tilt between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin found himself with the puck on his stick, a wide-open net and sitting one goal away from a hat trick and the historic 800-goal mark he came into United Center looking for. He made no mistake, sniping home the historic tally as his arms went up in celebration, his teammates cleared the bench and hats fell to the ice.
And for Ovechkin, as his teammates piled on top of him and they howled out in celebration, he felt a rush of euphoria.
"As soon as it happened, kind of relief, kind of happiness and enjoying it," Ovechkin said.
Ovechkin is the first European ever to hit the 800-mark at the NHL level and the third to do it. He is also now two away from passing Gordie Howe for second on the all-time goals list and 95 away from breaking Wayne Gretzky's record.
"How I said, it’s a big number. It's the best company you ever can imagine since you started playing hockey, to be with Gordie at 800… I’m the third person who ever scored that many goals," Ovechkin said. "So how I said without my teammates, without organization, fans, my family, I would never get that numbers. And I wouldn’t talk to you right now about that numbers.”
The 37-year-old is now up to 20 goals on the season through 31 games, and he has scored in four straight games. He came into the nationally televised matchup with 797 goals and all eyes on him, and from the moment he took the ice for the pre-game skate, he felt like it was a special night. He credited the crowd for that.
"They were great. Cheering my name, throwing their hats. Even in the warmups, I was feeling that energy right away," Ovechkin said. "The fans watch me and the fans wanted to see that historical moment."
Ovechkin got off to a fast start, striking just 24 seconds into the opening frame. Minutes later, he net his second of the game on the power play to make it 2-0 in the first period. The Russian would complete the hat trick in the third period.
"It stick to your mind right away like you have to find one more time to just move on, to just pass it and move on," he added of completing the hat trick.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 14, 2022
In the bigger picture, he's two goals away now from passing Gordie Howe for the second-most goals in NHL history and 95 from breaking Wayne Gretzky's all-time record. As has been the case with Ovechkin throughout his career, though, he isn't ready to jump the gun.
"How I said, let's take it step by step," he said calmly. "We'll see… it's finally go home, spend time with my wife, my kids."