It had been just four games, hardly a concerning goal-scoring drought for the average NHL player. But this was Alex Ovechkin, the league’s most prolific scorer since he entered it 10 years ago, and the goal he and everyone else was waiting on was a significant one.
But as Washington’s game against the Dallas Stars unfolded on Thursday night, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz just knew this would be the night if his star left winger kept playing the way he was. That goal finally came in the third period, and it made Ovechkin the highest goal-scoring Russian player. Ovechkin finished the game, a 3-2 loss, with the goal, four shots on goal and five hits.
“It was only fitting,” Trotz said. “I thought Ovi played his best game probably in the last five. I thought he played, I sort of call it ‘beast mode,’ where he’s playing hard and he’s just an absolute beast out there to handle. That’s when he’s really effective. I knew he was going to score today. You know, when he’s in that mode, he’s going to score.”
Verizon Center recognized the moment, chanting Ovechkin’s name and giving him a standing ovation through a video montage that showed several of his other goals. His father had his iPhone out to record the moment. Sergei Fedorov, who Ovechkin passed to set the milestone, appeared on the video board in a taped message congratulating Ovechkin on the achievement.
“Obviously, it was loud,” Ovechkin said. “They’re cheering for me since day one, so that was a great moment.”
Said Trotz: “Everybody was excited. I mean, you’ll see me jump about four feet. No, actually about four inches. It was pretty exciting for everybody because they knew that was a little bit of history.”
The most stunning thing about the record might be how quickly Ovechkin, 30, set it. Ovechkin scored his 484th career goal in his 777th game. Fedorov scored 483 goals in 1,248 career NHL games. Since entering the league before the 2005-06 season, Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals (484), points (912), power-play goals (177), power-play points (357) and game-winning goals (81). Ovechkin also leads the league in goals since 2001-02 despite beginning his career in 2005.
“It’s pretty crazy,” defenseman Taylor Chorney said. “When you take a step back and think about it, I mean, he’s scored more goals than any Russian hockey player ever, and he’s only 30 years old. You know he’s going to score a ton more goals and he’s going to run away with that record. I imagine over the course of the next however many years, there’s not going to be anybody coming along that’s going to touch that anytime soon.”
And now the wait for Ovechkin’s 500th goal begins.