When Alex Ovechkin finally got his goal, he celebrated as he would any of his other 483 goals, arms up and screaming. Verizon Center roared as it does so often for him, but the “O-vi” chants that followed had a little more oomph. Just about everyone in the building knew the real significance of his 484th score.
To be sure, the video board showed a montage of his other goals. Ovechkin’s father was in the stands, his cellphone in hand to capture the moment. Sergei Fedorov appeared on the screen with a taped message to congratulate Ovechkin for passing him as the goal-scoring leader among Russian players. Ovechkin stood up on the Washington Capitals’ bench, joining a crowd that was standing for him, and he waved to thank them.
The score came about seven minutes into the third period and tied the game against the Dallas Stars, but the happy occasion turned bittersweet about four minutes later. Dallas’s Jason Spezza capitalized on a Washington giveaway in the defensive zone, and his score delivered a 3-2 Stars win to spoil Ovechkin’s milestone.
“It was a good moment,” Ovechkin said. “Unfortunately, we lost the game.”
Ovechkin’s historic goal came on a tap-in off a pass from Nicklas Backstrom in the crease. The symmetry was all too perfect; it was Backstrom who had assisted on Fedorov’s goal to set the same record Oct. 25, 2008. That game also was against Dallas, and it was the last time Washington beat the Stars.
“Apparently, I like Russians,” Backstrom said.
The crowd was deafening after Ovechkin’s equalizer, but it was quieted when Jason Chimera’s giveaway led to Spezza’s game-winner. Chimera was hard on himself after the game, and when asked about Ovechkin’s milestone, he said, “I [screwed] it up, so it’s my bad.”
The Capitals were playing their second game in as many nights, this one against a top Western Conference opponent. The atmosphere in the locker room was downcast, but Coach Barry Trotz said there wasn’t much he was disappointed in — he just regretted the Capitals (12-5-1) couldn’t get at least one point from the effort.
“We win and lose together,” Trotz said. “It’s not about one guy. We’re all going to make mistakes, and Chimmer’s a big part of our success. If we take a loss, we all take a loss. It doesn’t go on one guy.”
With the game tied at 1 entering the third period, the Stars broke the stalemate when defenseman John Klingberg floated a shot from the blue line, and it was deflected in off Cody Eakin, a former Capital. Eakin blocked goaltender Philipp Grubauer’s vision in front of the net.
Ovechkin’s goal came less than three minutes later, an elusive score that arrived only after he had two goals disallowed in the past three games. He put 15 shots on goal against Detroit but became the first player in nearly 50 years to have that many shots without scoring.
“He’s broke that record, it seems like, twice already,” defenseman Taylor Chorney said.
His family kept traveling, not wanting to miss it, but he fell into a four-game drought. After Washington lost to Calgary in overtime in its last game at Verizon Center, Trotz said he sensed Ovechkin was under pressure to get the record-breaking goal.
“Sooner or later, I knew it was going to come,” Ovechkin said. “Of course, you get a little frustrated when you have good chances.”
The way it ultimately happened, with a no-look assist from Backstrom, who has assisted on 175 of Ovechkin’s goals, was fitting. The only thing that would have made the evening sweeter was a win.
“I’m happy for him,” Backstrom said. “Obviously, I wish — and I think he wishes, too — that we won the game, but obviously, it’s a huge accomplishment.”