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Milestone Memories

Here's a look back at the milestone markers that preceded Ovechkin's 700th career goal

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Tuesday night, the team honored Caps captain Alex Ovechkin for his 700th career goal, scored Saturday afternoon in a 3-2 loss to the Devils in New Jersey.

If it seems to you that the Caps just recently held such a ceremony for Ovechkin, you're not alone.

"Ted [Leonsis] mentioned to me once when we were presenting him with some award for one of his milestones - maybe it was his 600th goal - and he said, 'It seems like we just did 500,'" recalls Capitals president Dick Patrick. "It seems to go so fast sometimes.

"It's really hard to score goals in this league, and he just does it all the time in every way. Some of his methods have had to change; you don't see him beating the guy 1-on-1 like he did in his early years, streaking past them to score. But he still scores 50 goals most years, so he is adaptable and he's got that great shot. And he clearly loves to score goals."

Video: #700vi Ceremony

He does indeed, and Ovechkin is up to 42 goals this season as he takes a run at what would be his ninth season with 50 or more goals.

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nick Jensen picked up the assists on that milestone marker on Saturday afternoon in Newark, the latest in a series of landmark goals from the greatest goal scorer of this generation, and perhaps of all time. With that one still fresh in the memory bank, we thought it might be fun to take a look back that the milestones that preceded Saturday's starting with Ovechkin's very first goal more than 14 years ago.

Number 1 - Oct. 5, 2005 vs. Columbus

At 7:21 of the second period, Ovechkin scored his first NHL goal and the Caps' first goal of the 2005-06 season in Washington's season opener, getting help from Dainius Zubrus and Jeff Halpern.

Halpern forced a turnover in Columbus ice, and Zubrus gained possession in the right-wing corner and threaded a feed to Ovechkin in the high slot. From a few feet inside of the area that would come to be known as his office, Ovechkin ripped a one-timer past Blue Jackets netminder Marc Denis to score in his first NHL game.

Four and a half minutes later, Ovechkin scored again, notching the first multi-goal game of his career.

Each of Ovechkin's goals came within 90 seconds of a goal from Columbus forward Dan Fritsche, and each of them tied the game. Ovechkin's second goal of the game was also his first power-play goal in the NHL, Halpern and Mathieu Biron assisting.

Late in the second period, Halpern scored what would prove to be the game-winner on another Washington power play as the Caps went on to earn a 3-2 win.

"It feels very good," said Ovechkin afterwards. "I must thank my [teammates] for giving me two excellent passes. It was just a shot. I must only shoot and I score two goals. It's my first game in the NHL, we win, and I score two goals. It's a nice start."

 

Number 100 - Oct. 12, 2007 at NY Rangers

Just over two calendar years after his first NHL goal, Ovechkin notched No. 100 against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, victimizing Henrik Lundqvist, one of his most frequent red light targets over the years.

The Caps entered the game with a perfect 3-0-0 mark on the young season, but they suffered a 3-1 loss to the Blueshirts, as Ovechkin's goal - on the power play - was their lone tally of the game. With the goal, Ovechkin moved into 30th place on Washington's all-time scoring list with 202 points, moving ahead of Jaromir Jagr (201) who needed 33 more games than Ovechkin to get to 201.

Ovechkin's goal against the Rangers was his second of the season; he would go on to score a single-season career high of 65 in 2007-08, leading the Caps to the playoffs for the first time in his career.

 

Number 200 - Feb. 5, 2009 vs. Los Angeles

The Caps lost this game by a 5-4 count, but Ovechkin gave the home folks something to remember when he notched No. 200 soon after an offensive zone face-off. Nicklas Backstrom lost the draw, but he and Alexander Semin did some good work along the right-wing wall to force a turnover, the puck coming directly to Ovechkin in the lower portion of the right circle. He fired from there, beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for an unassisted goal at 10:32 of the third to pull the Caps within a goal at 4-3.

Ovechkin became just the fifth player in NHL history to reach the 200-goal milestone before playing in his 300th game in the league; he netted No. 200 in just his 296th career game. The only four players to get to 200 faster than Ovechkin are Wayne Gretzky (242 games), Mike Bossy (255), Mario Lemieux (277) and Brett Hull (280).

Among all active players in the NHL at the time, Anaheim's Teemu Selanne (322) was the only player besides Ovechkin to achieve the feat in fewer than 350 games.

Ovechkin also went from 100 to 200 goals faster than any of his other milestones ending in double zero; he needed only 126 games to get from 100 to 200, and his total of 65 in that 2008-09 season remains his single-season career best.

 

Number 300 - April 5, 2011 at Toronto

Ovechkin's 300th career goal came in Toronto, and he scored it in a 3-2 shootout win, a victory that gave the Caps their fourth consecutive Southeast Division crown. It was Ovechkin's 23rd career goal in as many games against the Maple Leafs, and the 14th goal he scored in just a dozen games in the Toronto barn to that point of his career.

The goal came on a Washington power play at 11:28 of the first, and Brooks Laich and Marco Sturm provided the assists. James Reimer was in net for the Leafs that night.

"It feels good," said Ovechkin of his milestone marker. "When you score 300 goals in six years, it's a big accomplishment. I play for a great team and my partners give me sometimes unbelievable chances to score goals. Without them, I don't score those goals."

With 300 goals prior to his 26th birthday (25 years, 200 days), Ovechkin became the sixth youngest player in NHL history to reach that milestone. The only five players to score 300 goals at a younger age are: Gretzky, Lemieux, Bossy, Dale Hawerchuk and Steve Yzerman.

Scoring No. 300 in his 473rd career game in the league, Ovechkin became the seventh-fastest to do so in terms of games played. He trails Gretzky, Lemieux, Hull, Bossy, Jari Kurri and Selanne on that ledger.

 

Number 400 - Dec. 20, 2013 at Carolina

Ovechkin's 400th career goal came just ahead of the midpoint of the 2013-14 season, midway through his ninth NHL season. It was an empty-netter in the waning seconds of a 4-2 Washington win over the Hurricanes in Raleigh.

"It's a big number and being in this kind of company is a tremendous honor for me," said Ovechkin after the game. "I never felt like I would be in this position when I started playing in the NHL, of course I wanted to be. Thanks to everybody; my coaches, my partners. Without them I can't reach these numbers."

Ovechkin's 400th NHL goal came in his 634th career NHL game, making him the sixth fastest player to the 400-goal milestone in NHL history. Only Gretzky (436 games), Bossy (506), Lemieux (508), Hull (520) and Kurri (608) got to 400 faster than Ovechkin.

"It's fantastic," said then-Caps coach Adam Oates. "In that amount of games, it's incredible."

Washington scored three power-play goals in the second period of the game, marking the 10th time in 35 games to that point of the season that its power play produced multiple goals in the same contest. Ovechkin assisted on one of those extra-man tallies, a Marcus Johansson goal. With that assist - the 375th of Ovechkin's career - he pulled even with Dale Hunter for third place on Washington's all-time list.

Nicklas Backstrom and Martin Erat drew the helpers on Ovechkin's milestone goal at 19:35 of the third.

"As we all know, he is a pretty good goal scorer," said Backstrom that night. "It's always fun to see a player accomplish something big. I think 400 goals in however many games he has, it's great. We all know he's a great player, and good for him."

Ovechkin's goal on that night in Carolina was his 52nd in his last 56 regular season games at the time.

 

Number 500 - vs. Ottawa on Jan. 10, 2016

A night after he netted two goals - including the game-winner in overtime - against Lundqvist and the Rangers in a Manhattan matinee to get to 499, Ovechkin notched two more in front of the home folks. He scored No. 500 on the power play at 16:19 of the second period - a wrist shot from his left dot office - with help from Jason Chimera and Andre Burakovsky.

Working the half-wall spot, Burakovsky went down low to Chimera at the goal line. Dealing with a lot of traffic in front, Chimera fed Ovechkin in his customary power play location.

Ovechkin settled, shot and scored.

The building erupted, Justin Williams retrieved the puck and teammates poured over the boards to mob Ovechkin.

"I didn't expect it," said Ovechkin of the entire bench coming on the ice to mob him after the momentous milestone tally. "After the second period, Chimmer said it was their plan. It was a special moment in front of our fans, in front of my parents, my teammates. It's huge."

"It's just an amazing feeling," says Backstrom. "I didn't even score it, but it's an amazing feeling for him, obviously. As a player sitting on the bench, I got goose-bumps and it was a special feeling. I'm sure he he's going to remember this for a while."

In the third, Ovechkin started his march toward 600 with an even-strength goal halfway through the period. Both of his goals came against Ottawa's Andrew Hammond in a 7-1 Washington win. His second goal of the game was his 26th of the season, pushing Ovechkin one goal ahead of Dallas' Jamie Benn and Chicago's Patrick Kane for the league lead.

"We always talk about 'team,' said then-Caps coach Barry Trotz after the game. "And this is actually an individual achievement. But I think when one person has success, it reflects on everybody. Ovi couldn't do it alone. He'd look over to Backstrom a lot and other people. But that was a moment that was great for the team to share, because it takes a village to have success."

Ovechkin had scoring chances all night long, right from his first shift of the game. It was obvious early that it was just a matter of time, and that this would be the night for No. 500.

"I knew right away," says Ovechkin. "Especially when you play with Backstrom and [T.J.] Oshie on your line. They're going to find me right away, and they're going to give me that kind of chance. Obviously, I had a pretty good chance in the first, and then hit the crossbar [in the second]."

Only four players in NHL history - Bossy, Gretzky, Lemieux and Hull -- reached the 500 plateau faster than Ovechkin, who did so in his 801st NHL game.

"It is a special moment," says Ovechkin. "It is nice to be in that category. It is really hard to score in this league right now, system-wise.

"If you get to 30 goals, 35 goals, you're lucky. Without my teammates' help, without the system - how we play - it is very hard to do."

"I think it's such a big milestone, and not a lot of players have done it as fast as him," noted Backstrom. "It kind of came naturally for us to jump up and celebrate with him. It's a big moment for him and the city of Washington, I think."

"That's something that I think everyone in this room will remember for a long time; forever," said Caps right wing Tom Wilson. "It was pretty special to be a part of, and that's cool. He's our leader and he does such a good job of including everyone. He includes the fans, he includes all of his teammates. That's just an unbelievable feat from an unbelievable player, but it's cool for everyone to be a part of it. He definitely shares it with us."

Ovechkin's 500th career goal came on the eighth anniversary of him signing his 13-year contract extension in 2008.

 

Number 600 - vs. Winnipeg on March 12, 2018

Ovechkin scored twice on this night, and his second goal of the game was No. 600. Evgeny Kuznetsov won a right dot draw in the offensive zone, and the Caps began putting immediate pressure on the Jets. Twelve seconds after the face-off and in the midst of a goalmouth scramble, Ovechkin popped the puck over Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck from just off the paint on the left side of the net.

The Caps eventually won 3-2 on Kuznetsov's overtime game-winner.

The goal came at 3:53 of the second period, giving the Caps a 2-1 lead. It also came in Ovechkin's 990th career game, making him just the fourth player in league history to reach 600 goals before playing in his 1,000th game.

"We talked about this after the outdoor game," said Ovechkin after the game. "As soon as [the media] starts pushing it, it's kind of annoying, but it's your job. Finally it's over, and now we're going to talk about hockey and not about numbers."

The outdoor game Ovechkin referred to was the March 3, 2018 Stadium Series game in Annapolis, the night he netted No. 598. Wilson and Kuznetsov drew the assists on No. 600.

"It's a free meal for me, for sure," quipped Kuznetsov. "It's huge. When you look at those numbers, you don't even think, ah, it's like 599, 600. But when you understand, it's like, holy f**k, that's a lot of goals, you know? I can't score like 20 in a year, and this is 600. That's huge. That's a special talent, for sure."

"It's unbelievable," said Wilson. "It's crazy. I feel like it's a new accomplishment and a milestone every day, every week around here with him. It's been a lot of fun to have a front row seat to it. I want to say I missed that on purpose so he could get the 600.

"He is the best goal scorer probably of my time, definitely, and generation. He has definitely got a knack for the net. We get stopped two or three times - pretty good saves there - and he finds a way to put it home. He is a guy who can do that."

"This morning he was really quiet," said Trotz. "You knew he was going to get it done today. The great thing about Ovi is when he puts something in his mind, he was going to get it done tonight."

Winnipeg phenom Patrik Laine - still a teenager that season - entered the game with 40 goals, tied with Ovechkin for the league lead. Laine scored for the sixth straight game and for the 11th time in 12 games in that game against Washington. He was also on the ice when the Caps' captain netted his milestone marker.

"I was pretty close, watching it," lamented Laine. "I was in a good spot, just behind him. I think, yeah, I was there when he made history. I can maybe watch that someday and show that I was there getting the minus on the ice."

Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy that season, finishing with 49 goals. Laine finished second with 44.

"It was a pretty neat game in the sense that you've got Alex and Laine," said Trotz, "who are two of the purest shooters you're going to find on the planet going head-to-head. And Ovi is still king; he is still the king.

"But young Laine, that's one of the things I like about him. I saw a quote where he said [of Ovechkin], 'Those are big numbers and he got the really quick. Those are the ones I'm going to try to go get.'

"I love his mindset. But until he does it, Ovi is the king."

"Right now, I'm going to enjoy the time, go home and relax and just enjoy it," said King Ovechkin. "But tomorrow is a new day, and it's back to work."

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