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NHL Centennial

Alex Ovechkin still can't explain 'The Goal'

Capitals forward score while on his back 11 years ago today among career-defining plays

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Memories: Ovechkin's iconic goal

Memories: Rookie Alex Ovechkin scores an iconic goal

On January 16, 2006 rookie sensation Alex Ovechkin scores a "simply sensational" goal against the Phoenix Coyotes

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The final goal in a 6-1 victory is often forgotten. But on Jan. 16, 2006, at what was then Glendale Arena, one scored by Alex Ovechkin became known as "The Goal."

With 8:06 remaining in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day afternoon game against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Washington Capitals rookie forward scored a spectacular goal that Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky, the NHL all-time leader with 894 goals, called "pretty sweet." It remains one of the defining plays of Ovechkin's career.

After picking up the puck in the neutral zone, Ovechkin carried it over the Coyotes blue line on the right wing and cut to the middle against defenseman Paul Mara. Ovechkin fell as he tried to toe drag while crossing the slot but maintained control of the puck as he slid into the left circle and rolled onto his back.

Reaching with his stick, Ovechkin hooked the puck back toward the net and slid it in past goaltender Brian Boucher.

"[Capitals defenseman] Brendan Witt threw the puck in the neutral zone, and I had full speed to pick it up," Ovechkin said. "I made a toe pick, slid on my back and somehow put the puck in the net. I was lucky and it was a beautiful goal."

Even now, Ovechkin can't explain how he was able to control the puck and get a shot off after falling.

"It was just luck," he said. "Luck? Skill? I don't know. Call it whatever."

It was Ovechkin's second goal of the game and his 32nd of the season. He finished the season with 52 and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. With more than 500 NHL goals, Ovechkin hesitates to call it the best of his 12-season career.

"All the goals are the best goals," he said.

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