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Capitals' Ovechkin scores 500th NHL goal

by Katie Brown

WASHINGTON -- From the first shift of the game Sunday, it was clear that Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was on a mission. Before the game ended, Ovechkin secured his place in NHL history.

Ovechkin became the 43rd player to score 500 NHL goals with one 16:19 into the second period against the Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center.

"It is a special moment," Ovechkin said. "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."

Ovechkin is the first player to reach 500 since Jarome Iginla on Jan. 7, 2012.

"To do what he's done in this day and age, in this competition, it's amazing," Washington forward Justin Williams said. "I'm glad I was able to be a part of it this year. I know he wants to write a little more history, but so far it's pretty impressive."

Ovechkin, 30, has the most goals of any player since he entered the League in 2005-06. The No. 1 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft scored twice in his NHL debut, Oct. 5, 2005.

"It seemed like every time you got the puck, you were looking for [Ovechkin]," forward T.J. Oshie said. "We look for him anyways, but tonight it just seemed a little more so."

Ovechkin's father, Mikhail, and mother, Tatyana, attended the game, which was his 801st in the NHL; he is the fifth-fastest player to reach 500 goals. Wayne Gretzky (575 games), Mario Lemieux (605), Mike Bossy (647) and Brett Hull (693) are the only players to score 500 in fewer than 800 games.

Ovechkin scored his 501st NHL goal at 9:46 of the third period to give Washington a 7-1 lead. His 26 goals this season lead the League.

"I got goosebumps," Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom said. "It was a special feeling, and I'm sure he's going to remember this for a while, I hope."

After Ovechkin scored the milestone goal, his teammates left the bench to celebrate with him, taking him by surprise. Oshie said they'd planned to do it in advance.

"It's amazing," Oshie said. "He's a great player, and no disrespect to the Senators … when we all jumped on the ice there, we couldn't contain ourselves. We had to get out there and celebrate with him."

Ovechkin scored twice Saturday, including the game-winner, in a 4-3 overtime victory at the New York Rangers to get within a goal of the milestone.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz hoped that Ovechkin would score No. 500 at home, not on the road.

"You look at some of the names that are up there, obviously some pretty big names," Trotz said. "And Ovi getting it done fittingly in this building was the only right thing. I did not want to sit him out for any of the road games. So it was fitting that he got it done here."

On Nov. 19, Ovechkin scored his 484th NHL goal to pass Sergei Fedorov for the most in the League by a Russian-born player.

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