The NHL season was paused on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. During the break in the action, NHL.com writers will each look back at his or her favorite memory of the season so far. Today, staff writer David Satriano writes about Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin tying Steve Yzerman for ninth in NHL history by scoring goal No. 692 on Jan. 18.
Alex Ovechkin has had many memorable performances during his NHL career, and I was lucky to be on hand for one this season.
The game between the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 18 was expected to be a good one between the Metropolitan Division rivals. And with Ovechkin continuing his march up the NHL goals list, it had even more significance.
The Capitals forward entered the game with 689 goals, including a hat trick in his previous game and five goals in his prior two. With one more goal, he'd tie Mario Lemieux for 10th in NHL history, and with three goals, he'd tie Steve Yzerman for ninth. Ovechkin needed five to tie Mark Messier for eighth place, and with the streak he had been on, that wasn't something to be discounted on that Saturday afternoon.
"To me, at this point, he would be the greatest goal-scorer of all time," Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who coached Ovechkin with the Capitals from 2014-18, said prior to the game. "We see how he shoots the puck and the angles he is able to place in the spots where he gets the pass … and he finds a way to get it into the net or through a spot. For the most part, you don't see the shot, you hope it just hits you as a goaltender."
Ovechkin didn't waste much time tying Lemieux, scoring at 10:22 of the first period to give Washington a 1-0 lead. That was the only goal the Capitals scored in the first 40 minutes, and they trailed 4-1 entering the third. Washington quickly began its comeback with two goals in the first 5:18 of the third to make it 4-3, including one by Ovechkin, who passed Lemieux in the process. Capitals forward Tom Wilson tied the game 4-4 with 5:28 left in the third.
At this point, I not only had to worry about Ovechkin reaching another milestone but had two separate game stories with the result up in the air. I went downstairs and watched the remainder of the game in the media room to be closer to the locker rooms.
Jakub Vrana scored Washington's fourth goal of the third period with 2:30 left to give it a 5-4 lead. But of course, Ovechkin completed his hat trick by scoring an empty-net goal with 56 seconds remaining. It was his second straight hat trick and eighth goal in three games to tie Yzerman for ninth at 692.
Video: Ovi nets hat trick, Capitals rally past Islanders
"It's great players there. It's something special. It's history. It's pretty cool," Ovechkin said. "It's great names. I still have a year and a half [on my contract] and then we'll see what's up."
Ovechkin's feat of scoring a hat trick and climbing the list would've made for a special moment regardless. But the way he did it, with the Capitals coming back from down three goals in the third for a win, was even more memorable.
"It's amazing. It's something special," Vrana said. "It's obviously really nice to see him getting these records. ... He's got a special shot. The best shot I've ever seen. I'm really happy for him."
It was something special indeed. Not only for Ovechkin and his teammates, but for this lucky writer who got to be there as well.