Alex Ovechkin scored career points 700 and 701 on Thursday night in the Washington Capitals' 3-2 comeback win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C.
Ovechkin tied the score with a power-play goal early in the third period, then set up Mike Ribeiro's winner with 2:16 remaining by hitting the post on a breakaway.
Only 209 players in NHL history have more career points than Ovechkin, who is still just 27 years old. Since 2005-06, no player has more points than Ovechkin.
Alex Ovechkin scored career points 700 and 701 on Thursday in the Capitals' 3-2 comeback win against the Hurricanes. (Photo: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI)
That's not too bad for a guy who has been consistently criticized during his career by just about every hockey analyst in North America.
"For me it doesn't matter," Ovechkin told reporters about reaching 700 points. "Right now the most important thing is to get back on track and just stay fight for the playoff spot."
The Capitals were on the cusp of being all but done in the chase for the Stanley Cup Playoffs before Ovechkin came through with his historic points. A regulation loss would've left the Capitals 12 points behind the Hurricanes in the Southeast Division and nine points back of the Winnipeg Jets for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Ovechkin's tying goal -- and 700th point -- was a thing of beauty. Nicklas Backstrom backhanded a pass off Hurricanes goaltender Dan Ellis and out to Troy Brouwer in the slot. With the Hurricanes scrambling, Brouwer slid the puck to a wide-open Ovechkin for the one-timer goal into an empty net.
"Great play by [Brouwer]. It was a big power play for us," Ovechkin said. "Right before that we just said it'd have to be the biggest 20 minutes and biggest two minutes in our season. We handle it and we tie the game."
Ovechkin may never be the player he was when he had 269 goals and 529 points in 398 games during his first five seasons in the NHL, which put him in the loftiest of company. He averaged 1.33 points per game over his first five seasons, which ranked him behind just five players -- Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Sidney Crosby and Bobby Orr.
There's no denying his numbers have taken a major tumble since then, but it's not as though he still hasn't been one of the game's most effective offensive players. In 2010-11, he had 32 goals and 85 points (good for seventh in the NHL that season) and last season, he fell all the way to 65 points in 78 games, but his 38 goals were fifth in the League. Those numbers seem more respectable when considering Ovechkin spent a chunk of last season playing in the defensive-minded system of Dale Hunter after coach Bruce Boudreau was fired.
Ovechkin hasn't been consistent this season under new coach Adam Oates, but he has had stretches where he has looked like the player he was from 2005-10. He has 10 goals and 22 points in 26 games, with six goals and three assists coming over a seven-game stretch from Feb. 7-23. The problem for Ovechkin has been even-strength goals; he has just three this season, and two were scored in one game.
Despite his decline, Ovechkin still ranks 13th in NHL history at 1.211 points per game, fractions of a point behind Jaromir Jagr and Evgeni Malkin.
There are times when detractors are warranted in their negativity about Ovechkin's play in the neutral zone or defensive end, but it's important to remember he is still one of the most electrifying players in the game. The fact Ovechkin is one of 22 players in the League's history to reach at least 700 points in his first eight seasons is evidence of that.