Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored the 800th goal of his career Tuesday night, becoming the third player in NHL history — behind Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe — to reach the milestone.
He also became the first to do it with a single franchise, and it came as part of a hat trick performance in a 7-3 victory over the Blackhawks in Chicago.
“This … it’s huge. It’s huge for hockey, it’s huge for the organization,” a drained Ovechkin told his teammates in the locker room after the win. “And to do it with you guys, it’s special.”
The 37-year-old left winger tallied his historic marker in the third period of his 1,305th career game. It was also Ovechkin’s 20th goal this season, giving him an 18th consecutive campaign with at least 20. Only Brendan Shanahan (19 straight) and Howe (22) have accomplished the same feat.
Tuesday also marked the 162nd multigoal game of Ovechkin’s career, which trails only Gretzky’s mark of 189 games. He picked up his first two of the night in the opening period.
“It’s a special night. To get two goals right away, I could feel the game,” Ovechkin said on ESPN’s “SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt” after the game. “I’m really proud that it’s over. Now, we can move on and focus on the next one.”
The Blackhawks’ faithful feted Ovechkin with a sea of caps after the hat trick, and after the game ended he was congratulated by Chicago stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at center ice, a clear testament to what his accomplishment meant across hockey.
“The fans here did a really good job of taking a second and just honoring something,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “Because they’re hockey fans, and what happened was a hockey moment. It wasn’t about a win or a loss or Chicago against Washington. Somebody did something great and the hockey fans in Chicago noticed.”
In the first period, Ovechkin scored the 136th game-opening goal of his career, breaking a tie with Jaromir Jagr in that category.
Howe became the first player to hit 800 goals on Feb. 29, 1980. He would stand alone there for 14 years until Gretzky grabbed his 800th on March 20, 1994. Ovechkin’s next goal — No. 801 — will tie him with Howe for second-most in NHL history. Gretzky holds the record at 894 goals.
“I’m just trying to think about the next game, the next shift and not what’s going to happen out there,” Ovechkin said. “I’m just going to try to help the team win, and it doesn’t matter how.”
In his run to 800, Ovechkin went through a stretch of scoring four empty-net goals in three games to reach 53 empty-netters in his career. Only Gretzky has ever buried more (56).
Now in his 18th NHL season, Ovechkin has made a habit of racking up records. He has nine 50-goal seasons to his credit — matching Gretzky and Mike Bossy — and became the oldest player (at age 36) when he hit the 50-goal threshold in 2021-22.
His nine Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophies are the most earned by any skater, and Ovechkin is the only player to have won a Stanley Cup (in 2018), a Conn Smythe Trophy (as playoff MVP), a Calder Trophy (for rookie of the year), an Art Ross Trophy (for leading the league in points), a Hart Trophy (as league MVP), a Ted Lindsay Award (for most outstanding player as voted by the NHLPA) and a Rocket over the course of their career.
Ovechkin was drafted first overall by Washington in 2004 and showed an immediate scoring touch notching two goals in his NHL debut on Oct. 5, 2005. His best offensive campaign to date was 2007-08, when he became the 23rd player to score 65 goals in a season while finishing with 112 points.
The Capitals, slowly getting healthy after a sluggish start, have now won five in a row. They will host the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
“As soon as it’s over, we celebrate, we’re happy,” Ovechkin said, “and we move on.”