Ovechkin tied Howe with a goal at 1:38 of the first period and then passed him on an empty-netter with one minute remaining in the third period, giving him 22 goals on the season.
Ovechkin, 37, trails only Wayne Gretzky for the most goals in NHL history. Gretzky scored 894 goals in 1,487 games.
“You never thought it was going to happen when you came to the league, that you were going to beat any Gordie Howe record or Wayne Gretzky record,” Ovechkin said. “The whole situation happening right now, it’s some miracle.”
Ovechkin’s empty-net goal came with his back to the Winnipeg net. He initially passed the puck so teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov could take a shot at the goal, but Kuznetsov fed the puck back to Ovechkin. The Capitals captain flicked the puck between Jets defenders into the abandoned net to give the Capitals a 4-1 victory.
“I’d feel bad if I scored there,” Kuznetsov said. “Half of the world would probably be so mad at me.”
The game was stopped as a congratulatory message from Mark Howe, Gordie’s son, played on the Jumbotron. Ovechkin took a twirl on the ice and tapped his heart with his glove as Jets and Capitals players tapped their sticks in congratulations.
The Capitals fans chanted Ovechkin’s name and gave him a standing ovation, as the in-arena goal counter flipped to read 801.
“It’s nice to get it done at home in front of our house, family and friends. It’s a great feeling,” he said. “It’s a tremendous feeling. We just have to keep going and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
The entire Winnipeg team came over after the game to shake Ovechkin’s hand after the game.
“Obviously, you don’t want it to be against your team. But he’s generational. I remember growing up it was him vs. [Sidney] Crosby and how special it was to watch them play,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said. “It sucks losing, but he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. He’s done so much to grow the game.”
Ovechkin reached the 800-goal mark in his 1,305th career game, the second-fewest needed to reach 800. Gretzky needed 1,116 games; Howe scored his 800th in his 1,748th career game at age 51.
Ovechkin has scored at least 24 goals in every season of his NHL career and is one of three players ever to score 20 or more goals in at least 18 straight seasons.
The Capitals star eclipsed a Howe record earlier this season. With his 787th goal, Ovechkin passed Howe for the most goals scored with one team. Howe scored 786 goals with the Detroit Red Wings and 15 more with the Hartford Whalers.
Mark Howe, a Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman, told ESPN earlier this year that he expected Ovechkin to not only pass his father’s career totals but those of Gretzky.
“I’ve seen a lot of scorers that put the puck in the net like nobody can, but after a while the puck starts hitting the crest instead of the corner of the net. I haven’t seen that with Ovi yet,” he said.
On Thursday night in Ottawa, Ovechkin set an NHL record for most career shots on goal, passing the previous mark of 6,209 shots set by Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque in his 1,612-game NHL career. It was Ovechkin’s 1,309th career game. The NHL started tracking shots on goal in the 1959-60 season. Ovechkin and Bourque are the only two NHL players to eclipse 6,000 career shots on goal.
Ovechkin signed a five-year, $47 million extension in July 2021 that will keep him in Washington through 2026.
“I’m glad that it happened in our house. Our fans deserved to be a part of that,” Kuznetsov said. “That’s a lot of goals. And he still wants to score. It’s amazing to be a part of that.”