The thought of anyone sniffing a Wayne Gretzky record seems unthinkable, but Alex Ovechkin is knocking on the door of NHL history. And he made it again on Tuesday.
Ovechkin became the third player in league history to hit the 800-goal mark after netting a hat trick. He scored two in the first period, including one 24 seconds into the game, and finished it off in the third period.
"It's a big number," Ovechkin said following a 7-3 win against the Blackhawks. "One of the best company I can ever imagine, since I started playing hockey to be with Gordie at 800, I'm the third person who ever scored that as well. Without my teammates, the organization, my fans, my family, I would never get that number."
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After Ovechkin scored, the Capitals emptied the bench and the United Center ice was showered with hats. The crowd even chanted "Ovie! Ovie!" as he was congratulated on the video board. It was a memorable moment that even Chicago fans could appreciate.
"That was great, them chanting my name and throwing the hats," Ovechkin said. "Even in warmup, I was feeling that energy right away that the fans watch me and want to see that historical moment."
Ovechkin is now one goal away from tying Gordie Howe's 801 for second all-time and 94 away from tying Gretzky's 894 for first. To think he's double digits away now is unfathomable.
"It’s incredible," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "There’s a lot of Wayne Gretzky’s records you never thought anyone would touch, especially the goal one. So to see where he’s at, 800 goals, it’s hard to comprehend, really.
"All the best goal-scorers in our era, since I’ve been in the league, Ovi’s been the leading guy, with Kaner, Sid or whoever. There’s not too many that you can put a couple years back to back with his caliber, let alone 15-plus where he’s just consistently scoring 30, 40, 50 goals. It’s pretty special to watch."
Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson was actually in the building for Ovechkin's NHL debut on Oct. 5, 2005. He was playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets the night Ovechkin made his NHL debut.
"It’s impressive," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said. "I was in the first game he played. He had two goals, I was only on for one, though. I was on the bench for the other one. That night, I remember him running over a defenseman, he scored two goals, they won 3-2, he’s an impact player from Day 1 and he still is now. That’s pretty impressive, and he plays the same way.
"It’s an impressive thing. He’s driven. I remember then how excited he was when their team won and when he scored, but I see now still on video, when someone takes him away and the power play is smart enough to utilize that and they score, I see him celebrate. He looks like he scored the goal, and that’s a great captain, a great teammate."
At this point, it's hard not to see Ovechkin catching Gretzky. It's equally unfathomable to think he's just double digits away from surpassing him.
"I was a kid when I was obsessed with Wayne Gretzky and I remember him scoring that goal, I want to say it was against Vancouver, when he was jumping around on his skates and the whole world just couldn’t believe Wayne Gretzky passed Gordie Howe," Toews said. "Now, Alex is about to do that, too. It’s kind of interesting to think of that memory for myself and to think that’s the level he’s at right now is pretty incredible."