Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin became only the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700 career goals on Saturday by striking in the third period against the New Jersey Devils.
The 34-year-old Russian left winger reached the milestone 4:50 into the last session, taking a pass from countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov and blasting a slapshot into the net from the faceoff circle to the left of New Jersey goaltender McKenzie Blackwood.
“It means a lot,” Ovechkin said. “Not a lot of players did it in the history of the game. It’s nice to be in that company. It’s a big moment for the organisation.”
The goal, which equalised at 2-2 in what proved to be a 3-2 New Jersey victory, prompted Ovechkin to lift his arms into the air and smile before being mobbed by his teammates in an on-ice celebration.
“As soon as I got the puck I didn’t try to rush it,” Ovechkin said. “I did my work when I got in the zone and they find me in front of the net.”
Fans at the Newark, New Jersey, arena gave Ovechkin a standing ovation for the achievement.
“When you get closer, you’re thinking about when is it going to happen,” Ovechkin said. “If I didn’t score it today we still have 20 games. I hit the net. It’s over. So move on.”
Capitals captain Ovechkin joined an exclusive 700-goal club that includes the all-time record holder Wayne Gretzky with 894 goals and second-place Gordie Howe on 801 followed by Jaromir Jagr (766), Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717) and Mike Gartner (708).
“It’s pretty good company,” Ovechkin said. “I’m happy to be there.”
Ovechkin managed the feat in 1,144 games, the second-fastest player to crack 700 after Gretzky, who did it in only 886 games. He is the second-youngest to reach 700 NHL goals after Gretzky, who did it at age 29.
Ovechkin, who led Washington to the 2018 Stanley Cup title, became the fastest NHL player to advance from 600 to 700 career goals, doing so in only 154 games.
The goal was Ovechkin’s 42nd of the campaign, which put him one shy of season co-leaders Auston Matthews of Toronto and David Pastrnak of Boston. It was Ovechkin’s fifth goal against the Devils this season.
Ovechkin, an eight-time NHL goals champion, had scored only once in Washington’s past six games after netting 14 goals in the previous seven contests.
He broke a season-longest five-game goal drought with the 699th of his career and 41st of the season on Thursday in a 4-3 home overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens.