A better scene may not exist for what transpired Monday night in the nation’s capital. A packed house inside the Capital One Arena, eager to see their team once again after a road trip that took them through California, three time zones away.
The matchup, against one of the best teams in the west, having one of the best goal scorers in the league in Patrik Laine. The same player who is competing with the home team’s captain for the goal-scoring lead, and is said to be a dead-on carbon copy.
Alexander Ovechkin had to put on a show, and like he has so many times before, he sent the home crowd home very happy.
This time it was just a little more special than usual.
You've seen it before. Caps head to the power play, deploying Ovechkin at the point on his off-wing for the face off. When they win the draw, he slowly drifts to the left circle, waiting to unleash a one-timer that few have the ability to replicate... or stop.
They see it coming, everyone knows what's about to happen. You can shadow him, that works every now and then, but not permanently.
Fact is, nobody has found a way to consistently stop it.
The Russian captain of the Washington Capitals and the best goal-scorer of his generation found the back of the net twice in their win against the Winnipeg Jets, netting him goals number 599, and 600 of his career.
He pulls within one goal of Jari Kurri on the all-time list and joins a few others in the elusive 600-goal club.
No one would ever say Ovechkin was purposely avoiding scoring, not while his team is fighting it out for the division lead with their rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, but you got that feeling if he had his way, he was going to do this in front of the home crowd.
He put himself within reach against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the Stadium Series outdoor game, scoring number 598 on his historic career.
The owner of seven 50-goal seasons, one of which he was when he topped 60, Ovechkin doesn’t go many games in a row without a goal. Only three players in the history of the game with at least 500 games played have scored at a higher per-game pace than Ovechkin, two of which aren’t Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull.
He had some chances while in California, it just didn’t seem like it was going to happen for Ovechkin, nor the Capitals - as they just scored three goals across three games on their road trip, and they escaped with just one win to show for their efforts.
You could clearly see the extra jump in his step, and the rest of his team, after they were able to get back into their home beds.
In his three games against the California teams, Ovechkin totaled 25 total shot attempts, 17 scoring chances, and 11 actual shots-on-goal. He fired 15 shots on net Monday night, including eight that landed, and ten that were considered scoring chances.
Getting that early goal was like putting blood in the water, and Ovechkin went right after it.
Then 3:53 into the second frame, the puck found Ovechkin’s stick and after a couple of whacks at it, he was a part of the 600-goal club.
A much-needed superstar
Ovechkin came into the league at a time that the NHL needed as many superstars as possible. The league had just gone 16 months without playing a game, regular season or playoffs due to the labor disagreement. They needed something to bring back the fans after sending them away for so long.
They got (among others) Ovechkin, who quickly emerged as one of the best goal scorers in the game, and hasn’t looked back.
With many starting to question if Laine is the best in the game at putting the puck in the back of the net, Ovechkin jumped at the chance to one-up his heir apparent, one-upping him on the score sheet in their latest matchup.
If there is such a thing as a 'rockstar' in the hockey world, there is no doubting that it would be Ovechkin. He’s a fun interview, speaks his mind, and displays a passion and excitement for the game that few are willing to show.
And though it rubs some of the stick-in-the-mud types the wrong way, there is no doubting that even though he is 13 years into the league now, he is still one of the few in the league that fans are more than willing to pay full admission for just to watch.
No, this wasn’t probably how they drew it up, but there is no doubting that the story of Ovechkin reaching 600 career goals couldn’t have been written better.
In front of his home-crowd, against his ‘heir-apparent’, and a ‘W’ at the end... just another night's work for Ovechkin.
Where do you rank Ovechkin all-time as a goal scorer? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.