Washington's next home game was marked by a bright ceremony dedicated to the exit of Alexander Ovechkin to the second place in the list of the best scorers in the history of the NHL. His 802nd goal, which allowed him to bypass the legendary Gordie Howe, was scored by the Captains captain last December, but it is never too late to celebrate such an event.
In honor of him, a special "Ovechkin throne" was installed in the ice palace, made to order from 802 pucks. Their number will increase with each new goal of Alexander.
All the players of the team went to the rollout in sweaters with eighth numbers, which will later be sold at auction. Fans present in the stands of Capital One Arena received as a gift a figurine of Ovechkin, made in the form of a Chinese lapdog and supplemented by a special puck counter that can be changed manually. Initially, the number 819 is displayed on it - that's how much was on the account of the Russian forward on the eve of the match with Columbus.
The solemn ceremony was attended not only by officials of Washington and the NHL, but also by Ovechkin's family - wife Anastasia Shubskaya, children Ilya and Sergey, mother Tatiana and brother Mikhail. Honoring the capitals' living legend began with a video that featured highlights of his and Howe's career.
In addition to many warm words addressed to him, Alexander also received memorable gifts. One of the most memorable was the gift from the NHL Players Association (NHLPA): a Soviet stick from the 1974 Super Series with the autographs of members of the USSR national team, which was presented by them to Howe, as well as the puck with which the Canadian opened the scoring in that series.
From the Capitals, Ovechkin received a commemorative statuette of stainless steel and bronze, dedicated to overcoming the bar of 800 heads. The weight of the figure is no less than 36 kg. The sons of the forward were also awarded mini-bronze sticks. Other gifts from the Great Eight include a Tiffany crystal, as well as a custom-made jewelry pendant and a painting depicting him and Gordy.
A worthy continuation of the evening was supposed to be the game with Columbus, but it met expectations only partially. Its main event was Ovechkin's slightly curious goal at the beginning of the match (Alexander's pass to his partner was corrected by Nick Blankenburg), which allowed him to reach another round mark in the current regular season and break Wayne Gretzky's record for the number of seasons with at least four dozen goals scored. Now the Russian has 13, while the legendary Canadian has one less.
"It's a very cool moment. It doesn't matter what the record is, it's still a record, you know? I just try to give my all and enjoy the game, "the domestic hockey player said on this occasion.
Ovechkin hasn't made it to the 40-goal mark in just three of his 16 full NHL seasons, as well as in two abridged seasons — in 2012-13, the regular season was not completed due to the lockout, and in 2020-21 due to the coronavirus.
In addition, the Captains captain has reached that milestone for the sixth time since he turned 30. This allowed the Russian to get ahead of Phil Esposito, who has five such seasons to his credit. The Russian forward became the fifth hockey player in NHL history to reach the 40-goal mark in a season at the age of 37 or older. Previously, only Howe was able to do this in 1969, when he was 40, Johnny Butsik (37 years old in 1973), Esposito (37 years old in 1979) and Brendan Shanahan (37 years old in 2006).
"He's been doing this consistently every year since he joined the NHL, and it doesn't look like he's slowing down. He plays fast and tough... He knows how to recognize the moment when you can turn the tide of the game - in this Alexander is really good. But, in my opinion, stability lies in the ability to do this from year to year," said head coach Peter Laviolette.
Alas, at Ovechkin's next milestone, Washington's reasons for joy ended, although the game turned out to be exciting and rich in goals and dangerous moments - over three periods, the audience saw 12 goals scored. Despite the fact that the hosts led 3-0 and had the advantage most of the time, they failed to get the victory. Columbus, having removed the goalie at the end, scored the sixth goal with 47 seconds left in the third period and restored parity. The game spilled overtime, which ended with Charlie Lindgren's first shot on goal.
It was the Capitals' third straight loss that not only marred Ovechkin's honors but also put the team in an even tougher position in the playoffs.
"It's always frustrating to lose, but today was a special day for me, for the organization, for the fans. It's too bad we lost," Ovechkin lamented after the game.