Alex Ovechkin passes Gordie Howe for No. 2 on NHL’s all-time goals list

Detroit Free Press
Steven Whyno |  Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin has passed Gordie Howe for second on the NHL career goals list.

Ovechkin scored his 801st goal during the first period of the Washington Capitals’ game against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night. He received a drop pass from Dylan Strome at the top of the right circle and slid a wrist shot between the pads of David Rittich with 1:38 left in the period. Then, with a minute to play and the Caps leading, 3-1, Ovechkin wristed the puck into an empty net, making it 4-1 and gaining the No. 2 spot on the NHL’s list for himself.

After No. 801, he was mobbed by teammates at the glass to celebrate while his goal song, Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” blared from arena speakers. Fans chanted, “Ovi! Ovi! Ovi” and gave him a standing ovation during the next stoppage when Ovechkin was honored for his latest accomplishment.

“It’s great to be in this company, and obviously it’s pretty special,” Ovechkin said on the team’s television broadcast. “It’s great. I think we all create history right now. It’s a pretty special moment, and I’m pretty happy.”

Ovechkin ended a four-game goal drought and passed Howe more than a week since becoming the third player to reach 800.

“Everybody right now enjoy this ride,” Ovechkin said last week. “It’s great for all of us to be able to get to 800, the third player ever to do that, and be on the same team I think it’s pretty cool. It’s pretty special for them.”

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His second goal Friday put Ovechkin 92 away from tying Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 that long seemed unapproachable. Ovechkin still has a ways to go to catch Howe and Gretzky in total pro goals, however, counting their totals in the playoffs and World Hockey Association competition during the 1970s. Howe scored 1,071 goals as a pro and Gretzky had 1,072. Ovechkin has 72 NHL playoff goals, for a total of 874.

“What he’s done year after year, the consistency, and him being able to produce the way he’s consistently done, it’s pretty remarkable,” said Toronto star Auston Matthews, the NHL’s reigning MVP who scored 60 goals last season. “Every year he always plays every game like it’s his last. He’s just a horse out there. He loves to score goals, and I think that’s been pretty evident throughout his career. You can just tell.”

And Ovechkin does not intend on stopping any time soon. He’s signed for three more years after this season in hopes of surpassing 894 goals.

“He scores in bunches more than anyone ever, and that’s probably why he is where he is right now,” Washington defenseman John Carlson said. “This history, the people (he’s passing), you’re like, holy smokes, you get to play with a guy for 13 years that is beating these guys in the history books. It’s pretty cool stuff.”

It was Ovechkin’s 52nd goal – the most of any opponent – in 71 games against the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise. He also scored his 600th goal at home against Winnipeg.

Jets associate coach Scott Arniel, who spent the previous four seasons as a Capitals, assistant, said he learned quickly that Ovechkin “doesn’t stop.”

“He’s such a driven guy when he goes out to play,” Arniel said. “(He is not) just a slap shot, one-timer guy standing on the side on the power play. I saw all the goals he scored standing in front of the net. Even the hat trick he got in Chicago, all three were right there. He’s done a lot of that as well.”

Ovechkin scored in his first game facing Rittich, who became the 166th NHL goaltender he has beaten for a goal during his 18-year career.

Free Press sports writer Ryan Ford contributed to this report.

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