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Alex Ovechkin: The Path to 1,000

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Few players in NHL history have reached the 1,000 point mark faster than Alex Ovechkin... and what a ride it has been to get there.

NHL: New York Islanders at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, Alex Ovechkin became the 84th player in the history of the National Hockey League - and just the sixth active player - to reach the 1,000 point mark in his career. It took him all of 35 seconds to achieve this feat, opening up the scoring early in the eventual 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

For Ovechkin and his legion of fans in Capitals Nation, around the NHL, and across the globe, it has been quite a journey. And like all journeys, it comes with special milestones, reflected in his reaching each of the “hundreds” on his way to 1,000.

Let’s take a look back.

#100 – April 10, 2006

Washington Capitals 2 – at Boston Bruins 1 (OT)

Alex Ovechkin did not disappoint in his rookie season in the NHL. Coming into the league with fellow phenom Sidney Crosby, the two put on a year-long show in their battle to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Ovechkin was making his case with a late-season scoring rush that took him to Boston one point shy of 100 for the season, with points in 11 of his 12 previous games (5-12-17).

The Caps carried a 1-0 lead into the third period on an unassisted goal by Dainius Zubrus, but the Bruins tied the game mid-way through the third period on a goal by Mark Stuart. That would be all the scoring in regulation... setting the stage for what had already become an Ovechkin staple: the dramatic moment.

Because there was Ovechkin beating Tim Thomas over his glove on a shot from the right wing 3:30 into overtime. Goal #49 on the year (snapping a six-game goalless drought, no less, tying his longest stretch of the season), and point #100 was in the books.

Shaving cream - Halpern Ovi

#200 – October 6, 2007

Washington Capitals 2 – Carolina Hurricanes 0

There was a little drama in Ovechkin’s 200th point, as well, coming as it did in the Caps’ second game of the 2007-08 season - at least so far as a new look constitutes drama, his 200th coming a game after his now infamous lost tooth in a 3-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.

The contest against the Hurricanes was the home opener for the team, though, and Ovechkin scored the first home goal of the season for the Caps. It came late in the first period of a scoreless game, Viktor Kozlov doing a fine job of drawing the Hurricane defense to him before setting up Ovechkin for what was becoming his signature snipe, a one-timer that beat Carolina goalie John Grahame.

It would be the only goal the Caps would need, but Milan Jurcina added a power play goal in the second period, and Olaf Kolzig stopped all 23 shots he saw in goal to give the Caps a 2-0 win and a 2-0-0 record - the first time since the start of the 2002-03 campaign that they started the season with back-to-back victories.

#300 – March 18, 2008

Washington Capitals 4 – at Nashville Predators 2

“300” was the number to pay attention to in this late season contest, with Ovechkin just three points shy of 300 for his career, and Olaf Kolzig shooting for his 300th career win.

The Caps jumped on the Preds early as Alexander Semin scored just 6:49 into the game on a power play, Ovechkin earning the primary assist for his 100th point of the season (becoming the first player in Caps’ history to record multiple 100-point seasons). Three minutes later he had his 101st of the year with a primary assist on a Nicklas Backstrom goal to make it 2-0 just before the 10-minute mark of the first period.

The Caps would add one more to their total before the first intermission, but the Predators climbed back into the game on a second period goal by J.P. Dumont and a third period tally by future Cap Jason Arnott. Ovechkin ended the suspense, however, potting an empty-net goal in the last minute to earn two milestones with one goal and cement the 4-2 victory for his team.

#400 – March 17, 2009

Washington Capitals 3 – at Florida Panthers 0

There is an old Irish proverb, “Many a sudden change takes place on an unlikely day.” On St. Patrick’s Day 2009, there was no expectation of a sudden change, nor was it was expected to be an unlikely day... at least insofar as Alex Ovechkin hitting another milestone was concerned.

When the Caps went to Florida to face the Panthers, Ovechkin had already recorded points in each of the four games played against the Panthers to date, going 4-2-6, including a hat trick on February 15th in a 4-2 win on the same ice sheet. Ovechkin stood at 399 points when he took the ice against the Panthers.

The Caps scored a goal in the second and one in the third, but neither one featured an Ovechkin point, and as the clock wound down under the two minute mark, it looked as if Ovechkin would have to wait for another day to hit the 400-point milestone.

But with 1:27 left in the contest and Panther goalie Tomas Vokoun pulled for an extra attacker, Mike Green potted an empty-net goal on which Ovechkin earned a secondary assist for his 400th NHL point.

#500 – February 4, 2010

Washington Capitals 6 – at New York Rangers 5

If the previous two milestones were reached in a somewhat perfunctory manner, and both on empty-net goals, Ovechkin made up for that relative lack of drama with a 500th point that was an instant addition to his already lengthy career highlight reel.

With the Caps on an 11-game winning streak, and Ovechkin firing on all cylinders with 21 points (9 goals, 12 assists) in those 11 games, the team prepared to face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Ovechkin sat three points shy of 500, and yet it certainly didn’t seem out of the question that he could reach that milestone with a big night against the Rangers.

The first period saw the Rangers sandwich a pair of goals around a tally by Boyd Gordon to take a 2-1 lead at the first intermission, but Mike Knuble’s 20th of the season tied the game early in the second, and gave Ovechkin point #498. Ovechkin dialed his own number on a power play less than three minutes later off a feed from Backstrom to get to 499 points.

The Rangers interrupted the fun, though, scoring three goals in a span of 6:29 late in the second period to take a 5-3 lead, a lead they might have expected to take into the second intermission.

But with time running out in the period, Ovechkin stopped the Ranger momentum cold with his “500th point” goal…

The goal gave the Caps a lift, as Tom Poti tied the game on a power play just 59 seconds into the third period, and Backstrom provided the winning margin less than five minutes later on a power play to give the Caps a 6-5 win, their 12th straight in what would be a club record 14-game winning streak.

#600 -- March 9, 2011

Washington Capitals 5 – Edmonton Oilers 0

In March 2011, Ovechkin found himself two points short of the mark as the Caps hosted the Edmonton Oilers. The Caps were on yet another late-season roll, winners of five in a row when the Oilers came to town. Ovechkin was doing his part, going 1-5-6 in the five-game winning streak and going 6-12-18 over his previous 15 games.

The teams played to a scoreless first period, but Ovechkin got the Caps on the board with a power play goal in the sixth minute of the second. Less than five minutes later, he assisted on an Eric Fehr power play goal to extend the lead and reach the 600-point milestone. As if that wasn’t enough, though, he had another highlight moment to get to 601 with the help of Marcus Johansson at the expense of Oiler goalie Nikolai Khabibulin...

The Caps added goals from Fehr, his second of the contest, and Alexander Semin, along with a 22-save shutout effort by goalie Braden Holtby to complete the 5-0 whitewashing of the Oilers.

For once it wasn’t just Ovechkin’s night. There were milestones all around in this one, with Holtby earning his first career shutout, Jason Arnott recording his 900th career point, and Dennis Wideman picking up his 200th career point.

#700 – March 14, 2013

Washington Capitals 3 – at Carolina Hurricanes 2

The Caps got off to a rocky start in the lockout-delayed 2012-13 season, going 10-14-1 as they headed to Carolina to face the Hurricanes. Ovechkin’s performance was mirroring that of the club, managing just (“just”) nine goals and 17 points in his first 25 games of the season. Worse, he and the team were coming off a blanking on the scoreboard as the Hurricanes opened the home-and-home set with the Caps with a 4-0 win at Verizon Center, denying Ovechkin the chance to reach 700 points in front of the home crowd.

Still a point shy of 700, things did not look good for the Caps to open the back half of the home-and-home. Carolina scored a pair of goals in the first nine minutes of the contest to take a 2-0 lead. A second period goal from Joey Crabb cut the deficit in half, but the Caps still trailed heading to the third period.

That problem was remedied by Oveckhin 61 seconds into the final frame with a power-play goal to tie the game, reach the 700-point mark and set the stage for a big finish.

The Caps got just that with 2:16 left in regulation when Ovechkin recorded the primary assist for his 701st career point on the game-winning goal by Mike Ribeiro to give the Caps a 3-2 win.

It was the first time Ovechkin victimized a team a second time en route to a “100” milestone, and the two-point night set off a strong finish for Ovechkin and the Caps. Ovechkin went 23-13-36 in his last 23 games, the Caps posting a 17-4-2 record to propel them into the postseason.

#800 – March 1, 2014

Washington Capitals 4 – at Boston Bruins 2

A quirk in the schedule found the Caps facing the Boston Bruins for the first time late in the 2013-14 season as Ovechkin sought to reach his next points milestone. In the Bruins, the Caps would face a tough opponent, having gone 8-1-3 (5-1-0 on home ice) in the dozen games preceding their meeting with the Caps.

Ovechkin made short work of his push for 800 points. He scored on a power play one-timer at the 18:39 mark with assists from John Carlson and Backstrom and then reaching the 800-point plateau less than three minutes into the second period on another power play one-timer, this time off a rush, with assists from Marcus Johansson and Joel Ward. The Caps would go on to win the game 4-2.

Asked after the game about the 800-point achievement, Caps head coach Adam Oates said, “ah, that’s not a milestone.” For his part, Ovechkin recognized the milestone but knew more work needed to be done, saying “[it’s] a big number, so I just have to keep going.”

#900 – October 20, 2015

Washington Capitals 6 – at Calgary Flames 2

Keep going, he did. By the time the Caps took to the road for the first time in the 2015-16 season, Ovechkin was one point shy of 900, having recorded goals in each of his first three games of the season - all of them Caps wins.

Calgary broke on top early on a Sean Monahan goal nine minutes into the contest. Andre Burakovsky tied it up late in the period with his first goal of the season at the 16:02 mark. Just 30 seconds into the second frame, though, Ovechkin put the Caps in front for good. Carrying the puck down the left side, his wrist shot handcuffed Flames’ goaltender Karri Ramo. The rebound leaked out along the goal line to Ramo’s right, and Ovechkin circled in to flick the puck behind Ramo. The Caps never looked back, adding goals by Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie (on which Ovechkin assisted). Then, after Calgary got within 4-2 early in the third period, the Caps sealed the 6-2 win with goals from Jason Chimera and Backstrom again.

Ovechkin reached the 900-point mark in his 764th game in the NHL. Among active players, only Jaromir Jagr had reached that milestone in fewer games (681). And afterward, Ovechkin returned to a theme from his journey to 800 points, noting “[i]t's a huge milestone. I have to thank my teammates. It's hard to do by yourself in this League. It's a special moment for me and this team. Now we just have to keep going.”

And that brings us to...

#1000 - January 11, 2017

Washington Capitals 5 - Pittsburgh Penguins 2

It probably had to happen this way. Locked in a battle to see who could climb fastest up the Metropolitan Division standings, the Capitals and the Penguins took to the ice at Verizon Center riding nearly parallel hot streaks. Another “Ovechkin versus Crosby” moment on national television.

The suspense surrounding Ovechkin’s pursuit of 1,000 points ended with the last strains of the National Anthem still echoing in the arena.

In the first minute of play, T.J. Oshie fed Nicklas Backstrom heading through the neutral zone, and Backstrom did what he has done so often over the years, fed Ovechkin so he could unleash his offensive power. Ovechkin skated through the right wing faceoff circle, circled to the middle, backed off the Penguin defense, and ripped a shot low over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s left pad to reach the 1,000-point milestone in his 880th career game.

Ovechkin added a second-period power play goal for good measure to give the Caps a 2-0 cushion, and from there the Caps pulled way to jump over the Penguins in the standings and add one more chapter to the book of his remarkable career.

Ovechkin cited, then repeated, the theme of “keep going” as he reached milestones along the way. It is something Ovechkin has done with consistency and persistence in his climb up the NHL scoring ladder.

Getting to 1,000 is a huge milestone, but it is not likely to be the end. He is within perhaps a couple of seasons from becoming the top Russian-born scorer in NHL history (Sergei Fedorov has 1,179 points), and getting to 1,500 points seems possible, which would put him in among the top 15 point-getters in NHL history.

But for now, 1,000 points is something for Ovechkin and Capitals Nation to savor.

Not for too long, though. He has to “keep going.”

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Some interesting things about Ovechkin’s ten milestone games:

  • Ovechkin had goals in nine of the ten games. Three of them were game-winners.
  • He was 13-7-20 in those games.
  • He had 57 shots on goal in those ten games.
  • He recorded his milestone points against eight different teams: Carolina (2), Boston (2), Nashville, Florida, the New York Rangers, Edmonton, Calgary, and Pittsburgh
  • Seven of the ten milestone points were recorded on the road.
  • By month, Ovechkin had five milestone points in March, two in October, and one each in January, February, and April.
  • In the ten milestone games, the Caps had a record of 10-0-0.