December heralds a season of gift giving and good cheer. Fans of the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin have basked in that spirit over the last decade and a half as Ovechkin has lit more red lights than you might find on the National Christmas Tree. Here is a look at the history of Ovechkin goal scoring in December through the years.
December by the Numbers
The last month of the year and Alex Ovechkin’s performance in it over the years comes wrapped with a bow. Here are some of the most noteworthy facts and numbers with respect to Alex Ovechkin’s goal-scoring performance in December:
108. Ovechkin has scored 108 goals in December over 14 years. That ranks 11th in the NHL since 1979-1980.
85. Ovechkin scored a goal in 85 different days in the December portion of the schedule.
8. Ovechkin has a knack for sending his fans into the Christmas holiday happy. He has eight goals in games played on December 23rd. He did it in the first December 23rd he played, in 2005, and he did it this past December 23rd, the most recent occurrence of the date. In between, he did it in 2006, 2008 (two goals), 2009, 2014, and 2016.
16. Ovechkin has 16 multi-goal games in December over 14 years. Four of them were recorded in 2008, the year with the most December multi-goal games.
5. December has seen five Ovechkin hat tricks in his career. The first came in on December 15, 2006, when he scored all three goals for the Caps, the last one being the game-winner in a 3-2 win in Atlanta over the Thrashers. He had four goals in a wild game in Ottawa against the Senators on December 29, 2007, an 8-6 Caps win. His hat trick goal was the game-winner, and his fourth goal was an empty netter. He had another four-goal game on December 10, 2013 in a 6-5 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. His fourth goal in that game tied the contest with less than 30 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. Ovechkin’s fourth and fifth December hat tricks came three days apart in December 2018, the first in a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on the 11th, including what would be another game-winning goal; and the second came on the 14th in a 6-5 shootout win in Carolina over the Hurricanes.
400. On December 20, 2013, Ovechkin joined the 400-goal club. In the waning moments of the Caps’ contest in Carolina against the Hurricanes, and holding a 3-2 lead, Ovechkin scored into an empty net to become the 89th player in league history to reach the 400 goal mark and the sixth-fastest to do it, trailing only Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull and Jari Kurri.
11. Ovechkin posted 12 goals in December 2008, the highest volume December for goals in his career.
25. Ovechkin has goals against 25 different opponents in December games over 14 years. Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Minnesota have been spared so far.
12. Ovechkin has 12 goals scored against two opponents in December over his career – Buffalo and Tampa Bay, most against any opponent for the month.
56. There have been 56 different goalies on whom Ovechkin scored goals in December games over his career. Ben Bishop was lit up most frequently, Ovechkin beating him for eight goals.
8. Ovechkin has nine empty net goals in December games, his biggest month for empty-netters. Boston (twice), Buffalo, Ottawa, Carolina, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Toronto were the victims.
52. Ovechkin has 52 goals scored on home ice in December. That ranks tied for 17th (with Rick Vaive) in goals scored on home ice in December since 1979-1980.
56. Ovechkin has 56 goals scored on the road in December in his career. That ranks sixth among all players since 1979-1980.
The Highlight Game
When the Caps headed to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes in a December 20, 2013 matchup, they were grinding their gears a bit, dropping a 5-2 decision in Philadelphia after taking three straight games to a shootout, winning two of them. Carolina was skating on home ice for the first time since coming off a four-game road trip, three of which they lost, two in overtime.
The Caps took a 3-2 lead into the third period and held fast to that lead into the last minute. Then, with Carolina looking for the equalizer, Martin Erat collected a loose puck from the hash marks in front of the Caps’ net and pitched it forward to Nicklas Backstrom. From his own blue line, Backstrom chipped the puck out in front of Ovechkin exiting the zone, and from there, goal number 400 was scored “in the easiest of ways…”