WASHINGTON – Everyone around Alex Ovechkin had a hunch this was his night.
His wife, Nastya, had flown back from Moscow just in time. Coach Barry Trotz noticed Ovechkin was unusually quiet.
By the time he scored the 599th goal of his career, Ovechkin sensed it, too. Less than four minutes into the second period of the Washington Capitals’ game against the Winnipeg Jets, Ovechkin put back a rebound and skated into the spotlight as the latest member of the NHL’s 600-goal club.
The Russian superstar scored twice to reach the milestone in typical Ovechkin fashion, becoming the fourth-fastest player in NHL history to 600 behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull.
He is the 20th player in league history to reach the 600-goal milestone and the sixth to do so with one franchise.
“When I score 599, I felt like, ‘OK I still have to make a push two periods,’ ” Ovechkin said. “Finally, I scored.”
Ovechkin’s rebound goal past Connor Hellebuyck 3:53 into the second period was his 42nd of the season as he tries to hit 50 for the eighth time. His first goal 4:35 into the first period came on a 5-on-3 power play as the Russian winger looked determined to reach 600 after several games on the doorstep.
“He knew he was going to get it done today,” Trotz said after Washington’s 3-2 overtime victory . “The great thing about Ovi is when he puts something to it in his mind, he was going to get it done.”
Capitals fans who have watched Ovechkin shine as the most productive goal scorer of the past decade-plus gave him a standing ovation for almost a minute after he reached the mark. Chants of “Ovi! Ovi!” continued as he waved from the bench in the moments after and during a video montage at the next timeout.
After scoring 33 goals in 2016-17, his second-lowest total in a non-lockout-shortened season, the 32-year-old Ovechkin’s resurgence made his climb to 600 all the more impressive. No player 32 or older has led the NHL in goals since Phil Esposito in 1974-75.
“He’s the best goal scorer probably of my time, definitely, and a generation,” said linemate Tom Wilson, who had the primary assist on Ovechkin’s 600th.
“It’s on us if we don’t get him the puck. It’s a little bit of pressure, definitely, but you just go out there and play your game and it was one of those things that was just going to happen. He’s too good not to hit that milestone.”
Greeting Ovechkin the locker room, owner Ted Leonsis took the moment to express his gratitude for 600 goals over the past 13 seasons.
“I told him I loved him and respected him and was very grateful and appreciated everything he’s done for the fans and for our team and looking forward to the next 100 goals,” Leonsis said. “We should never take Alex for granted. It’s really remarkable what he’s accomplished.”
Golden Knights 3, Flyers 2
In Philadelphia, Marc-Andre Fleury made 38 saves to become the 13th goalie in NHL history with 400 career victories, and Ryan Carpenter scored the winning goal for Vegas with 2:40 left.
Sharks 5, Red Wings 3
In San Jose, Eric Fehr scored his first goal with the Sharks and San Jose closed a six-game homestand by handing the Detroit Red Wings their seventh straight loss.
Blue Jackets 5, Canadiens 2
In Columbus, Ohio Seth Jones was the driving force behind two power-play goals in the first period, helping the Blue Jackets to their fifth consecutive victory.
Rangers 6, Hurricanes 3
In New York, Jimmy Vesey scored three times, Mats Zuccarello had two goals and the Rangers stopped a three-game slide.
Senators 5, Panthers 3
In Sunrise, Florida, Matt Duchene scored twice, including the go-ahead goal with three minutes left, and Ottawa got the road win.
Kings 3, Canucks 0
In Los Angeles, Jonathan Quick made 35 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as the Kings blanked Vancouver.
Blues 4, Ducks 2
In Anaheim, Ivan Barbashev had a goal and an assist to help St. Louis skate past the hosts.