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Alexander Ovechkin inches closer to hockey immortality

Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin scored three times against Chicago, joining the 800-goal club

Washington Capitals v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Washington Capitals star forward Alexander Ovechkin entered play on Tuesday night four goals shy of the legendary Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL’s all-time goals list.

After Washington’s hat-trick against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, the Capitals star now has Howe firmly in his sights. The three goals pushed his career total to 800, just one shy of Howe’s mark of 801. Ovechkin is now just the third player in NHL history to score 800 goals or more.

Wayne Gretzky tops the list with 894 career goals.

His first goal came just 24 seconds into the contest, after Washington’s Dylan Strome won an offensive-zone faceoff. Conor Sheary scooped up the loose puck and put a shot on Chicago goalie Petr Mrázek, which was turned aside, in the direction of the boards. Defenseman John Carlson then chopped at the puck, redirecting it towards the net, and Ovechkin was the man on the spot:

That moved Ovechkin to 798 on his career.

#799 came less than eight minutes of ice time later:

With Washington on the power play, a centering pass off the stick of Sonny Milano was redirected towards center ice. Sheary took control of the loose puck, and then found Ovechkin just to the side of the net. The forward finished the sequence with his second goal of the night.

Washington was able to take advantage of Chicago’s approach to the penalty kill on this goal. The Blackhawks had Jonathan Toews shadowing Ovechkin in an attempt to deny him any clean opportunities. But Ovechkin then slid backdoor towards the goal, which drew Toews with him, opening up space in the middle of the ice for Sheary. That gave Sheary the chance to control the puck, and then find Ovechkin for his second goal of the night.

Ovechkin was mic’d up on Tuesday night, and the Capitals shared the footage from his first two goals on social media:

History came in the third period.

Ovechkin took advantage of a scrum in front of the net, burying a shot for his third of the night, and the 800th of his career:

The Capitals paid tribute to Ovechkin’s feat on social media:

Also paying tribute to the milestone? The Blackhawks fans. The crowd in Chicago acknowledged the hat-trick from Ovechkin, as well as the history that he made by joining the 800 club. Ovechkin was also mobbed by the entire Washington roster, as the bench emptied to acknowledge his accomplishment.

However, there was the small matter of who would win the game. Ovechkin’s third goal of the night gave the Capitals a 5-2 lead, and they added to that with a goals from Anthony Mantha and Dmitry Orlov later in the third period.

Ovechikin was not done trying to score, however. With just over six minutes left in the game he ripped a 96-mph slap shot from just inside the blue line, testing Mrázek. But the goalie was able to turn the blistering shot aside.

Goal 801 would have to wait for Ovechkin.

Still, he made history on Tuesday night, bringing him within one of Howe, as well as joining the 800 club. But perhaps more importantly? It was a critical victory for the Capitals.

The win was Washington’s fifth in a row, getting the Capitals right back into the playoff mix. After starting the season 5-6-2, with a four-game losing streak that began at the end of October, Washington is now just one point out of a Wild Card spot, and the win moved them closer to Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division standings.

Looking ahead, the Capitals can look forward to finally getting back to the DMV for an extended period of time. When Washington lost the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, November 26. That was the start of a six-game road trip that took them to the Pacific Northwest. The Capitals did have a home game against Seattle on December 9, but were back on the road to play Winnipeg, and then Chicago Tuesday night.

They return to Washington for a three-game stretch that starts Thursday against Dallas.

Perhaps more history will be made that night.