WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin is nothing if not a showman.
From his first shift at Verizon Center as a rookie more than a decade ago, when he checked a Columbus player so hard into the boards that the stanchion broke, to Wednesday night’s rivalry game with Pittsburgh, Ovechkin has always met expectations.
Wednesday night was no different. Just 35 seconds into the contest Ovechkin ripped a shot past Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for his milestone 1,000th career point.
The crowd roared for several minutes and Ovechkin celebrated with his teammates, eventually raising his right arm in the air to acknowledge the cheers. Jaromir Jagr (763 games) is the only active NHL player to reach 1,000 points faster than Ovechkin, who got there in 880.
“After Montreal game (on Monday), I knew I have a chance to reach 1,000 points in front of the fans and my family and people who are back home watching on TV,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a pretty special moment, pretty amazing moment.”
That 1,000th point happened in front of his wife, his parents and his brother, too. And Ovechkin was far from done. He also added a second period goal to hit 546 for his career to go with 455 assists as Washington beat Pittsburgh 5-2 and jumped into sole possession of second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Ovechkin recorded his 500th career goal last January in a game at Verizon Center against Ottawa. He leads the Caps in career goals and is second in assists behind teammate Nick Backstrom.
And it was Backstrom who assisted on the 1,000th and 1,001st points. The two men have connected so often over the years on a similar play. Since Backstrom’s rookie year in 2007-08, he has assisted on 204 of Ovechkin’s 448 goals during that time frame (46 percent).
Ovechkin waited at the left circle on a second-period power play and smashed a shot past Fleury to make it 2-0 Washington. Backstrom had the secondary assist on that goal and the primary assist on the first goal and point No. 1,000.
“We’re happy for him, the whole team is happy for him,” Backstrom said. “He’s a great player and he showed that tonight.”
The Caps (27-9-5, 59 points) have now won seven games in a row and at the exact halfway point of the season are only six points off their pace last season at this point (31-7-3, 65 points). That’s a remarkable accomplishment for a team that just recently was in fifth place in its own division.
Backstrom earned a scoreboard video tribute to go along with Ovechkin’s in the second period when the Caps congratulated him on his 500th assist, recorded Saturday in Ottawa. He recorded his 11th goal of the year in the third period to put Washington ahead 4-1.
Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist added tallies for the Penguins in the third to keep the game competitive, but an empty-netter by Justin Williams ended any hopes of a comeback. The Penguins (26-9-5, 57 points) fell into a third-place tie with the New York Rangers (28-13-1, 57 points).
After Ovechkin’s first goal, veteran forward Justin Williams told the referee to give his team a minute and let their star and captain have his due. Ovechkin is the 37th NHL player to reach 1,000 points all with one franchise. He also passed Maurice “Rocket” Richard for 29th all time in goals scored. Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals in a season six times. He ended the day tied for third this season with 21.
“Listen, it’s a heck of an accomplishment,” Williams said. “I don’t care how long you play in this league, how long it takes you. He’s done it really quickly. It’s a tip of the cap. We just took a few extra moments to recognize that and we did that after the game within ourselves also.”
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