Alex Ovechkin has always had a flare for the dramatic.
Going into Monday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, Ovechkin needed three points to reach 1,000 for his career and only one goal to tie Maurice “Rocket” Richard with 544 goals at 29th overall.
Scoring three points in the game, he nearly accomplished both, but alas, he’d only hit one major milestone tonight.
In front of the Montreal crowd and on the power play (of course), Ovechkin tied the legendary Richard’s record.
It feels apropos that Ovechkin would hit this milestone in Montreal where Richard spent his entire NHL career. The trophy that bears Richard’s name for the top goal scorer each season has been earned by Ovi a league high six times.
According to Eric Engels of Sportsnet, Ovechkin hit 544 goals in exactly 100 less games than it took Richard. [Update: Engels later corrected himself. It took Ovi 99 less games to reach this this mark.]
The debate between who was a better goal scorer and the difference between the times the two players played is one for another day. Instead we focus on what Ovechkin has done in his career, and it’s best summed up by Washington’s coach Barry Trotz.
Trotz told reporters he spoke to Ovechkin prior to the game about what he could accomplish tonight.
“I went by him today and we talked and I said, ‘You know, it would be pretty cool,’” said Trotz to Arpon Basu of LNH.com.
Trotz continued to talk about his star player in probably the best way we’ve ever heard Ovi described by a coach.
“I’ve said this to many people. He’s really easy to coach, he’s very honest,” said Trotz to Engels. “I’ll put it this way: There’s things in in his game that I’d like to take out but there’s things in his game that he’s improved on.
“And not every player’s perfect, but what he does well no one on the planet can do, and that’s where–as a coach–you have to praise him for what makes him exceptional, and then we work on the other stuff.”
That’s incredibly high praise for Ovechkin by a coach that finally seems to understand him the best.
As for the man of the night, he seemed humbled by the experience.
When asked what it means to continue to hit milestones Ovechkin said, “It means I’m getting older.”
“I remember my first year, my first game, it was like five minutes ago. Time move forward and time moves quick, so you just have to enjoy every second, every moment when you have the opportunity to try and do something special.”
Sitting at 999 career points, Ovechkin has another opportunity to make history.
This time it’ll be at home and against the hated rival Pittsburgh Penguins. We’re sure the Penguins would love to delay Ovechkin’s moment and Ovi would equally love to net it against them.