The Caps may have lost 3-2 to the Dallas Stars, but Thursday night was one of those rare games in professional sports in which the outcome of the game was very much secondary to the accomplishments of one of the players. With his third period goal, Alex Ovechkin finally became the NHL’s leader in career goals by a Russian-born player with 484.
"I knew he was going to score today," Barry Trotz said.
"Sooner or later I knew it was going to go," Ovechkin said. Until it finally did, however, there were times when it felt like fate was working against him.
Ovechkin had come tantalizingly close to the record-breaking achievement over the last four games, but goal No. 484 still eluded him. He actually scored twice since tying Fedorov's mark at 483, but saw both goals waved off after coach's challenges.
For much of Thursday's game, destiny continued to tease the Great 8 and the Caps faithful.
In the first period, Ovechkin came oh so close with when Nicklas Backstrom tried to feed Ovechkin in front only to see the puck bank into the net. Ovechkin was battling with Dallas defenseman Jordie Benn, but replays showed the puck clearly hitting off Benn and not Ovechkin.
The second period provided no relief as Ovechkin once again flirted with the record, but saw a wrist shot that beat Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen hit off the inside of the post and out.
"Of course you get a little frustrated when you have good chances go, especially in the second [period] when I hit the post," Ovechkin said.
On this night, however, Ovechkin would not be denied.
With the Caps trailing 2-1 in the third period, Ovechkin charged the goal as T.J. Oshie collected a deflection in the left corner. Oshie tried to send it cross-ice to John Carlson, but the puck got lost in a cluster of Dallas defensemen blocking the passing lane and bounced to Backstrom to the right of the Lehtonen. Backstrom sent a backhand no-look pass to Ovechkin who was there to send it into the back of the net. Finally.
This time, there was no coach's challenge.
The Verizon Center erupted into hysteria that was barely loud enough to drown out the relieved bellow Ovechkin unleashed as he bear hugged Backstrom.
"It was only fitting," Trotz said, "I though Ovi played his best game probably in the last five. I thought he played, I sort of call it 'beast mode,' where he's playing hard and he's just a beast out there to handle."
The cheers began anew moments later when a video message of Fedorov appeared on the screen congratulating Ovechkin.
"I would like to congratulate Alex on this achievement," said Fedorov via a statement released by the Caps. "What he has accomplished thus far in his career has been nothing short of remarkable. I had a great opportunity to play with Alex in Washington and have seen first-hand the respect, passion and enthusiasm he has not only for the game of hockey but for his country as well."
A mark that took Fedorov 1,248 career NHL games to achieve was surpassed by Ovechkin in only 777.
Unfortunately for the Caps, the euphoria of the moment was short-lived as Jason Spezza struck just over four minutes later to put the Stars up for good. Still, there was no feeling of disappointment after the game.
"I think he wishes too that we won the game," Bakstrom said, "but obviously a huge accomplishment. I'm really happy for him."
Even Trotz, always critical after a loss, would not dampen the mood.
"Everybody was excited," Trotz said. "You'll see me jump about four feet...actually about four inches. It was pretty exciting for everybody because they knew that that was a little bit of history."
With goal No. 484 out of the way, now it's on to 500.
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