As you might imagine, the praise for Alex Ovechkin and his ability to score his 500th and 501st NHL goals in his 801st NHL game was pretty effusive Sunday night following the Capitals’ 7-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” Capitals center and longtime linemate Nicklas Backstrom said. “As a player sitting on the bench I got goose bumps. It was a special feeling and I’m sure he’s going to remember this for a while.”
Even before he could finish celebrating, Ovechkin was mobbed by his teammates, who orchestrated a jailbreak from the players’ bench as soon as Ovechkin netted his historic goal.
“It was awesome,” said Zach Sill, who most certainly will tell his grandchildren he was on the ice for Ovechkin’s 500th. “We knew as a team we were going to jump on the ice and congratulate him. It was pretty special. And the (crowd) afterwards was even more special. The amount of fans and the amount of noise they made, they appreciated that and we appreciated them.”
Backstrom, who picked up an assist on Ovechkin’s 501st career goal in the third period and now has assists on 182 of Ovechkin’s goals, said it was only fitting that a player as emotional as Ovechkin should be given such an excitable celebration.
“It looked like it was 20 other Ovechkins jumping over the bench,” Backstrom said. “He shows a lot of emotions when he scores and it’s good for the game. He’s always done it, too. It’s fun to make an Alex Ovechkin celebration.
“I think it’s such a big milestone. Not a lot of players have done it as fast as him. It came naturally for us to jump in and celebrate with him. It’s a big moment for him and the city of Washington.”
It is that enthusiasm of the game that many of Ovechkin’s teammates noted Sunday night.
“Everyone knows his shot and his love of scoring,” Caps right wing T.J. Oshie said. “But for me you see how much he cares on the bench and on the ice, his emotion.
“Off the ice he loves everyone. He’s always smiling and he’s a great leader. When you have all those things off the ice and you put his talent with it, it makes a great player and definitely a future Hall of Famer.”
Justin Williams has won three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, but he’s never seen a player quite like Ovechkin, whose 500 goals in 801 games marks the fifth fastest in NHL history, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Brett Hull.
“It’s a celebration of a great career that’s still got a lot of years left,” Williams said. “To do what he’s done in this day and age with this competition it’s amazing and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it this year. I know he wants to write a little more history, but so far it’s been pretty impressive.”
Williams, who earlier this season inadvertently took goals away from Ovechkin by interfering with a goaltender and being offsides, was near the crease when Ovechkin scored his 500th but said he made no attempt to deflect his shot.
“I can’t even see it to tip it, it goes so fast,” Williams quipped.
In fact, Williams was the first to retrieve the puck out of the Ottawa net for safe keeping.
Backstrom said that as happy as he was to see Ovechkin score his milestone goal, he knows Ovechkin is even happier.
“I’m sure he had goose bumps all over his body,” Backstrom said. “Especially in front of his family and friends and all the fans here. It couldn’t have been any better.”
As for Ovechkin, he was asked if this is starting to feel like a special season for the Caps, who own the NHL’s best record after 42 games.
“I don’t want to talk about a special season or not special season,” Ovechkin said. “We just play game by game . We win tonight and tomorrow is a new day. Obviously, we have our goal and we just take it step by step.”
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