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Biggest Caps stories of 2020: Ovechkin makes history with goal No. 700

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Every time Alex Ovechkin touched the puck, everyone watching caught their breath in anticipation. It wasn't just the crowd at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, it was all the fans watching from home. Most were Capitals fans, but there were also some viewers waiting to see if they could watch history. Ovechkin had scored goal No. 699 on Feb. 20 at home against the Montreal Canadiens, snapping a five-game drought. Everyone knew that 700 would not be far behind.

"When you score 698, 699, you think, OK, next game I will score and you want to do it as quick as possible," Ovechkin said.

Evgeny Kuznetsov handed the puck off to Ovechkin in the high slot and Ovechkin fluttered a puck through in front of the net. It was a pass, but you never know how a puck may deflect that close in on net. Tom Wilson nearly buried it, but goalie MacKenzie Blackwood robbed him. Wilson corraled the puck behind the net and passed it off to Nick Jensen. Jensen passed it back behind the net to Kuznetsov who set Ovechkin up for the one-timer. With the flurry of traffic in front of the net, the Devils had lost track of the greatest goal-scorer of his generation, leaving him open for the one-timer.

Bang. Goal No. 700.

Twelve people have walked on the moon. Only eight players in the history of the NHL have reached 700 goals. Ovechkin became the eighth on Feb. 22.

"To be in that moment, to be in that category of a group of guys who score that many goals, it's special," Ovechkin said.

 

There have been many times throughout his career in which people have thought Ovechkin was done being one of the top scorers in the league and not just recently. In 2010-11 he scored just 32 goals followed by 38 goals the next season in 2011-12. That led some to wonder if that's just what Ovechkin would be from then on, scoring somewhere in the 30s every year.

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Following the 2011-12 year, Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard for the league's leading goal-scorer four straight years. He won the trophy for the ninth time in his career in 2019-20 with 48 goals in a shortened season. All at the age of 34.

It did not take long for the conversation to turn from 700 to 894, Wayne Gretzky's record, and whether or not Ovechkin could catch the Great One. That conversation will last the rest of Ovechkin's career, but we should not just dismiss 700 goals as a stepping stone towards the chase for Gretzky. It is an incredible accomplishment in its own right.

The players Ovechkin passed on the goal list in 2019-20 were Luc Robitaille, Teemu Selanne, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier. These are some of the all-time greats of the game and none of them reached 700 goals. What's more impressive is the era in which Ovechkin was able to accomplish it when goaltenders are arguably better than they have ever been in the history of the game.

"When you was a little kid, you collecting the cards, you watch the highlights and then your dream was like, OK come to NHL, step on the ice with all those legends," Ovechkin said. "And then after all those years, you pass them in the record book. That's pretty special."

Reaching 700 goals has already cemented Ovechkin as one of the best to ever play the game. It is something that has only happened eight times ever and it happened in 2020. We may never see that accomplishment again in our lifetimes.

More Capitals biggest storylines of 2020:

Nicklas Backstrom re-signs to be a Capital for life

COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the NHL season

Braden Holtby plays his last season with the Capitals Capitals blown apart by Barry Trotz, Islanders