Rarely is Alex Ovechkin not the headline for the Capitals, but the best moment from the first half of the 2021-22 season does not belong to the Great 8. Rather, it belongs to a player who is 17 years younger.
The lasting image of the season so far will be the moment of pure joy on the look of Hendrix Lapierre's face after scoring his first career NHL goal and getting hauled up off the ice by teammate T.J. Oshie to celebrate.
Lapierre was not supposed to see the NHL this year. At 19 years old, he was expected to play one, maybe two preseason games and then pack his bags for his junior team in the QMJHL. While that is where he ultimately ended up, he did so after playing in six NHL games and scoring one very memorable goal.
An impressive preseason for Lapierre and a lingering hip injury to Nicklas Backstrom opened the door for Lapierre and fellow prospect Connor McMichael to stay in Washington for the start of the season. Lapierre was then given the chance to start opening night against the New York Rangers.
In the second period, Lapierre blew by Artemi Panarin to join Oshie on the rush. Oshie found him with the backhand and Lapierre beat goalie Alexandar Georgiev for his first NHL goal. So excited was Lapierre that he slipped after the shot and slid into the boards. Oshie skated over and hauled him up off the ice to help the rookie celebrate the unforgettable moment.
In a game that was the most anticipated game coming into the NHL season after the Panarin - Tom Wilson incident, a game in which Ovechkin scored twice to tie and pass Marcel Dionne for fifth on the all-time goals list, the most memorable moment from that game, and for the season, is that one goal from a 19-year-old rookie.
There have been cool moments over the course of the season, but when you can overshadow Ovechkin and his march towards history, that's when you know you've done something special.