When Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick in six minutes against the Los Angeles Kings to pull him to within two goals of 700, it felt like the milestone would soon follow.
Instead, Ovechkin finally scored goal No. 699 on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens snapping a five-game goal drought, his longest of the season. During that stretch, it is easy to think that perhaps the pressure was getting to him.
When you look back at the games and all the near misses, however, you begin to realize that Thursday’s goal could very easily have been No. 700 if not for some spectacular saves and bad luck.
Here are all the near misses Ovechkin suffered from 698 to 699 that slowed Ovechkin's quick march through history.
The butt deflection: On Feb. 10, just two games after his hat trick against the Kings, it looked like Ovechkin had scored No. 699 against the New York Islanders. Ovechkin parked himself in front of goalie Thomas Greiss and defenseman Johnny Boychuk tried to muscle him out from in front of the net. John Carlson fired the puck right as Boychuk engaged Ovechkin which hit the mass of bodies in front and deflected past Greiss. Everyone thought the puck had deflected off Ovechkin's butt and was No. 699, at least initially. The Islanders’ game broadcast called it Ovechkin’s goal and It even looked as if Ovechkin may have thought it was his as he gave an emphatic fist bump in the air. The replay, however, showed that the puck never touched him and deflected off of Boychuk.
The moments between when the goal was scored and when it was announced as Carlson was one full to trepidation. What happened if Ovechkin scored again before the first goal was announced? Would no one know if it was 700? What if he scored 700 and the first one was called back? Luckily none of that happened. The goal belonged to Carlson and Ovechkin remained at 698.
The Boyd-Ovechkin connection: Travis Boyd seems to have some chemistry with Ovechkin. Boyd has 31 career NHL points with eight goals and 23 assists. Two of those eight goals came on assists from Ovechkin and three of Boyd’s assists have been on Ovechkin goals. The two almost connected again in Colorado on Feb. 13. Boyd came hard on a forecheck and collected the puck behind the offensive goal line. He drew two Colorado defenders to him leaving Ovechkin open in front of the net. Normally, an automatic goal for the Great 8, Ovechkin stood poised for the wrist shot, but went forehand to backhand to try to fool Philipp Grubauer. It worked. Grubauer went to the butterfly, but tried a desperate poke check as Ovechkin deked around him and just managed to get a stick to the puck, knocking it over the net.
Raanta robs Ovechkin: By the time Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes rolled around, you could tell Ovechkin was done waiting. With an early power play opportunity, Ovechkin fired a one-timer from the office that Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta was able to stop with the pad. Later on the same power play, Ovechkin crashed the net and battled Raanta for a loose puck that Raanta somehow managed to keep out of the net. Ovechkin finished the night with 16 total shot attempts and eight shots on goal, but no goals as Raanta stood on his head to deny him.
A lucky bounce: Ovechkin fired another four shots on goal Monday against the Vegas Golden Knights, but his best opportunity came off a bizarre bounce that Marc-Andre Fleury lost sight of. Tom Wilson flung the puck toward the net and missed. It bounced off the boards and back out to a waiting Ovechkin. Fleury had come off his post presumably thinking the puck was headed around the other side of the net, but quickly recovered and stuck out his pad just in time as Ovechkin began digging for it. Somehow Ovechkin was not able to push it through Fleury’s big golden pad and his goal drought extended to five games.
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