Maybe it was the pent-up frustration of having two record-breaking goals taken away from him from coach’s challenges.
Or maybe it was the realization that he had reached the summit as the greatest Russian-born goal scorer in NHL history.
Whatever the reason, Alex Ovechkin let out a roar so loud after scoring the 484th goal of his NHL career that folks in his native Moscow could have heard him, if not for the deafening cheers from the crowd inside Verizon Center.
“Obviously, it was loud,” Ovechkin said following the Capitals’ bittersweet 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars Thursday night. “They cheer for me since Day One. It was a great moment.”
Ovechkin’s shining moment came 7:01 into the third period when he hammered home a backhand pass from Nicklas Backstrom past Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, tying the score at 2-2 and in the process eclipsing the mark set by Sergei Fedorov back in 2008 – on an assist by Backstrom.
“It’s been great,” said Backstrom, who has assisted on 175 of Ovechkin’s 386 goals since they became teammates in 2007-08. “He’s had such a big impact on the whole city of Washington and the team since he’s been here. It’s just amazing how he’s taken the whole team on his shoulders.”
Ovechkin tied Fedorov’s mark on Nov. 7 but went the next four games without a goal, although one was overturned on a goalie interference on teammate Justin Williams and another on an offsides by Williams, who was not on the ice for Thursday night’s historic goal.
“Sooner or later I knew it was gonna come,” Ovechkin said. “Of course you get frustrated when you have chances. In the second I hit the post and Osh (T.J. Oshie) gave me a good chance (that sailed wide). But I think it was a good goal for us. It got us back in the game but I think we deserved today at least a point.”
While the crowd gave Ovechkin a standing ovation, his father, Mikhail, pulled out his cell phone for a video, while his mother Tatyana, smiled in approval. His brother and fiancé were also in the crowd and Fedorov congratulated him in a pre-taped video played on the scoreboard.
“It was a special moment for me,” he said. “Without my teammates I would never accomplish that. It was a good moment but unfortunate we lost the game.”
Like almost everyone else in the building, Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he got caught up in the moment.
“Everybody was excited. You saw me jump about four feet,” Trotz said. “Actually, it was about four inches. It was pretty exciting for everybody because we knew it was part of history. You could tell he was gripping it pretty good (before the goal).
“I thought Ovi played his best game probably in the last five. I sort of call it beast mode where he’s playing hard and he’s just an absolute beast to handle. He was going to score today. You know. It was only fitting it was an assist from Backy.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who has spent the past 10 seasons game-planning against Ovechkin, also had high praise for Russia’s goal king, who finished with 11 shot attempts (four on goal, four blocked, three misses) and five hits.
“We sent our most physical forward after him and he mowed him over tonight,” Ruff said. “I have a lot of admiration for the way he plays. He plays the game hard.
“I snuck a look at a few of his goals (on the overhead scoreboard) and there’s probably only one guy who can score the goals he scores. He’s got probably the best shot from that offside. I don’t think anybody has scored as many goals as he has from over there.
“He can be dynamic on the rush, too. He’s the complete package and I’m glad we only play him one more time this year.”
While the night belonged to Ovechkin, Backstrom made it clear there are bigger milestones the Caps are chasing this season.
“It’s been fun so far but we still haven’t accomplished anything yet,”
Backstrom said. “Obviously, individual goals. But we haven’t accomplished the thing we want yet.”
If that happens sometime in late June, Ovechkin’s roar may be heard worldwide.