Alex Ovechkin scored two goals Tuesday night, including the 100th game-winning goal of his NHL career. He reached 100 game-winners faster than any other player in league history and joined Gordie Howe in some exclusive company.
Given the standard Alex Ovechkin has set for himself, he was quiet through the first 52 minutes of the Washington Capitals’ contest against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night. To steal a line from any B horror movie, though, he was almost too quiet. Thus, it should have come as no surprise that it was Ovechkin, deking in on Cam Ward, who tied up the contest with his 25th goal of the season with little more than seven minutes remaining in the third period. Likewise, few were shocked when Ovechkin faked a slapshot, dipped to his right and ripped home a laser to win the game less than two minutes into overtime.
The pair of goals brought Ovechkin to 26 on the season, a mere seven shy of what he produced all of last year, and put him on pace for a return to his normal 50-goal form. In fact, with the twin tallies Ovechkin is on track to score 50-plus goals for the eighth time in his career. And the two markers also helped Ovechkin, who has battled with Nikita Kucherov and Anders Lee for the lead in the Rocket Richard Trophy race, reclaim top spot on the season’s goal-scoring register. All of those feats, however, pale in comparison to what the second tally marked.
With his second goal of the night, the overtime winner, Ovechkin became the ninth player in NHL history — and the fastest the league has ever seen — to reach 100 game-winning goals. More impressively, though, Ovechkin became the second player to do so while playing for just one franchise, joining the incomparable Gordie Howe as the only other player to achieve such a milestone.
It’s no wonder Ovechkin has been so quick to the mark, mind you. After all, since the NHL began keeping track of the statistic, no other player has hit double-digits in game-winning goals more often than Ovechkin. Guy Lafleur and Jeremy Roenick both have four 10-plus game-winner seasons to their name, while the class of three-time 10-plus game-winning goal scorers includes Mike Bossy, Phil Esposito, Sergei Fedorov and Brett Hull. But no player, not even Howe or Wayne Gretzky, can match Ovechkin’s five seasons with 10 or more game-winners. And Ovechkin is on target for another year with at least 10 game-winning tallies having scored five through 41 games this season. Go figure.
If he manages to reach double digits again — even if with just another five game-winners — Ovechkin will propel further up the list of all-time game-winning goal-scorers, too. Already in ninth all-time, another five GWGs would push Ovechkin past Jarome Iginla and Patrick Marleau into seventh on the all-time list. And with several seasons remaining in his career and potential to finish with 105 game-winners by season’s end, Ovechkin seems to be eying up the all-time mark held by Jaromir Jagr, who presently sits at 135 game-winning goals in the twilight of his career.
The century mark for game-winning goals that Ovechkin hit Tuesday isn’t the only milestone he can achieve this season, though. And, really, it might not even be the most impressive. Here are four other major milestones Ovechkin could — and should — reach this season, and when we might be able to expect the marks to fall:
1,000 Games Played
The tamest milestone of them all given the others on this list, but an incredibly important mark, nevertheless. Sitting at 962 games played, Ovechkin needs to suit up in just 38 more contests in order to hit the 1,000-game milestone. We’re assuming for every mark on this list that Ovechkin stays healthy, which would mean that the Capitals captain should play his 1,000th game when Washington plays its 79th contest of the season. Any guesses as to who the Capitals play that night? Of course it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, because why wouldn’t it be.
Few think of Ovechkin as a playmaker or set-up man, but be it by precision passing or pucks to the net, the ‘Great Eight’ has managed to pile up assists over the course of his career. He’s fairly far down the all-time register, but in a few weeks he could become one of only 143 players to ever register 500 assists in the NHL. Following Tuesday’s game, Ovechkin has 494 helpers to his name and is picking up assists at a 0.41 per game pace. Given he needs six more to get the job done, we’re looking at about another 15 games before Ovechkin hits 500 assists for his career. A tentative date for the milestone? Feb. 13, when the Capitals head out of town to face the Winnipeg Jets.
There is no player who began playing in the post-lockout era who has more points than Ovechkin. Not even Sidney Crosby, who trails Ovechkin by 15 points. And in short order, Ovechkin could be set to join the group of 60 other players who have reached the 1,100-point plateau for their career. There are currently three active players — Jagr, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau — who have already hit the milestone, but all three started playing in the 1990s, if that gives you a better idea of the kind of scoring pace Ovechkin has been on over his career. The question isn’t really if Ovechkin hits 1,100 points this season. It’s more about when he manages to do so. At 1,078 points right now, he needs 22 more points to hit 1,100 for his career. A rough projection given his 1.05 points-per-game pace would put Ovechkin in line to score 22 more points in 21 games. So, we might be able to expect his 1,100th point on Feb. 24 when the Capitals host the Buffalo Sabres.
Only 19 players in NHL history have been able to reach the 600-goal plateau, but Ovechkin is on the cusp of becoming the 20th player to do so. Entering the season with 558 goals and coming off of a down year, some would have believed he had only an outside shot of hitting the 600-goal mark this season, but his rapid scoring pace has put him in line to reach 600 with time to spare in the season. He currently sits at 584 goals, meaning he needs 16 more to reach the milestone. And at his current rate of scoring, it would take Ovechkin another 26 games to score 16 times. That would put the date of Ovechkin’s 600th goal at March 8, when the Capitals head into Los Angeles to play the Kings. Does anyone seriously doubt his ability to somehow hit 600 before then, though?
It should also be noted that if Ovechkin hits 600 goals in 25 games, he will have done so having played 987 games. Only Gretzky, Hull and Mario Lemieux reached 600 goals in fewer games.