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The Great 8 Makes it 600

On+Monday%2C+March+12%2C+2018%2C+Ovechkin+sealed+his+legacy+as+a+Capitals+and+hockey+legend%2C+scoring+his+600th+NHL+goal+against+the+Winnipeg+Jets.
On Monday, March 12, 2018, Ovechkin sealed his legacy as a Capitals and hockey legend, scoring his 600th NHL goal against the Winnipeg Jets.

On Monday, March 12, 2018, Ovechkin sealed his legacy as a Capitals and hockey legend, scoring his 600th NHL goal against the Winnipeg Jets.

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

On Monday, March 12, 2018, Ovechkin sealed his legacy as a Capitals and hockey legend, scoring his 600th NHL goal against the Winnipeg Jets.

Grant Blumberg, Sentry Staff Reporter

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For decades now, Washington, D.C. sports fans have endured the pain of having unsuccessful and underperforming teams. Perhaps the team closest to winning silverware has been the Washington Capitals. In the past ten years, the Capitals have won their division seven times, leading the league in points in three of those seasons. Despite the consistently good regular season, the Capitals are annually eliminated from the playoffs in the first or second rounds, with their last Stanley Cup Appearance being in 1999. However, Russian left winger Alexander Ovechkin, the talisman of the Capitals’ attack since joining in 2005, has stuck with the team through thick and thin. On Monday, March 12, 2018, Ovechkin sealed his legacy as a Capitals and hockey legend, scoring his 600th NHL goal against the Winnipeg Jets.

Early in the first period, Ovechkin scored number 599 on the power play, paving the way for number 600 to restore the Capitals’ lead early in the second. The Capitals went on to win the game 3-2 courtesy of an Evgeny Kuznetsov overtime goal.

Ovechkin became the 20th player to achieve the feat, doing so in 990 games, making him just the fourth player in NHL history to score 600 goals in less than 1,000 games; only hockey Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull achieved this faster.

Now 32, the Russian has not allowed his age to hinder his prolific goal-scoring ability. His goals on Monday night were his 41st and 42nd of the season, and with ten games left in the regular season, Ovechkin is once again within touching distance of the 50 goal mark. He has reached that landmark seven times before, with his best return being 65 goals in the 2007-08 season. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis spoke to the press after the game, claiming that “we should never take Alex for granted. It’s really remarkable what he’s accomplished.”

Drafted first overall in the 2004 NHL draft, he began his professional career at the age of 16, playing for Dynamo Moscow in the Russian Super League (RSL). He enjoyed a fruitful first two seasons in his native country, and was so highly rated that the Florida Panthers attempted to draft him in 2003, claiming that he was eligible to play if leap-years were taken into consideration. Their plea was politely dismissed by the NHL. Ovechkin remained in Moscow for one more season following the 2004-05 NHL lockout, recording 27 points in 34 games as his team marched to the RSL title.

Despite his undeniable talent, Ovechkin has been no stranger to controversy throughout his career. He first came under fire in 2009 after being criticised by Canadian hockey analyst Don Cherry for his excessive goal celebrations. Only a couple weeks later, Ovechkin fired back with an even more exaggerated celebration, putting his stick on the ice and pretending to warm his hands with it. The Capitals star has declared himself as “apolitical,” yet has made no secret of his support for Russian president Vladimir Putin, launching a movement called PutinTeam in Nov of 2017.

On Friday, March 16, in celebration of Ovechkin’s achievement, the Capitals put together a tribute program and video before their match against the New York Islanders. The Capitals tracked down other members of the 600 goal club, such as Steve Yzerman (692), and Luc Robitaille (668), who passed on their congratulations to Ovechkin as did the other Capitals players and management. After the video, Ovechkin was gifted a painting by Tony Harris, depicting three of his goal celebrations, including one from his first NHL goal.

Since his Capitals debut in 2005, no player has scored more NHL goals than Ovechkin. His rise has coincided with the Capitals’ ascension to one of the most prominent teams in the NHL, and his numbers alone justify his legacy as a legend of the game. Despite his individual success, however, Ovechkin is still hunting for the trophy that has eluded him his whole career: the Stanley Cup. His career is far from over though; there are still records to be broken and trophies to be won, so here is to hoping that the Capitals legend can get his hands on the one prize that his illustrious career deserves.

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