Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin passed hockey legend Jaromir Jagr for third all time on the NHL goal-scoring list, scoring career goal No. 767 at home against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
With 4:58 left in the third period, Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov won a faceoff in the Islanders’ zone back to Ovechkin at the top of the right circle. He snapped the puck over the glove of Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov — his former Washington teammate — for his 37th goal of the season.
He raised his stick and twirled back into the neutral zone. The Capitals’ bench emptied as Ovechkin’s teammates surrounded their captain in a huddle, jumping up and down to celebrate the feat. Ovechkin tapped his heart and saluted the fans who stood to cheer him.
“This means a lot. For this organization, for the fans, for my family watching right now in Russia. I’m very excited. Very happy. It’s nice to be No. 1 all time for [players] from Europe. It’s very special,” Ovechkin said on NBC Washington after the Capitals’ 4-3 shootout win. “It’s a proud moment for all of us. Great for hockey.”
This was Ovechkin’s 1,256th career game.
“What he’s done is phenomenal for his career. It’s fun to watch,” said teammate Dmitry Orlov, who posted his 18th assist in the win. “He’s still showing what he can do, he’s our captain, and hopefully, he can keep it going because he means a lot to this team … and everyone follows him.”
Ovechkin, 36, now trails Wayne Gretzky’s all-time NHL goals record (894 in 1,487 games) by 127 goals. Next up for Ovechkin: Gordie Howe’s 801 career goals, which he amassed in 1,767 career games.
Jagr scored 766 goals in 1,733 games in 24 NHL seasons from 1990 to 2018. He missed three seasons (2008-09 through 2010-11) while playing in the Kontinental Hockey League. He last played in the NHL during the 2017-18 season with the Calgary Flames.
Jagr, 50, has continued his hockey career with Kladno of the Czech Extraliga, a team that he also owns. And he was quick to congratulate Ovechkin with a social media post from the NHL on Tuesday, but also kept his message open-ended.
“Keep scoring,” Jagr said in the video. “Keep scoring, because as you know, I didn’t retire from hockey yet, and there’s a chance I might come back to the NHL, and start chasing you!”
Ovechkin tied Jagr on the all-time list with two goals against the Flames on March 8. He passed Jagr against coach Barry Trotz, who led the Capitals and Ovechkin to the 2018 Stanley Cup championship.
“Every time we seem to come and play the Caps, Ovi’s up for another milestone, which is fantastic. And I do wish him all the best, but just not tonight,” Trotz, who believes Ovechkin will eventually break Gretzky’s record, said before Tuesday night’s game.
“When you doubt Ovi, he digs in,” Trotz said. “As we say, at 36, he’s getting older. You would think some place along the line he’ll break. But as he would say, the ‘Russian Machine’ never breaks.”