Caps' Alex Ovechkin becomes first Russian-born player with 500 goals

ByScott Burnside ESPN logo
Monday, January 11, 2016

WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals captainAlexander Ovechkinhas become the first Russian-born NHL player to reach the 500-goal plateau.

Playing in his 801st NHL game, Ovechkin ripped a shot over Ottawa Senators netminder Andrew Hammond on a power play with 3:41 left in the second period of Sunday's 7-1 win for the historic mark.

Only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Brett Hull, all Hall of Famers, scored 500 goals more quickly in their careers.

The sellout crowd at the Verizon Center immediately rose to its feet, with many fans throwing hats onto the ice in celebration. The entire Capitals team flooded onto the ice to congratulate the 30-year-old winger, and netminder Philipp Grubauer skated the length of the ice to join the happy melee.

Ovechkin extended his arms and clapped to acknowledge the fans. Then he gave a wave from the bench as play resumed with the Capitals leading 5-1.

"It was a special moment, in front of fans ... my teammates, my parents," Ovechkin said. "It's huge. It's pretty cool. It's a history moment."

"As a player sitting on the bench, I got goosebumps," Nicklas Backstrom said. "It's an amazing feeling. That came up naturally for us to celebrate with him. It's a big moment for him and the city of Washington."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz shared the sentiment.

"I think when one person has success, it reflects on everybody," Trotz said. "It was a moment that was great for the team to share. I think we all shared that moment."

In an interview with earlier this week, the five-time goal-scoring champion and three-time league MVP said he wasn't nervous about becoming the first 500-goal scorer from his country.

"Sooner or later, it's going to happen," Ovechkin said. "I still have lots of time to do it, and of course it's going to be a huge privilege to be put in a category with those names and be the first Russian to reach that kind of milestone."

He insisted his desire to score has never waned.

"No, you just want more and more," Ovechkin said. "You're just hungry to score goals. I'm hungry to score goals. I think if you're hungry to score goals, you're hungry to play hockey. It's motivation. Of course, when you play, it's fun time. You just enjoy the crowd, even if they're booing you or they're cheering for you. It's just a dream come true."

Ovechkin scored goal No. 501 midway through the third period by beating a defender with a sweeping deke at the top of the zone before smacking a shot past Hammond for a 7-1 Capitals advantage. He has 26 goals this season, which leads the league, and five in his past three games.

"It is really hard to score in this league right now, system-wise," Ovechkin said postgame. "Without my teammates' help, without the system, how we play, it is very hard to do."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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