With goal No. 767 comes both pride and relief for Ovechkin originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Alex Ovechkin has reached a lot of milestones over the course of his career, but some matter more to him than others. On Tuesday when he scored goal No. 767 to move into third on the NHL’s all-time goal list and become the all-time leading European scorer, it was clear that this milestone meant just a little bit more to the Great 8.
“This means a lot,” Ovechkin told NBC Sports Washington’s Al Koken in a postgame interview. “Obviously, for this organization, for the fans, for my family who watched it right now in Russia. I’m very excited, very happy and it’s nice to be No. 1 all-time who play from Europe. … It’s very special.”
“I’m happy being the first European player all of time on goals, Russian-born player,” Ovechkin continued during the postgame press conference. “It’s pretty cool. Pass all those names, legends — it’s history. It’s gonna be forever. Hope somebody gonna break my record and we will see.”
But with the sense of pride Ovechkin feels over goal No. 767 also came a sense of relief. Even for arguably the greatest goal-scorer of all time, sometimes those milestones can be hard to finally reach.
“He probably get more worried about sometimes [if the goal] happen,” teammate and countryman Dmitry Orlov said. “I think once it was same thing, he should beat Sergei Fedorov.”
Orlov added, “You can see he was frustrating [then] and same type of thing here.”
On Nov. 8, 2015, Ovechkin scored career goal No. 483 against the Toronto Maple Leafs to tie Sergei Fedorov for the most goals among a Russian-born player. He scored a second goal that game to break the record, but it was called back on a review for goalie interference. That goal weighed on Ovechkin as he would go on to have a four-game goal drought. It took him five more games to finally push through and pass Fedorov, scoring No. 484 on Nov. 19 against the Dallas Stars.
Fast-forward to 2022. Ovechkin tied Jagr on March 8 against the Calgary Flames with his second goal of the night. He then missed another empty-net opportunity just minutes later. The following night, he missed a wide-open net against the Edmonton Oilers.
Against the Vancouver Canucks, an Ovechkin shot squeaked past goalie Thatcher Demko and trickled onto the goal line, but Kuznetsov swept it into the net, thus claiming the goal that would have been Ovechkin’s.
Entering Tuesday’s game, it certainly appeared as if No. 767 was weighing heavy in Ovechkin’s mind. He is never shy about shooting, but he seemed to be releasing the puck too early on opportunities from too far out. His shots were easily turned aside without doing much to threaten New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov. Ovechkin reacted to almost every shot with a frustrated look to the ceiling, wondering when the goal would finally come.
It did in the third period. Kuznetsov won an offensive-zone draw back to Ovechkin who went backhand, forehand, and snapped the puck past Varlamov.
“I just close my eyes and shoot,” Ovechkin said. “I have pretty good chances previous games. Finally, Kuzy win a good faceoff right on my stick.”
Ovechkin took a few steps back in celebration, appearing almost to do a jig in celebration. He was mobbed by his teammates who cleared the bench to celebrate.
It was a moment of excitement, of joy and also of relief.
Ovechkin joked afterward that the pressure he felt was all from Kuznetsov.
“I have pressure from Kuzy: empty nets, breakaways,” Ovechkin said. “It’s hard to play with that kind of center when you have pressure all the time. He wants to be in history, and right now, he is. He’s relieved, too, right?”
As much as he joked, however, there was no hiding how much No. 767 meant to him and how relieved he was to get there.
“It’s proud moment for all of us,” Ovechkin said. “It’s great for hockey, and it’s great for fans. I’m happy to be in this company, I’m happy to be in this organization, I’m happy to be in this league. All we do is just have fun and try to win a game and enjoy.”