Blackhawks dominated by Alex Ovechkin on historic night: ‘It didn’t feel great’
Ovechkin scored his 798th, 799th and 800th career goals Tuesday in the Capitals’ 7-3 blowout of the Hawks, becoming the third player in NHL history to reach the milestone. He received lots of love from the United Center crowd for doing so.
Alex Ovechkin was celebrated like an honorary Blackhawk in the United Center on Tuesday.
After the Capitals superstar scored his third goal of the night to reach 800 for his career — becoming just the third player all-time to reach that milestone, pulling within one of Gordie Howe for second-most ever — Hawks hats showered the ice. The crowd of 16,181 chanted, “Ovi, Ovi, Ovi.” PA announcer Gene Honda made an announcement with enough fervor to make any uninformed observer probably assume the Hawks had scored.
On the Hawks’ bench, Jonathan Toews didn’t love watching it.
“It’s a pretty incredible milestone — one of a kind,” Toews said later. “In some sense, when we’re out of this moment, it’s one of those things you’ll look back on. He’s one of the great players of all time, so all due to respect to him, and [for] scoring three goals to do it.
“Getting himself an ovation and the ‘Ovi’ chant in our building tonight and all that aside from the milestone, it didn’t feel great on our side. But lots of respect for him.”
Ovechkin’s hat trick also lifted the Capitals to an easy 7-3 blowout win, dealing the Hawks their 18th loss in their last 21 games, which likely contributed to Toews’ bitterness.
ESPN had picked up the game a few weeks ago — flexing out Flyers-Avalanche, its originally scheduled broadcast — once it became clear how quickly Ovechkin was trending to the milestone.
His goal-scoring has been otherworldly throughout his career, but it has only picked up steam lately. He has scored 49, 51, 48 and 50 goals each of his last four full seasons, and he’s now on pace for 53 this season — at 37 years old. At this rate, he could tie Wayne Gretzky for the all-time record in less than two more years.
But the Russian winger has long been famed for his eccentricity almost as much as for his talent, and that was on equal display during this once-a-year Chicago visit. He watched Hawks morning skate from the Capitals bench while wearing a jacket that haphazardly read, “Well I’m not Michael Jordan.”
The Hawks’ loose, sloppy, mistake-prone defensive coverage did not make life difficult for him. His first goal involved impressively knocking the puck out of midair, but the other two were easy tap-ins along the goal line.
He will seek one more goal to tie Howe on Thursday, when the Capitals host the Stars.
Johnson healthy at last
Nearly a month after he initially thought he would return, Blackhawks forward Tyler Johnson finally slotted back into the Hawks’ lineup Tuesday.
His ankle having held up through contact at practice the past few days — the hurdle which attempting to cross in November led to his setback — Johnson skated on the third-line wing and scored in the first period.
Johnson missed 20 games this time, meaning he has now played in only 33 of a possible 109 games since joining the Hawks in summer 2021. Between his collapsed disc, concussion and ankle injury, he hasn’t been able to catch a break, health-wise.
“Ankles are tough, especially in hockey,” he said Monday. “If I was playing basketball, football or any other sport [that didn’t involve] putting your ankle in a boot, I would have been back a long time ago.
“Guys that have it playing hockey, they always say it’s one of the worst injuries to have. I never really understood that until I had it, and it’s really annoying. Some days you just don’t really know. So it just lingers a little bit.”