Marian Hossa doesn’t spend much time ruminating on his place in hockey history. While it’s become something of a preferred parlor game for puck pundits to debate Hossa’s worthiness for the Hall of Fame, Hossa —18 years into his remarkable career —still seems almost nonplussed by how far he’s come.
His 1,000th game didn’t change that. Neither did his 1,000th point. So his 500th career goal during Tuesday night’s 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers is unlikely to, either.
“I never thought I could be one day close to this number,” Hossa said last week. “That is something maybe over time I’m going to appreciate even more. But right now, try to focus on the next game and when the things happen, I’ll be more than happy.”
Hossa was plenty happy on Tuesday night, unleashing a primal scream and shouting, “Yeah, baby!” after his backhander made him the 44th player in NHL history to reach the 500-goal plateau. The tally — a typical Hossa power move to the net, complete with the big Slovak shrugging off of Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald — put the Hawks up 4-0 and chased Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth in the second period. Hossa got a prolonged standing ovation and took a curtain call at center ice.
“To tell you the truth, it just felt great,” Hossa said. “Great reception from the fans. I’m just glad to be part of the company and thank all my teammates who I’ve played with.”
Said Artem Anisimov, who set up the goal and had two goals and two assists on the night: “It was so exciting. I’m just so happy for him. He scored 500 goals. It’s a huge milestone for him and when I saw the puck cross the line, I was so happy from inside, and I just screamed like a kid, you know?”
Happiness was fleeting on Tuesday night, though. The Hawks squandered that four-goal lead in a stunning 5-minute, 26-second span, giving up a power-play goal late in the second period, then three goals in a dreadful first 3:49 of the third. They’ve now allowed nine power-play goals in four games, by far the league-worst. Making matters worse, Hossa was hurt blocking a shot on the sequence that led to Wayne Simmonds’ equalizer, and didn’t return to the game. He said after the game that he was OK, though, and hopes to play Friday in Columbus. Joel Quenneville said he’ll wait and see.
But the Hawks still salvaged the 7-4 victory, as Anisimov scored off an Artemi Panarin feed midway through the third period. Panarin (two goals, one assist) added an insurance goal, and Kane had one goal and three assists as the vaunted second line broke out in a big way after a quiet first three games.
“Sometimes, it happens in a game,” Anisimov said. “The games go both ways. But it’s a good thing, we found a way to score after, and get it done and get the two points for us. It’s most important thing.”
While Hossa’s humble nature might not change, the Hawks can only hope the milestone goal is a sign that his luck is changing. Hossa had been sitting on 499 goals for nearly seven months, his last regular-season goal coming on March 29.
Hossa was expected to reach 500 last season, but injuries and a significant drop in his shooting percentage left with him a career-low 13 goals for the season, and one shy of the milestone. Earlier in the day, Joel Quenneville suggested the dam might burst once Hossa finally got No. 500 out of the way.
“It’ll help,” Quenneville said Tuesday morning. “When you have a major milestone, you’d rather get it over with and move forward. It’ll help your overall game.”
Despite the mid-game collapse, the game had its bright spots. Kane scored his first goal of the season just 56 seconds in, after a slick pass from Brent Seabrook and a patient, savvy shot by Anisimov. Dennis Rasmussen made it 2-0 after Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov fell while backpedaling. And Panarin got his first goal of the season with a power-play goal, one-timing another nice pass from Seabrook.
Anisimov then added the go-ahead tally after the meltdown, and had an empty-netter, to boot —a welcome sign that things are getting better for the Russian center. In the first three games of Anisimov’s five-year, $22.75 million contract, he had as many penalties (four) as he did shots on goal. His line — probably the best line in hockey last season — had come up empty, too. Anisimov was losing faceoffs, losing control of his stick, and losing his patience with himself.
And while three games is hardly a significant sample size, Anisimov said before Tuesday’s game that he was determined to stop things from rolling even further downhill.
“You need to stop that snowball —just break it, smash it into pieces,” he said, laughing as he mimed swinging a hammer over and over.
Consider it smashed.