Alex Ovechkin earned his 1,000th point in the most fitting way imaginable for one of hockey's great showmen.
It came on a scintillating toe-drag and shot just 35 seconds into Wednesday's game. At home in front of his mom, dad, brother, wife and adoring fans. On national television. With the hated Penguins in town.
And, of course, with a little help from Nicklas Backstrom.
“I don’t know how many times he has assist me on my goals,” Ovechkin said of his longtime setup man. “He’s the guy who I enjoy playing with and we understand each other well. Good chemistry together since Day One.”
That chemistry was once again on display as Backstrom set up both of Ovechkin’s goals in a commanding 5-2 Caps' victory. Dating to Backstrom’s rookie season, the soft-spoken Swede has assisted on 204 of 448 goals, or almost 46 percent of Ovechkin’s goals.
“You can attach Backy’s name to so many of Ovi’s goals,” Coach Barry Trotz said, “that it was only fitting that his name would be there.”
And it was—with a quickness.
Ovechkin ended any suspense before everyone had settled into their seats with a goal that will no doubt end up on his all-time highlight reel. After catching Backstrom’s pass, the Caps’ captain darted into the zone, made a strong move to the inside, toe-dragged the Penguins’ best defenseman, Kris Letang, and then ripped a shot past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
“Yeah, I kind of think about it before the game, everybody’s here and it will be nice to get 1,000th point at home,” Ovechkin said. “Pretty excited, pretty happy. It’s a big moment for organization, for myself and for my teammates.”
Ovechkin downplayed the significance of hitting a thousand on a goal rather an assist.
“To be honest with you, I don’t care,” he said. “Point is a point and obviously goal is a goal. I’ll take it and move forward.”
Added Backstrom: “Every night he plays hard, so nothing new. He wants to score goals, and he wants to help the team as much as he can. It wasn’t really any surprises there, but the only thing that was a little surprising was maybe 35 seconds. That’s all it took. But that’s typical for a guy like him, though.”
Trotz said the look on Ovechkin’s face as he raced past the bench on that first shift let him know something special was about to happen.
“That was a great start for him and for us,” Trotz said. “He sort of had that look in his eye once he touched the puck that something good was going to happen.”
“Real happy for him,” Trotz continued. “I know the guys are thrilled for him. Obviously, a little history. I said to him in Montreal, I said that, 'It was really, really sort of cool that you got the Maurice Richard, tied the record in Montreal, but I think it's only fitting that you get the 1,000th point here for our fans.' So, he did it, and it didn't take much time.”
It was also appropriate that Ovechkin achieved the milestone as the Capitals’ collective game—as well as his own—are on the ascent.
Washington has won a season-high seven games in a row and eight of their last 10 (8-1-1). Ovechkin, meanwhile, netted goals No. 20 and 21 and is now tied for third with Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews. Going back 15 games, the 31-year-old sniper has nine goals and seven assists in that span.
Even on a night that was all about him, Ovechkin preferred to talk about the roll his team finds itself on.
“I think you can see how we play 5-on-5, obviously penalty kill do an unbelievable job and [Braden Holtby is] unstoppable right now,” he said. “He reminds me how he played last year.”
As for the winning streak, Ovechkin acknowledged that it’s nice. But he quickly pointed out this season is all about timing.
“We’re winning,” he said, “but I hope the best hockey’s going to be a little bit later.”
MORE CAPITALS: Putting Ovechkin's 1,000th point in perspective