After taking a pot shot at the empty net from the Capitals’ zone and missing, Alex Ovechkin made an unselfish play with another better chance in the Winnipeg Jets’ offensive zone. Ovechkin sent a pass to Evgeny Kuznetsov wide open in the high slot — the empty net yawning. Instead of shooting, Kuzy passed back through traffic to Ovechkin at the boards — a higher-risk play.
Ovechkin then fired a no-look shot into the goal and scored one of the most important goals in NHL history. No. 802 to pass Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL’s all-time goals list.
Kuznetsov spoke with the media after the game about his decision to not shoot and alternatively look for Ovi and hockey history.
“I’ll feel probably bad if I score over there and half of the world probably will be so mad at me,” Kuznetsov joked. “I do have a lot of haters anyway. The reputation or whatever, so I rather to lose the puck over there and backcheck if he didn’t score. I’m glad that it happened in front of our fans.”
Ovechkin laughed about Kuznetsov’s decision-making postgame. The media asked him if he was trying not to pass Howe with an empty-net goal.
“You know it’s kind of situation if you have it, you take it,” Ovechkin said. “I give it to Kuzy and he’s like I don’t want to take it. After that, it’s special.”
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said that the team didn’t change anything situationally at the end of the game.
“Alex and I talked about it,” Laviolette said. “We decided we were going to roll the bench the way it was. I didn’t have him out there for the whole four minutes. I had it down to three lines. He was a part of that rotation and it ended up being him, as it has been so many times. There’s something good that he does offensively when the goalie’s out of the net as well. We didn’t change anything and that was a pretty special moment and a pretty special night.”
The milestone marker happening in DC in front of the Caps faithful was something that was really important to Kuznetsov.
“I don’t know, I think it’s nice that it happened in front of the home crowd,” Kuznetsov said. “Maybe it’s empty net but at the same time I’m glad that it happened in our house and our fans deserve to be part of that.”
After the game, Kuznetsov got to take a photo with Ovechkin since he was the assist man on goal no. 802.
8️⃣0️⃣1️⃣ & 8️⃣0️⃣2️⃣ pic.twitter.com/ex8qxADmPq
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 24, 2022
In the past, Kuznetsov has spoken about how that has been a motivator in past Ovechkin milestone markers.
“It’s always impress me how hungry he is to goals,” Kuznetsov said. “He still wants to score. It’s kind of amazing to be a part of that.”
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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