Alex Ovechkin’s goal in the second period against the Detroit Red Wings Thursday proved inconsequential in a 3-1 defeat for the Washington Capitals. As Ovechkin’s 786th career score, however, it will forever be best known as the score that made history.

In his 18th season as a member of the Capitals, Ovechkin has now tied longtime Red Wing Gordie Howe for most goals scored with a single NHL team. Between 1946 and 1971, Howe scored 786 times in 25 seasons with Detroit.

Taken first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Ovechkin signed with the Capitals in 2005 and made an immediate impact, scoring 98 goals in his first two seasons for struggling Washington teams. The team has only missed the playoffs once since, earning 14 postseason berths since 2007.

The culmination of the 2017-18 season, a historic Stanley Cup victory for Ovechkin and the Capitals, meant much more than a single successful season. After more than a decade, the star finally managed to lead a team to the championship, and his viral celebration tour for weeks afterwards felt like it was years overdue.

Ovechkin’s 786 goals are not only the most a player has earned on a single team, but the third most in NHL history, behind Wayne Gretzky with 894 and Howe, who scored 15 additional goals for the Hartford Whalers in the 1979-80 season to earn 801 total.

If Ovechkin, who scored 50 goals in the 2021-22 season, stays on the ice for as long as Gretzky or Howe did, he has a very real chance to break the career record, a fitting honor for the player many already consider to be the greatest scorer in NHL history.

The Capitals currently hold a 5-5-2 record, a start that leaves them behind most of their division rivals without knocking them out of contention entirely early in the season. If Ovechkin can continue to produce at age 37 as he has in recent years, the team has as much of a chance as they’ve had for nearly two decades with “the Great Eight” at the helm.

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