It’s 12am, 11/1/2016 and I’m primed and ready to watch my second game of the weekend. Since it’s a home game I’ve been sporting my home jersey, since you know… They haven’t lost when I’ve worn it on the day and hey, it’s a hockey thing, those who know will understand. The puck drops and play begins. Ovechkin makes a shot on goal within the first minute of play and I like everyone else around the world watching are hoping and praying it goes in. For the next goal off the stick of the Washington Capitals Captain will be the milestone goal.
It quickly becomes evident after the first two goals, scored by Justin Williams (13) at 8:07 and followed quickly by T.J. Oshie (15) at 10:58 and numerous shots by the Great Eight, that the Ottawa Senators are out to stop Ovechkin from hitting his milestone. Plays are sloppy and there is a deep emphasis from the Canadian side to block Ovechkin at every opportunity. This left them distracted and missing the chance to stop the missiles from both Williams and Oshie. During this season we’ve seen a change in attitude from our fearless Captain, from a player who just wants to score into a leader out to help his team succeed even if that means he doesn’t score the goals himself. It’s a welcome change and one which seems to be benefitting the team as they start this game on a 31-7-3 record for the first half of the season.
Coming away from the first period, it’s clear that no matter who is on the bench that game, Coach Trotz has worked hard to make sure everyone is on the same page. Lines have been changed and juggled due to the injuries of John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and the recent 2-game suspension of Marcus Johansson. Youngsters, the likes of Aaron Ness, Zack Sill and Paul Carey have been brought up from AHL Hershey Bears to fill in the gaps and fill them they have.
Play begins for period 2 and it’s clear that the Senators were given a good dressing down in the break as they attempt to break even with an unassisted goal from Mike Hoffman (20) at the 3:32 mark. Holtby is on the bench giving Philip Grubauer his 9th game this season between the pipes for the Capitals and so far the back-up goaltender hasn’t given the fans reason to doubt his position. He’s no Holtby, sure but he’s playing superbly well and fans are becoming more confident in his ability to mind our net. Not three minutes later and we see Zack Sill (1) poke one past Andrew Hammond with the assistance of Chimera and Alzner. The crowd erupts for the newcomer to the team and on his first (yes first!!) NHL goal for the Caps, it’s a well deserved roar. I’ve not been sat on my couch much this period and when Dimitry Orlov (4) puts one past the Hamburgler not 2 minutes later, I don’t see much point in sitting down. This team is on fire, the plays are slick and precise with plenty of passing the puck and we’re seeing the team that Washington Capitals fans have been waiting for desperately for. This team could take us along with them all the way to the most coveted and desired prize, Lord Stanley’s Cup and one that has eluded the franchise for their entire history.
And then, after 36 minutes and 19 seconds of play the moment arrives and Alex Ovechkin (25) drives one home on the powerplay and Verizon Center erupts in applause for their captain. The camera pans around the crowd to see Mikhail Ovechkin fist bumping and filming every single second of the play as any proud Papa would and his mother, Tatyana Ovechkina crying with pride for her son. While on the ice, the Capitals crowd their captain in what can only be described as the craziest group hug I’ve ever seen. This is a team that over the last year have become so much closer and it shows in the way they interact on and off the ice. As he returns to the bench he acknowledges the fans and they go crazy again, waving and even blowing kisses. Hats on the ice is a rare thing, but for the Great Eight there are hats everywhere!
With the scoreline at a nice 5-1 to Washington the crowd are on their feet as each play is a back and forth but no further goals are scored on the period. The Senators are beginning to look defeated, lax and sloppy. Even their star forward Bobby Ryan has been quiet in the second period, with very little mention of his name, let alone any shots on the net.
To add more excitement to the game and more insult to injury on the already deflated Ottawa side, 8:28 into play in the third comes a goal from Tom Wilson (3). The atmosphere inside Verizon is one of celebration and nothing will stop the fans from reminding the Capitals just how much they are behind them. A minute and ten later and Ovechkin (26) scores a second goal of the game and the crowd blows the roof off the building and takes the Capital’s lead over the Senators to 7-1. I’m gaping at the TV in shock, well not shock I mean it’s Ovi, but it’s hard to explain the emotions of it. I’m buzzing and I’m not even there in person but watching the fans around the arena, I feel as involved as anyone there. This is why I love this game, I thrive on the moments like these, when we all come together in celebration for such momentous milestones and in case you’d fallen asleep on that night (not happening!) and haven’t been anywhere near social media since, here is the goal #500 for our Great Eight!