WATCH: Capitals star Alex Ovechkin scores 500th NHL goal

Alex Ovechkin’s status among the greatest goal scorers of his or any generation in the NHL was never in question, but now the Great 8 has achieved one of the iconic milestones in the game. The Washington Capitals captain scored his 500th NHL goal Sunday against the Ottawa Senators.

It came like so many others before it. Ovechkin set himself up inside the left faceoff circle on the power play. Long-time teammate Jason Chimera passed the puck through a group of Senators penalty killers and hit the captain on the tape. Ovechkin had plenty of space and let it rip. The puck soared past Sens goalie Andrew Hammond and set off the celebration.

Ovechkin was mobbed by his teammates, all of them including those that were previously on the bench. Even goalie Braden Holtby, who was backing up was on the ice to join in the group hug.

Ovechkin took a curtain call, waving to the home crowd at Verizon Center. 

Ovechkin is the 43rd player overall and one of just six players in the history of the NHL to reach the 500-goal mark before his 31st birthday. As our own Adam Gretz detailed in his column Sunday putting Ovechkin's run in historical context, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Steve Yzerman and Jaromir Jagr were others to reach 500 before their 31st birthday.

The age factor is certainly unique, but so is the rate at which Ovechkin has managed to score. With his 500th goal in his 801st NHL game, Ovechkin has averaged 0.62 goals-per-game. That ties him with countryman Pavel Bure for the third best mark in NHL history among players with 500 or more games (via hockey-reference.com). Only Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy had a higher scoring clip.

Then you consider the fact that Ovechkin is playing in an era so much more difficult to score in, in comparison to that of the prime seasons of Bossy, Lemieux and even Bure and it’s only more impressive. There’s no debate as to Ovechkin being among the greatest goal scorers this league has ever seen and when it’s all over, he could hold that title alone, even in the highly likely event he doesn’t surpass Gretzky’s 894 career goals.

The Capitals also played this video in tribute to their star and captain in the arena after he hit the milestone:

Additionally, Ovechkin’s goal was his 25th of the season. That ties him with Jamie Benn and Patrick Kane for the top spot on the NHL’s goal-scoring leaderboard. He is very much in the mix to win his fourth consecutive Rocket Richard Trophy and sixth overall as the league’s goal scoring champion.

What also makes this individual accomplishment so fitting is that it comes during what has been the best season the Capitals have had since Ovechkin’s arrival, or ever. In fact, the Caps’ run through their first 41 games of the season ranks among the best first halves by any team ever.

The Capitals’ 67 standings points so far this year gives the team the the sixth most in the history of the NHL over a team’s first 41 games (via hockey-reference.com). Two of the teams ahead of them are the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins from 2012-13, the lockout-shortened season that lasted only seven more games. So the Caps have one of the best true first halves in the modern era.

Washington very well could be the Stanley Cup favorite at this point of the season. There’s a long way to go, but it certainly appears to be the year Ovechkin will have his best shot at earning the piece of hardware he covets most after his five Rocket Richards, three Hart Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards and the Calder Trophy.

Alex Ovechkin takes a bow after scoring his 500th NHL goal. (USATSI)
Alex Ovechkin takes a bow after scoring his 500th NHL goal. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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