WASHINGTON — Jaromir Jagr offered his congratulations and, perhaps, a tongue-in-cheek warning to Alex Ovechkin after the Washington Capitals forward scored his 767th NHL goal to pass him for third in history on Tuesday.
“Alex, ‘The Great 8,’ congratulations,” Jagr said in a video posted on Twitter. “Now you’ve become the leading NHL goal-scorer among European players. But keep scoring. Keep scoring, because as you know, I didn’t retire from hockey yet and there’s a chance I might come back to the NHL and start chasing you.”
Jagr then pointed to the camera and winked, so maybe he was joking. Or maybe he wasn’t.
Ovechkin scored in the third period against the New York Islanders on Tuesday to give him 37 goals in 59 games this season. The 36-year-old Moscow native has played 1,256 regular-season games during 17 seasons with Washington, which selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft.
Jagr played 1,733 NHL games during 24 seasons with nine teams, including 83 goals in 190 games for the Capitals (2001-04). He hasn’t played in the NHL since 2017 with the Calgary Flames, but the 50-year-old continues to play for Kladno, his hometown team in the Czech Extraliga that he owns, and has scored 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists ) in 43 games this season.
Jagr left the NHL to play in the Kontinental Hockey League for three seasons (Omsk, 2008-11).
“It’s special,” Ovechkin said. “If he didn’t go back to the KHL, I think he would be 2 or maybe No. 1, but it is what it is. Now I’m happy, and being [the] No. 1 European player, Russian player, it’s pretty cool.”
Ovechkin scored with 4:58 left in the period. Evgeny Kuznetsov won a face-off in the right circle, and Ovechkin shot over the left shoulder of goalie Semyon Varlamov. It gave Washington a 3-2 lead in game it won 4-3 in a shootout.
Ovechkin trails Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne Gretzky (894) for the most goals in NHL history. Jagr said he believes it’s inevitable that Ovechkin will overtake Gretzky as the NHL record holder.
“I said that before,” Jagr said. “He’s got a five-year contract that he signed (before this season). I think he’s going to do it before that.”