A video tribute early Saturday night made light of a milestone, even if it was a relatively minor one. The Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich were both playing their 500th career NHL games.
For Ovechkin, the first 500 should be just the start of a Hall of Fame career. For Laich, this was a mile marker in a career that has blossomed since a 2004 trade from the Ottawa Senators. It was only fitting that Laich scored the game-winning goal against his former team to full celebrate.
“It’s special,” coach Dale Hunter said. “Five hundred games is a lot of games. It’s special for him.”
Laich and Jason Chimera executed a perfect give-and-go on the play, which led to an abrupt end to overtime just 12 seconds in.
“I moved it to Jason because I knew we had speed on the outside, and I think we got lucky when their D-man caught an edge and fell,” Laich said. “Jason made a good play.”
Laich was right – Erik Karlsson blew a tire off the faceoff, opening up plenty of free ice. But he and Chimera still had to take advantage.
In the locker room afterward, players talked about being rewarded for hard work. Laich’s goal seemed like just that. The 28-year-old has fit seamlessly into Hunter’s system, but this was tangible evidence of his value.
“He’s a warrior. He plays a lot of minutes for me, and cares about winning and losing,” Hunter said. “You can see how much I play him, so just that answers your question that he’s valuable to this team.”