After a dismal 23-46-10 record in their 2003-04 campaign, (second worst record in the league), the Capitals won the Draft Lottery, allowing them a chance at turning the franchise around. With their first pick in the 2004 draft that summer, the Caps selected Alexander Ovechkin.
The rest as we say, is history. He’s now one of the most exciting athletes this city has ever seen, winning numerous MVP awards (Hart Trophies) and guiding the Capitals to the playoffs in eight of the last nine years.
Believe it or not, despite selecting Ovechkin in 2004, fans had to wait 16 months to finally see him make his Capitals debut, due to an NHL lockout that canceled the entire 2004-05 season. 11 years ago, on October 5, 2005, hockey returned and fans finally got to see their newest star in action when the Capitals hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets.
A lot of Caps fans remember where they were when Alex Ovechkin made his debut. For me, I was in 7th grade and it was just my second season following the team. I was watching the game that night in my living room, instead of studying for my history test (sorry Ms. Salem!).
Back in 2005, “Rock the Red” wasn’t a slogan. In fact, instead of wearing red jerseys at home games like we are now accustomed to, the home threads they wore were black with an entirely different logo. Their arena was the same, well except for the name, as it was called the MCI Center.
The game was scoreless after the first period of play, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any fireworks. Just 38 seconds into the contest, Ovechkin slammed Radoslav Suchy into the boards behind the Columbus goal. Perhaps, Ovi was showing the league that he had arrived with that hit.
In the second, the Blue Jackets got on the board with a goal by Dan Fritsche at 6:53. 28 seconds later, Ovechkin scored his first goal. Dainus Zubrus picked the pockets of Rick Nash, and dished to Jeff Halpern, who passed it back to Zubrus, who finally found Ovechkin right in the middle of the Columbus zone, with no one around him. Ovechkin buried the slapshot in the net for his first NHL goal, the first of over 500 for the “Great 8”.
Ovechkin notched his second of the night to tie it up at 11:51. After a shot by Mathieu Biron went off the pads of Jackets netminder Pascal Leclaire, Halpern got the rebound and fed the puck to Ovechkin to the left of the net and he put it in. The pass from Halpern went through the legs of defenseman Adam Foote.
The Caps took the lead for good on another power play goal, this time by Zubrus with 3:09 left in the second period. The goal was assisted by Halpern, his third of the night.
The Caps hung on and rewarded their fans with a 3-2 win in their first game back since the lockout. For Ovechkin, it was a NHL debut to remember. For the fans, it was the first of many memorable moments from their new star.
By Michael Marzzacco
All of Ovechkin’s shifts from his first game: