Nathan Lawson has a general contracting business near Calgary.
Adam Munro trains youth hockey goalies outside Toronto.
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers sells commercial real estate in Edmonton.
What do these three have in common?
They’re on the list of the 164 NHL goaltenders Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has beaten for a goal. They’re also at the opposite end of the spectrum from star goalies Marc Andre FleuryHenrik Lundqvist and CareyPrice.
In fact, Lawson, Munro and Drouin-Deslauriers each faced Ovechkin just once. They also rank first, second and sixth in fewest career NHL games among netminders who are no longer active on No. 8’s list of victims.
Indeed, their careers were not long. To this day, however, they recall almost every detail of their showdown with Ovechkin.
“People do ask me, ‘Did he ever score on you?’” Munro said. “And I tell them, ‘Yeah, he did.”
“So,” he added with a laugh, “I guess I have some connection to it.”
The “it,” of course, is Ovechkin’s pursuit of the top spot on the NHL’s all-time goals list. The 37-year-old is sitting on 790 goals — 11 behind second-place Gordie Howe and 104 shy of Wayne Gretzky.
Lawson was not drafted into the NHL.
He grinded his way to hockey’s highest level, making stops in the NCAA, ECHL and AHL.
The Calgary native signed with the New York Islanders In 2008 and, after a couple of strong seasons with the minor-league Bridgeport Sound Tigers, finally got his big-league opportunity.
Now 39, Lawson made his debut Dec. 18, 2010, and, a couple of months after thathe found himself in DC, facing a Caps team that had won the Presidents’ Trophy the previous year.
Lawson played well. In fact, it might have been the best performance of his career. hey came this close to a shutout, but Brooks Laich scored on him with 48 seconds remaining in regulation to force the game to overtime.
“I remember it vividly,” Lawson said, speaking to The Athletic by phone from Calgary. “We were winning 1-0 in Washington, and I was pretty excited. I made some good saves against them and I was pretty pumped. But they scored with maybe 45 seconds to go to tie it.”
A few minutes later, Lawson, with all of eight games of NHL experience on his resume, lived every goalie’s nightmare.
He looked up and Ovechkin had a full head of steam, barreling down the ice.
“I was like, ‘Oh boy, here we go,'” Lawson recalled.
“He came in — I thought I had a good read on it — but then he did the complete opposite of what I thought he was going to do, and kind of made me look silly.”
It was career goal no. 294 for Ovechkin.
And it was a beauty.
Ovechkin gathered the puck in Washington’s end, toe-dragged Islanders center Frans Nielsen, looked off Nicklas Backstromwho was marked by New York defenseman Jack Hillen, and beat Lawson with a slick backhander.
“I was playing him to shoot short side on his forehand — most likely five-hole or high glove. He ended up pulling it backhand and kind of made me look silly.”
“Sometimes I’d get really mad after losing. But on something like that it’s, ‘That’s the greatest goal scorer ever. okay fair you beat me Good job.’”
Lawson played 11 NHL games, but just two more after that night in Washington — the first a couple of weeks later for the Islanders and the other in 2014 for the Ottawa Senators.
A decade later, Lawson looks back on his NHL career with pride. After all, it’s incredibly difficult to get there.
“It’s bittersweet because I obviously wanted to play more, but injuries hurt me,” he lamented when asked how he views his NHL career, “and just timing-wise, it didn’t really work out. I didn’t play to the best of my abilities at that time, and then I just kind of got lost in the weeds, I guess.”
Little, however, slips through the cracks of the internet.
“My son found the goal on YouTube. He likes to watch it and laugh,” Lawson cracked, referring to 7-year-old Huxley, who has started playing goalie.
“He asks me why I didn’t save it and says he would have saved it.”
Although Lawson’s career was short, he’s got one heck of a story to tell whenever Ovechkin’s name comes up. And it does quite frequently, he added.
“A lot of times people will ask, ‘Who is the best player that you ever played against?'” he said. “I always tell you, ‘Ovechkin.'”
Munro played 17 NHL games, all for the Chicago Blackhawksthe team that drafted him 29th in 2001. Seven games came at the end of 2003-04, the season prior to the year-long lockout, and the other 10 were in 2005-06, Ovechkin’s rookie year.
Munro’s brush with no. 8 came in the first start of his second NHL stint, on Jan 10, 2006.
The Blackhawks had lost their previous 10 games and turned to Munro, the backup at the time, in an attempt to snap out of their slump.
“It was tense in the dressing room,” Munro, now 40, said of the pregame vibe in the visitors’ room. “We knew they had a superstar, the first overall pick; you’re always kinda aware of guys like that.
“Every time I looked up, it felt like he was coming in with a chance or a shot. I was like, ‘This guy is everywhere.’ It was unbelievable. It looked like he was going a million miles an hour. We had a scouting report on him and knew what to expect. But then you get in the game, and it was a whole different level and you say, ‘OK, now I understand what they’re talking about.’”
Chicago got off to a fast start, opening a 3-0 lead on goals by Matthew Barnaby, Radim Vrbata and Jaroslav Špaček.
“In my mind, I’m like, ‘I’m going to shut out this team and we’re going to go on a 50-game winning streak and this was the beginning of the career that I wanted,” he joked.
“I got way ahead of myself. I was a kid. My mindset should have been to stay in the present.”
Midway through the second period, the Capitals’ Brendan Witt scored a goal Munro described as “soft” to cut the Blackhawks’ lead to 3-1.
A couple of shifts after that, Ovechkin did what Ovechkin does. He lift-checked a Blackhawk in the corner, stepped between a couple of defenders in the circle and fired off a quick shot.
“I’m thinking, this sniper, everybody’s talking about him, he’s going bar-down, top glove, top blocker. I was sitting there waiting for this high shot to come off. He was coming in with pretty good speed out of the corner.
“And he just fired five-hole,” Munro said. “I was just totally off. I misread it. I was like, ‘Oh God! That can’t be the goal that he’s going to get on me. I looked back and it tricked through the legs and he was already halfway to center ice celebrating, hands up in the air waiving to somebody.”
The 26th goal of Ovechkin’s nascent career made it 3-2.
Ovechkin wasn’t done, though. In the third period, he set up Brian Sutherby for the equalizer. Munro said he didn’t like that goal, either.
Like Lawson’s run-in with Ovi, Munro’s first and only meeting with the Russian superstar went to OT.
There was one key difference, though: The Blackhawks won. Kyle Calder beat Olie Kolzig two minutes into extra time, and Chicago’s suffering came to an end.
“Funny story,” Munro said. “It was called a goal on the ice, but then they went to review. And at that time, our head coach was Trent Yawney. He said, ‘You know what? screw it Get off the ice. We’re going home. We don’t care if it’s a goal or not.’”
“I was half undressed when I finally heard, ‘OK, yes, you did win the game.”
A week later, Munro was in the dressing room at United Center watching a morning highlight show when he first saw “The Goal” — Ovechkin’s twisting, sliding-on-the-ice, behind-the-back goal he’d scored in Arizona three games after the game against Chicago.
“Everyone was just dumbfounded about what just happened,” Munro said. “Like, how? How do you have that sort of recognition to know where the net is when you’re upside down and flipping around and still get the puck in the net? I remember thinking, ‘Thankfully it wasn’t me.’
“But,” he added after a pause, “at the same time, for a guy that didn’t play a lot, maybe it would have been cool to have a highlight like that living on in infamy.”
Drouin-Deslauriers had the longest NHL career of the three, suiting up for 62 contests for the Edmonton Oilers other Anaheim Ducks from 2008-2012, including 47 starts for the Oilers during the 2009-10 season.
Now 38, he’s an active member of the Oilers’ Alumni and has a lot of fond memories of his time in the league.
Dec 19, 2009, is not necessarily one of those memories.
Edmonton had jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Ovechkin and the Caps at Rexall Place.
“What I remember as a goalie, what you do your prep, you do your morning skate, you do your video, you know what they’re going to do, who their key players are, what to expect from Ovi,” Drouin-Deslauriers recalled. “There’s a reason he’s scored so many goals: He shoots the puck. His release was one of the fastest I’ve seen.”
Between the second and third periods, Ovechkin decided he’d seen enough.
Just 32 seconds in, Backstrom won a puck battle behind the Oilers net and slipped the puck to a nearby Ovechkin, who made a strong move to the front. Drouin-Deslauriers, with his skate against the post, stopped the first attempt. But as he went to cover the puck, Ovechkin was permitted a couple more whacks at it before being crosschecked to the ice from behind.
It was too late, though. The puck skittered across the goal line.
Six minutes later, Ovechkin knotted the score with the kind of goal he’s more known for scoring. Leading a three-on-two with Backstrom and Alexander Semin, Ovechkin called his own number, wound up and delivered a blistering slap shot. Deslauriers made a pad stop, but the rebound went right back to Ovechkin, who scored from an almost impossible angle.
The camera zoomed in on Deslauriers. His shoulders slumped and his eyes rolled as he tilted his head back.
“We were winning, I remember that,” Deslauriers said. “Then it kinda came raining on us.”
Tomas Fleischmann and Backstrom scored later in the period to complete the comeback and cinch the 4-2 Washington victory.
Ovechkin finished with a game-high nine shots on net. No one else had more than five.
“If I remember, the second goal was on my blocker side, top shelf — pretty much from a dead angle,” Drouin-Deslauriers said.
“I don’t really remember the first one,” he added with a laugh. “But the second one? It kind of sticks with me.”
That was goal no. 242.
Fast forward 13 years, and Ovechkin is on the verge of passing Howe and will soon be solely focused on Gretzky ahead of him.
All three goalies said they believe Ovechkin can pass No. 99 if he stays healthy.
“That’s one of those records in hockey where, you look at it, and it’s one of those records you thought would not be broken,” Drouin-Deslauriers said. “If he beats that’s great. And if he doesn’t, it’s going to take a long time before someone else comes along to do it.”
NHL career goals leaders
As Ovechkin closes in, stars like Fleury, Lundqvist and Price will be interviewed. Clips will be shown of Ovechkin’s highlight reel and playoff goals against them. Their names flash across the screen.
At home, Lawson said he’ll be sitting on his couch smiling.
“It’s kinda neat,” he said. “At the time, it didn’t really make any difference to me. But now that I’m retired, to look back on it, it’s pretty cool.”
(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; Photos: Scott Taetsch, Dale MacMillan, Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)