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Insider Analysis: Ovechkin's hat trick (again) sets the tone for successful Caps home-opener

Insider Analysis: Ovechkin's hat trick (again) sets the tone for successful Caps home-opener

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two nights after opening the season with a hat trick, Alex Ovechkin outdid himself in Saturday night’s home opener at Capital One Arena.

The Caps’ captain scored four goals, including three in the first period, to power Washington to a 6-1 victory over the Canadiens.  

How it happened: 

Ovechkin happened — again.

He struck first, just 20 seconds into the game, firing a turnaround rocket over Carey Price's left shoulder. T.J. Oshie made it 2-0 just 26 seconds after that, potting a rebound off a Nicklas Backstrom shot.

Then No. 8 put the game essentially out of the Habs’ reach.

Ovechkin sniped a power play shot past Price to make it 3-0, then he redirected an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot with 1:50 in the remaining in the opening fame to put the home team ahead 4-0.

“I think we’ve been skating since Day 1 together,” Ovechkin said of playing with Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has six primary assists on Ovechkin’s seven goals. “Obviously we have lots of talk, our line. What know we have to do, especially when we come to the [offensive] zone. It’s important when we have connections and we understand exactly what we have to do.”

Montreal’s backup goalie Al Montoya started the second period, and Brendan Gallagher parlayed a Dmitry Orlov turnover into a shorthanded goal that pulled the Habs to within 4-1.

But that’s as close as Montreal would get.

Ovechkin tacked on another goal in the second period with a power move to the net and a shot that pinballed its way past Montoya. The tally was originally credited to Oshie, who waved at the puck as it crossed the goal line but never touched it.


Historic (and memorable) Debut: 

Nathan Walker made history by becoming the first Australian national to suit up in an NHL game.

Then, late in the second, he became the first Aussie to score a goal by redirecting a Devante Smith-Pelly shot past Montoya. Smith-Pelly was initially credited with the goal, though DSP seemed to indicate immediately that Walker had gotten a piece of it. When the scoring change was announced early in the third, the building—and the Caps’ bench— erupted in cheers. Walker’s debut came in front of his parents, bother and friends, who traveled all the way from Sydney.  

“That was pretty special, it was really fun,” Walker said.

“The first couple of shifts, I wasn’t quite sure what happened. I was just skating around out there. …To play on a stage like this, it was really incredible.”

What Capitals 6, Canadiens 1 Means: 

We’re just two games into the regular season, so it’s far too early to get excited. But given the degree of difficulty the Caps faced right out of the gate, things are going about as well as anyone could have expected.

They’re 2-0-0. Ovechkin is tearing it up. And the team has 11 goals in two games.

“The biggest thing, to me, is Alex is skating,” Trotz said. “He’s getting to those pucks and his shot is undeniable. When he’s moving feet, he just needs that space.”

He added: “Whatever [Ovi’s line] is doing, I think it’s great. They probably got a little bit of life from having a young guy like [Jakub Vrana] on that line.”

Other Observations:

Ovi making moves: Saturday’s hat trick was Ovechkin’s 19th and moved him into a tie with Peter Bondra for the franchise record. Mike Gartner is third with 13.

Another Ovi superlative: According to the NHL, Ovechkin’s back-to-back hat tricks marked the first time in a 100 years that someone pulled off that feat in his team’s first two games.

Even strength Ovi: After scoring a career-low 16 goals at even strength, he’s got six in the first two games.   

PK = lights out: After snuffing out a couple of shorthanded situations, the Caps have killed off eight straight penalties to start the season.

Saluting Karl: Karl Alzner made his return to D.C. after spending the first nine years of his career in Washington.

During a TV timeout in the first period, the Caps played a video tribute to their 2007 first round pick, who received a standing ovation from the appreciative fans and stick taps from the players.

Looking ahead: 

The Caps are scheduled to practice Sunday at 11:30 in Arlington before traveling to Tampa, where they’ll face Steven Stamkos and the Lightning on Monday night.

Also next week: games vs. Pittsburgh and in New Jersey and Philadelphia. 

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.


The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.