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Ovechkin scores 18th career hat trick to keep Caps in it against Senators

Ovechkin scores 18th career hat trick to keep Caps in it against Senators

As the Capitals took to the ice in Ottawa to open the season against the Senators, Alex Ovechkin was serenaded to chants of “Ovi sucks!” from the Senators faithful.

The Great 8 silenced the critics on Thursday, however, with a hat trick performance that reminded us all just how dangerous a scorer he can be.

Down 3-1 in the third period, it looked like the game was getting away from the Capitals.

But the man who many wondered would ever be the scoring threat he once was responded with three goals to put the Caps right back in it.


Evgeny Kuznetsov was able to steal away a pass from Ottawa defenseman Cody Ceci deep in the offensive zone. He fed the pass across to Alex Ovechkin in the office. Goalie Craig Anderson was already down in the butterfly giving Ovechkin all the room he needed up top to net the goal.

Just 83 seconds later, the forecheck from the Ovechkin line again forced Ottawa into a turnover. Ovechkin chipped the puck at the blue line to Jakub Vrana who drove it in. He fed Evgeny Kuznetsov backside who fed it right back to the trailing Ovechkin for the easy goal.

A disappointing 3-1 game turned into a 3-3 tie in less than two minutes.

Mark Stone almost spoiled the party with a goalie 77 seconds later to give Ottawa back the lead, but Ovechkin would not be denied.

Vrana and Kuznetsov converged into the corner of the offensive zone in a battle for the puck. When the puck did finally squirt loose Ovechkin pounced on it and snapped a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Anderson to complete the hat trick, the 18th of his career.

It was a fitting performance for Ovechkin who made his NHL 12 years ago on the very same day, scoring twice against the Columbus Blue Jackets to announce his presence in the NHL. Just when people began to wonder if Ovechkin was on the decline after scoring 33 goals last season, Ovechkin made it known he remains very much one of the top scoring threats in the NHL.

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Tuesday's win shows just how far the Caps have come since the last time they played the Avalanche


Tuesday's win shows just how far the Caps have come since the last time they played the Avalanche

The Caps have come a long way in the past month.

On Nov. 16, the Capitals lost 6-2 to the Colorado Avalanche in Colorado. The game was not as close as the score indicated. Not only was it a bad loss, it felt like a significant one.

Over the course of an 82-game season, every team is going to have a lot of losses. Some of those losses are not going to be close. But given the fact that just one night before, the Caps were handed a 6-3 loss at the hands of the Nashville Predators, the loss to the Avalanche did not feel like a blip on the radar. It had all the feelings of a downward trend.


In hindsight, that game was in fact significant, but not because it signaled the unstoppable downward spiral of an aging team in need of a rebuild. Instead, it marked the moment the Caps turned their season around.

Since that loss in Colorado, Washington has gone 9-3-0. Since those ugly back-to-back losses, they have not lost consecutive games since.

And then on Monday, they hosted that same Colorado team that looked as if it had ended the Caps’ season in mid-November. The new-look Caps disposed of Colorado with relative ease by a score of 5-2.

After the game, it did not take long for November’s loss to come up.

“I guess we do better at this altitude than over there,” John Carlson said.

Matt Niskanen said the Caps had “our butts kicked” by the Avalanche and Barry Trotz said that they "handed us our lunch last time" and felt that motivated his team to respond in the rematch.

Considering how Washington looked the last time these two teams met, it would be hard for the Caps to respond much better than what they did on Tuesday.


In November’s game, Washington had no answer for Colorado's top line. Nathan MacKinnon had a five-point night and Gabriel Landeskog recorded a hat trick. On Tuesday, neither player earned a point. Instead, both players finished with a minus-three rating on the night.

“I think there's a pride factor,” Trotz said of his team’s ability to bounce back. “I think there's a little bit of a cultural factor, DNA factor with this group because we've won a lot of games. We understand that best thing you can do after losing a game is start another streak and don't let the streak go the wrong way.”

Over the course of the last 12 games since the Caps’ first game against Colorado, Washington has been a team decidedly going the right way and, as of Wednesday morning, sit tied for first in the Metropolitan Division.

Who would have thought that’s where they would be after that disastrous two-game road swing in mid-November?

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche


3 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

They picked up right where they left off at home as they returned to Washington and defeated the Colorado Avalanche 5-2. Here is how the Caps were able to put last night's loss behind them and earn the win.

A better start

Against the Islanders on Monday, the Caps lacked energy early on and allowed a goal to Brock Nelson just 2:36 into the contest. Tuesday’s start had a much different feel to it. The Caps were moving their feet, moving the puck and creating sustained zone pressure. This time it was Washington who took the early lead as Jakub Vrana netted a goal just 5:25 in.


Braden Holtby’s breakaway save on Colin Wilson

With the score tied at one in the second period, Colin Wilson was handed a gift from Brooks Orpik. As Orpik skated up the ice to his left, the rest of his teammates all skated right leaving him no one to pass too. Feeling the forecheck, Orpik tried the cross-ice pass, but it was intercepted by Wilson and there were no Caps in site. Wilson had scored Colorado's first goal and looked like he was about the score the second on the breakaway. Instead, he was denied by Holtby. Just 4:29 later, John Carlson tallied the go-ahead goal for Washington. That is essentially a two-goal swing in five minutes.

The penalty kill

The Caps took four penalties on the night and two of them were from one of their top defenseman in John Carlson. Colorado, however, walked away with nothing to show for it. The Caps took one penalty in the first and two in the second when the game was still in doubt. If they had given up a goal on any of those opportunities, it likely is a very different game. Instead, Washington killed off all four penalties they faced making sure the power play was not a factor for the Avalanche.