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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.

RELATED: CAPS BEGIN SEASON WITH COMEBACK WIN

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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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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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.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!