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Ovechkin's hat trick fuels Caps to the win over the Wild

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Ovechkin's hat trick fuels Caps to the win over the Wild

The Caps earned the 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday in a hotly contested matchup. Here's the postgame analysis:

How it happened: After a scoreless first period, Alex Ovechkin take the game over with three goals all in the second frame. It was the 14th hat trick of his career and the first since Dec. 10, 2013. Minnesota could not keep up with the Great 8 thanks to another strong performance from Braden Holtby who turned aside 33 shots. 

What it means: With the win, the Caps now have won five straight and have not lost since Ovechkin returned from his one-game suspension following the All-Star break.

Passing Kane: With his three goal performance, Ovechkin surpassed Patrick Kane as the league leader in goals. Ovechkin now has 34 on the season, one greater than Kane's 33.

Down goes Kuznetsov: The news out of Minnesota wasn't all good. In the third period, Kuznetsov took a hit to the head from Mikael Granlund right off the faceoff. Granlund took the faceoff and spun around so his back was to Kuznetsov. As Granlund lowered his left hand on the stick, he raised his right elbow. Both the elbow and the butt of the stick appeared to catch Kuznetsov in the head. He would not return to the game and the team announced that he would be reevaluated on Friday.

Law and order: It was another slow start to the game as the Caps and Wild combined for five minor penalties in the first period. It is the second-straight game for the Caps in which at least five penalties were called in the first period and the fourth time in their last seven games. The game overall was a contentious affair with both teams combining for a total of 10 minor penalties.

End of the drought: While the Capitals' power play drought technically ended on Tuesday against Nashville, it came in the dying moments of the game on an empty net. Caps fans can breathe a little easier as Ovechkin's second goal came on the power play with an actual goalie in net. The Caps managed only one power play goal on five attempts, but hey, it's a start.

If the season ended tonight …: The Caps would be playing the Pittsburgh Penguins who currently sit in the second wild card spot with 61 points. Think anyone would be interested in watching that series?

What’s ahead: The Caps will wrap up a three-game road trip with a trip to Dallas on Saturday. The game starts at 8 p.m.

RELATED: Ovechkin earns 14th hat trick of career

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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!