On Feb. 4th, Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick - his third in the span of just six games - putting him a mere two goals shy of 700. Suddenly any given Capitals game could realistically feature him becoming the eighth player in NHL history to reach that amazing milestone, but either due to the pressure or sheer coincidence, he cooled off.
Ovechkin had no points and a minus-six rating in the five games that followed the hat trick. Over that span, the Capitals struggled along with him, posting a 1-4-0 record. That was the stage on Thursday for Washington's game against Montreal.
Just 7:29 minutes into Thursday's contest, Ovechkin scored his 41st goal of the season and 699th of his career to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead. Montreal was not deterred though. Ovechkin had six shots on Thursday, but his other shots didn't find the back of the net as Montreal managed to eke out a 4-3 overtime victory.
At least the Capitals got a mercy point this time around. Because Pittsburgh lost outright to Toronto last night, Washington did gain ground in the battle for the Metropolitan Division title. The two teams are tied for first with 80 points, though the Penguins are on top given that they've played in one fewer game. Meanwhile, it's very unlikely that Montreal will make the playoffs. The Canadiens are eight points back in the battle for a playoff spot with just 19 games left of their schedule.
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TORONTO 4 PITTSBURGH 0
After a handful of rough starts, Frederik Andersen bounced back by posting a 24-save shutout. He's 25-12-6 with a 2.91 GAA and .908 save percentage in 46 starts.
Evgeni Malkin fired a team-high five shots against Andersen. He has 18 goals on 143 shots, which translates to a 12.6% success rate.
Jake Muzzin scored the game-winning goal and registered two assists. That gives him five goals and 21 points in 51 games.
William Nylander contributed a power-play goal. It was his 27th marker and 53rd point in 60 games.
Matt Murray stopped 26 of 30 Maple Leafs shots. He has a 17-8-5 record, 2.80 GAA, and .903 save percentage in 32 starts.
NEW JERSEY 2 SAN JOSE 1
The Sharks' lone goal was scored by Tim Heed. It was his first goal and second point in 28 games.
P.K. Subban scored the game-winning goal. He's up to seven markers and 14 points in 59 contests.
Jesper Bratt also found the back of the net for the Devils. That gives him 12 goals and 25 points in 51 games.
Mackenzie Blackwood kicked out 36 of 37 Sharks shots. That extended his winning streak to five games.
At the other end of the ice, Martin Jones saved 23 of 25 shots. He has a 14-18-2 record, 3.11 GAA, and .894 save percentage in 35 contests.
MONTREAL 4 WASHINGTON 3 (OT)
Alex Ovechkin found the back of the net for Washington. It was his 699th career marker.
Ben Chiarot scored a pair of goals, including the overtime winner. He's up to nine goals and 20 points in 61 games.
Brendan Gallagher also scored a goal for the Canadiens. He has 20 goals and 38 points in 52 games.
Carey Price stopped 29 of 32 Capitals shots. That snapped his five-game losing streak, though he's now allowed at least three goals in six straight games.
Braden Holtby saved 28 of 32 shots on Thursday. He dropped to 21-13-5 with a 3.14 GAA and .896 save percentage in 42 contests.
PHILADELPHIA 4 COLUMUS 3 (OT)
Kevin Hayes scored the overtime winner and registered an assist. That gives him 19 goals and 35 points in 61 games.
Travis Konecny also came up big for the Flyers with a goal and two helpers. He has 21 goals and 54 points in 58 contests.
Brian Elliott saved 28 of 31 shots last night. He has a 15-7-4 record, 2.90 GAA, and .899 save percentage in 30 games.
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored a goal and registered an assist for the Blue Jackets. He's up to 21 goals and 36 points in 49 contests.
Elvis Merzlikins stopped 29 of 33 Flyers shots. He's allowed 11 goals over his last three starts and is 1-0-2 over that span.
WINNIPEG 5 OTTAWA 1
Mark Scheifele was the hero with a hat tick and an assist. He's up to 26 goals and 65 points in 62 games.
Kyle Connor scored a goal and registered an assist for the Jets. That gives him 30 goals and 63 points in 62 contests.
Ottawa's lone goal was scored by Nick Paul. It was his eighth goal and 16th point in 46 games.
Marcus Hogberg stopped 29 of 34 Jets shots. He's 3-7-7 with a 3.07 GAA and .908 save percentage in 20 games.
At the other end of the ice, Laurent Brossoit saved 29 of 30 shots. He has a 6-7-0 record, 3.32 GAA, and .893 save percentage in 18 contests.
ST. LOUIS 1 ARIZONA 0
Jordan Binnington only needed to make 14 saves to earn the shutout. He's now made just 31 saves over the course of back-to-back perfect games.
Taylor Hall fired a team-high four shots against Binnington. Hall has 15 goals on 206 shots, which works out to a 7.3% success rate.
Antti Raanta stopped 45 of 46 Blues shots. He had to face 19 shots in the second period and 18 shots in the third.
Ryan O'Reilly scored the game's lone goal at 12:00 of the third period. He's up to 11 goals and 52 points in 61 games.
Brayden Schenn registered an assist on O'Reilly's goal. Schenn has 20 goals and 48 points in 61 contests.
VEGAS 5 TAMPA BAY 3
Steven Stamkos scored two goals for the Lightning. He has 29 goals and 64 points in 55 games.
Alec Martinez scored a goal and registered an assist. That's a great first impression in his Golden Knights debut.
Mark Stone contributed a goal and an assist for Vegas. He's up to 21 goals and 59 points in 62 contests.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 of 27 shots on Thursday. He's won three straight games, improving his record to 24-14-5.
Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 28 of 33 Golden Knights shots. He allowed two goals in each of the second and third periods.
LOS ANGELES 5 FLORIDA 4
Jonathan Huberdeau did his best to keep the Panthers into this game by scoring a goal and registering three assists. He's up to 22 goals and 76 points in 61 games.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 35 of 40 Kings shots. He's allowed at least three goals in six of his last seven games.
Drew Doughty scored a goal and registered an assist. The Kings blueliner has seven goals and 30 points in 58 contests.
Gabriel Vilardi also had a goal and an assist for the Kings. That makes this a pretty ideal NHL debut for him.
Jonathan Quick saved 25 of 29 shots Thursday night. He has a 13-22-3 record, 3.02 GAA, and .897 save percentage in 38 contests.