Against the NHL's top team entering Friday, the Capitals made the warm holiday feelings last a little longer.
In a 4-3 win over the Panthers at Capital One Arena, the Capitals were guided by three goals from captain Alex Ovechkin in a thrilling win. The team has now won four of its last five games.
Here are a few takeaways from the Capitals' 4-3 win:
Alex Ovechkin, the mad-hatter
Ovechkin put on a show in the final two periods.
He scored two goals in 56 seconds, the first of which came on the power play and brought him to within one goal of the all-time NHL record for career powerplay goals. His second came on a slapshot that snuck into the net as he gave the Capitals a two-goal lead.
Then in the third period, he planted himself in front of Sergei Bobrovsky and fired a slap shot home to give himself the hat trick. It was his 28th career hat trick, which tied him for sixth-most in NHL history with Marcel Dionne and Bobby Hull.
The three goals gave Ovechkin 18 on the season in just 21 games and brought his career total up to 748 goals. He is now just 18 goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr for third all-time on the NHL’s career goals list and is second behind Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl for the league lead.
With the Capitals down 1-0 and on the penalty kill early in the second period, the momentum flipped in a matter of seconds.
First, Evgeny Kuznetsov made an excellent play in the neutral zone to find John Carlson at the far blue line to spring a two-on-one. Carlson found Tom Wilson, who buried the puck behind Sergei Bobrovsky to tie the game at one.
Then the Capitals drew a penalty to nullify the Panthers’ powerplay, and Ovechkin took advantage to put the Capitals ahead. And then, 56 seconds later, he scored on relief goalie Spencer Knight to bring the Capitals up 3-1.
The Panthers would rally with a goal of their own to cut the lead to 3-2 before all was said and done, as four goals were scored in 6:49 of game time.
Florida’s yo-yo in net
The Panthers had themselves a wild ride in the second period in net, as they made four changes before the period was over.
Bobrovsky started the period and was replaced, twice, by Knight in net. Ovechkin took advantage, as he was the first Capital in five years to score on two different goaltenders in the same period. It was the third time in Ovechkin’s career he’s scored on two different goalies in the same period, and the first time since Feb. 1, 2009.
In total, the Capitals faced 11:46 of Knight in the second frame.
Samsonov starts again
Ilya Samsonov got the start in net for the Capitals once again, marking his fourth start in five games.
Against one of the NHL's most dangerous offensive teams, Samsonov made 19 saves on 22 total shots. On the season in his eight starts, Samsonov is now 8-0-1.
In a goaltending competition with Vitek Vanecek, Samsonov has certainly proven his worth through his last five appearances.
Capitals trying to get healthier
The Capitals were without defenseman Justin Schultz (upper-body), center Lars Eller and winger Conor Sheary (upper-body) for Friday’s game against the Panthers.
Coach Peter Laviolette said that Eller simply needed to get his legs back under him after quarantining in California for the last week after he was put on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Eller will return to the lineup when he’s “in a good spot,” per Laviolette.
It was, however, the first game of the season where the Capitals had to deviate from their six defensemen. Dennis Cholowski drew in the lineup in favor of Schultz. The forward lines have been a revolving door all season long with a bevy of injuries, but it was the first time the defensive pairings have been shaken up since the year began.