Alex Ovechkin scored three goals in the third period Thursday night to rally the Caps, who eventually secured a 5-4 shootout win at Canadian Tire Centre in the season opener for both teams.
How it happened: The Senators took a 3-1 lead early in the third period after a bad turnover by Matt Niskanen gifted a goal to Derick Brassard. Then things got interesting.
Ovechkin scored back-to-back goals just 1:23 apart to even things up, 3-3.
But the Senators weren’t done. Devante Smith-Pelly had his pocket picked in the neutral zone and, moments later, Mark Stone had his second goal of the game.
Ovechkin, however, brought the Caps right back, sniping a shot over Craig Anderson’s pad at 10:48 to knot the score 4-4.
After a scoreless extra session, Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored in the shootout to clinch the Caps’ come-from-behind victory.
The Gr8: The hat trick was Ovechkin’s 18th and his first to open a season. He also became the second Capital to notch a season-opening hat trick, joining Mikhail Grabovsky (2013).
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What it means: Not much at this point; it was after all just the first of 82 regular season games. But you can say this without a doubt: after an occasionally concerning 2-5 preseason, the Caps showed the hustle and focus they lacked during the exhibition campaign.
Newcomers: If you include Jakub Vrana, there were five new players in the Caps’ lineup on Thursday. Some stood out for good reasons and others stood out for, well, not so good reasons. Among the good were Vrana (five shots, two assists) and Smith-Pelly (excellent on the penalty kill). Among the bad was Aaron Ness (penalties for holding the stick and slashing).
Stellar start on special teams: Led by Jay Beagle, Smith-Pelly and Braden Holtby (28 saves), the Caps killed off all five shorthanded situations that they faced, including a 4-on-3 in overtime. That, after the penalty kill ranked 25th in seven preseason games (79.1-percent).
Look ahead: It gets no easier for the Caps. They open their home slate Saturday night against Carey Price and the Canadiens. After that, they play at Steven Stamkos and the Lightning on Monday before hosting the champion Penguins on Wednesday.