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What just happened? A horrible start, Ovechkin scores another hat trick and Caps enter bye week in style

What just happened? A horrible start, Ovechkin scores another hat trick and Caps enter bye week in style

What just happened? In the final game before the bye week, the Capitals trailed the New York Islanders 4-1 heading into the third period. But Alex Ovechkin scored yet another hat trick and the Caps scored five times in the third period for the unbelievable 6-4 win.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Witnessing greatness

Eight goals in three games. Read that again. Eight goals in three games.

Every time I start to believe we are seeing Alex Ovechkin begin to decline, he makes me look stupid.

Allow me to pull the curtain back on what writing about Ovechkin and this game was like.

Ovechkin's first goal tied him with Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time. That is noteworthy so I wrote a story about it and it was published. He scored his second goal during the third period while I was writing about how terrible a loss this was (you have to start writing in the third period). Suddenly, I had to update my first story because he was no longer tied with Lemieux, he had passed him. Then the Caps took the lead, I had to delete pretty much everything I had written about the game to that point and Ovechkin got the empty-netter for the hat trick not only making my original story out of date, but it also tied him with Steve Yzerman for 9th all-time.

Yzerman!?! I wasn't thinking about Yzerman at all coming into this game! I was thinking about Lemieux!

So suddenly my story on Ovechkin tying Lemieux turned into a story about him tying Yzerman, meanwhile, the game ended, the Caps won and I had nothing written in terms of a game recap because it looked like they were headed for a horrible blowout loss.

I tell you this story not for sympathy, but to show you just how quickly Ovechkin is changing history. Everything he is doing right now is historic and it is hard for writers to keep up.

Here is the story on Ovechkin tying Yzerman, by the way. You should read it.

Don't forget about the first two periods....

This game was incredible to watch and was a fun way to go into the bye week, but don't let that third period erase everything that happened before it. Almost every weakness of this team was exposed by New York:

  • The Caps struggled against the forecheck and it led to numerous turnovers.
  • Braden Holtby had another bad game. At this point I would expect him and Ilya Samsonov to begin splitting starts after the bye week. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, I don't think there would be any question who the starter would be.
  • The power play has gone from troubling to laughably terrible (0-for-4 on the day). If there was one picture that could encapsulate just how bad it was on Saturday, this would be it:
  • The Caps took a number of really bad penalties. Carl Hagelin was caught cross-checking early on a power play giving up a two-man advantage. Brendan Leipsic also took an unnecessary offensive zone roughing penalty.

Washington got the win and sit in first place, but Reirden has his work cut out for him during the bye week because these are issues he has to figure out.

Turning point

After two periods with the Caps down 4-1, this game looked over. With only 20 minutes separating the Caps from the bye week, it would have been very easy to pack it in mentally and just take the loss. If they wanted to come back, however, they would need an early response in the third.

They got one thanks to a great play by Richard Panik to set up Hagelin.

Play of the game

It's the goal that moved Ovechkin into sole possession of 10th place on the all-time goal list. Yes, he got a little lucky as his centering pass hit off the boot of Ryan Pulock and into the net, but that back-to-front curl and drag to start the play was just nasty.

Stat(s) of the game

There was too much from this game to limit it to just one stat.

First, the obvious one.

Hats off to Ovechkin!

The fastest from 600 to 700? It's possible. Heck, at this point it seems downright probable.

And let's not forget about John Carlson and Ilya Samsonov.

Quote of the game

Note to other teams: Stop pissing Ovechkin off!


Fan predictions

Uh...half right.

Nailed it.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.

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Caps vs. Penguins: Washington in desperate need of a win against rival

Caps vs. Penguins: Washington in desperate need of a win against rival

The Capitals (37-18-6) return home from New Jersey with 700 goals for Alex Ovechkin, but also with a loss. They will meet the rival Pittsburgh Penguins (37-17-6) on Sunday in a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Catch the game on NBC with pre and postgame coverage on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 11 a.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m. The game will be broadcast on NBC, but tune back into NBC Sports Washington for postgame coverage. Caps Postgame Live is on immediately following the game followed by Caps Overtime Live.

Here's what you need to know for Sunday's game.

700 and counting

Ovechkin finally reached the 700-goal milestone on Saturday. You could tell after the game that he was relieved to have finally gotten there so hopefully the flood gates open for him again after being limited to just two goals in the past seven games. It should also be good for the offense which looks like it has been forcing the puck to Ovechkin frequently the past few games.

When last we met

The Caps and Penguins have played only once this season, meeting on Feb. 2 at Capital One Arena on Super Bowl Sunday. Washington was handed a 4-3 loss, but played fairly well in a close game. To jog your memory, you can read more about that game here.

Saturday's game will be the last meeting between these two teams in Washington with two more matchups coming in Pittsburgh in March.

Holtby starts

How much has Braden  Holtby turned things around? The last time these two teams played, Ilya Samsonov got the start as he was clearly outplaying the veteran netminder. Since then, Holtby has seemingly regained his spot as the No. 1 and will get the start.

In his last five appearances, Holtby has a .919 save percentage and 2.52 GAA.

Line changes?

As Sunday's game is coming off a back-to-back, we won't know if Todd Reirden will be making any line changes until his pregame availability. if there is a change, it will most likely come on defense which again struggled in Saturday's loss.

Here is a look at the lines from Saturday's game:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Brenden Dillon - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Dmitry Orlov
Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen

About yesterday

Sunday's game will be the back-end of a back-to-back for both teams. The Caps lost 3-2 in regulation to the Devils. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, dropped a surprising loss at home, falling 5-2 to the Buffalo Sabres. Tristan Jarry started that game for Pittsburgh so expect Matt Murray to play against Washington.

Standings watch

Since both teams lost on Saturday, both remain tied for first in the Metro with 80 points, though Pittsburgh holds a game in hand. Washington is really struggling with four straight losses and six losses in seven games. The Penguins, meanwhile, have lost two straight by a combined score of 9-2.

Oh, and by the way, the Philadelphia Flyers are quietly creeping on both teams with 77 points, just three behind the division lead.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Can Ovechkin really catch Wayne Gretzky?

Can Ovechkin really catch Wayne Gretzky?

Alex Ovechkin joined the elite 700 club on Saturday and further cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players to play the game.

For most, the 700-goal milestone represented the pinnacle of their career. Only seven players before Ovechkin have reached 700 and only two of those players have made it to 800. Reaching 700 goals was more of a lifetime achievement for the other five players, something reflective of the kind of goal-scorer they used to be.

Ovechkin, however, is different.

Saturday was a day to celebrate and reflect on a milestone reached only seven times before. But with Ovechkin’s continued goal-scoring prowess and remarkable durability, 700 hardly feels like a journey nearing its end. Instead, it has made the impossible seem reachable. Suddenly, Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894, long thought to be untouchable, seems not only possible for Ovechkin but realistic.

Ovechkin scored goal No. 700 in career game No. 1,144, the second-fastest in NHL history. Only Gretzky did it faster in just 886 games. Gretzky, however, only had one 40-goal season once he turned 30. He scored 41 goals in 1990-91 at the age of 30 and that would be the last time he would hit that mark.

Ovechkin is 34. He already has 42 this season and is on pace for 56. If he gets there, it will be the most goals scored by a player over the age of 33 ever.

Gretzky played nine more seasons after he hit 30 from the 1990-91 season to 1998-99. In that time, he scored 217 goals. Since turning 30, Ovechkin already has 225 goals. It should then come as no surprise that no one has ever gone from 600 to 700 goals faster in history. It took Ovechkin just 154 games to do it. Not only is that the fastest ever, but it’s also faster than he went from 500 to 600 (189 games). In fact, only once has Ovechkin gone from one milestone to the other faster in his career, when he went from 100 to 200 goals in just 129 games.

Those are the kind of numbers that begin to make you believe that catching Gretzky is a real possibility. What Ovechkin is doing at his age is unprecedented.

With every goal Ovechkin scores, the math for catching Gretzky becomes more and more realistic. If he continues on his current pace for 56 goals, he will finish the season with 714. If he plays four more seasons, he would need to average 45 goals per season to tie Gretzky. Again, that’s just if he plays four seasons. If he plays five seasons, then he would only need to average 36 goals. Even with a moderate drop off, a 36-goal average hardly seems outside of the realm of possibility for the Great 8.

At 34 years old, Ovechkin is still the best goal scorer in the game and is showing no signs of slowing down. Gretzky’s record does not seem impossible for him to reach because Ovechkin is already doing the impossible.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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