WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin produced his first hat trick in more than two years Saturday, leading the struggling Washington Capitals to a 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Ovechkin entered the game with five goals in 16 games this season, only good enough to be tied for third on his own team, which began the day with a 5-10-1 record and 11 standings points, the fewest in the 30-team NHL.
But the two-time NHL MVP broke out in a big way, turning in his first three-goal game since a 4-1 victory at Toronto on Jan. 22, 2011.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s goal with 37.5 seconds left in the second period tied the game for New Jersey, but Ovechkin put Washington ahead to stay 1:23 into the third.
After Eric Fehr netted Washington’s first short-handed goal of the season, Ovechkin added insurance with a power-play goal to make it 4-1 with less than 5 minutes remaining. And for good measure, Ovechkin added an assist by setting up Troy Brouwer’s power-play goal with 2:51 to go.
Ovechkin hadn’t even scored two goals in a game since a loss to Winnipeg on March 23, 2012. He came into Saturday having gone without a point in half of Washington’s 16 games, including Thursday’s 3-2 loss to New Jersey.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 21 saves and stopped a penalty shot. Devils goalie Johan Hedberg also made 21 saves, but he allowed four goals in the third period. Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey came in with 24 points, tied for the most in the Eastern Conference.
BLACKHAWKS SET POINT-STREAK RECORD
For 17 games, nobody has been able to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in regulation.
Now they own the best start in NHL history all by themselves.
The Blackhawks set an NHL record for the best start to a season, beating the San Jose Sharks 2-1 on Friday night to give them at least one point in their first 17 games.
Rookie Brandon Saad’s short-handed goal early in the third period — and with 3 seconds left on a San Jose power play — snapped a 1-all tie and stood up as the game-winner. Chicago (14-0-3) won its fourth straight game to break a mark set by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks, who earned points in their first 16 games.
The Blackhawks equaled that run Tuesday with a shootout win over Vancouver.
“It’s nice to get another win and make history,” the 20-year-old Saad said. “Our group’s had a great year so far, so we never expect anything less.
“We’re celebrating the win now. I’m sure it will sink in a little bit more tomorrow, but it’s awesome to be part of history.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also reflected on the record, but not for long.
“The guys should be proud of the achievement, the accomplishment,” he said.” I just think we shouldn’t be happy with where we’re at. We just want to keep trying to get better.”
Scary thought for the rest of the NHL…
MALKIN OUT AT LEAST A GAME
Reigning NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin is still undergoing tests following a scary crash into the boards during Friday night’s 3-1 win over Florida.
The Pittsburgh Penguins star will miss at least one game.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma ruled Malkin out for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. Bylsma declined to elaborate on the nature of what is being called an “upper body” injury but added that Malkin is not hospitalized.
“He’s still getting evaluated as to the extent of the hit and going into the boards hard,” Bylsma said Saturday. “That’s an ongoing process at this point in time