Hats off to Capitals' Alex Ovechkin in win over Devils

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Star scores three times in rout at Verizon Center

It was just like the old days at Verizon Center on Saturday afternoon. Capitals star winger Alex Ovechkin was a force all over the ice, scoring goals on the power play, on an even-strength rush and on a powerful one-timer from the left circle, his favorite spot.

That was more than enough for Ovechkin's first hat trick in two years and for Washington's first win this season over one of the Eastern Conference's top seven teams -- a decisive 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

Eric Fehr added a short-handed goal in the third period and Troy Brouwer scored with 2:51 left to play when the game was no longer in doubt. For Ovechkin, it was his first hat trick since Jan. 22, 2011, and his first at home since the legendary Super Bowl Sunday performance against Pittsburgh on Feb. 7, 2010. The roaring crowd brought back memories of a time when the Caps were on top of the conference standings and not at the bottom.

"To be honest with you, I was kind of forget about what 'Rock the Red' means," Ovechkin said, using the organization's longtime marketing slogan. "The fans a couple games ago, before the game [I] said, 'You have to cheer us. You have to push us forward.' It's a hard time for us. We need everybody to be involved. Tonight it was that kind of game."

The win briefly lifted Washington (6-10-1, 13 points) into 14th place in the conference pending Buffalo's game against the New York Islanders on Saturday night. It also sets up a critical game against Southeast Division leader Carolina on Tuesday night at Verizon Center. The Caps needed a win any way they could get it, and Ovechkin delivered in a way that he hasn't for a long time. He added an assist on Brouwer's goal for his first four-point game since Feb. 4, 2011, against Tampa Bay.

"That was a lot of fun to watch in that third period there," Fehr said. "Even coming down the wing on that one to shoot between the legs again, that's vintage Alex. Hopefully we see a lot more than that."

Fehr was referring to Ovechkin's second goal when he came down the right wing -- his new position -- and rifled a shot between the legs of New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov and past goalie Johan Hedberg. But the biggest goal of the game belonged to Fehr, who stripped the puck from Hedberg behind the Devils' net on a penalty kill early in the third period and scored on a wraparound shot into the empty cage.

Ovechkin recorded his 11th career hat trick, and it was the 14th time in his career he has totaled four points or more. It was his first multiple-goal game of this season, and he now has eight goals and six assists in 17 games. He scored 38 goals last season.

"Now you guys can ask if we realize he's back," teammate Nicklas Backstrom said. "But he's always been here."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner