Home is definitely where the heart is for the reigning Southeastern division champs. The Washington Capitals remained undefeated in regulation time at the Verizon Center, thanks to the swift skates of a usual suspect.
Alexander “the Great Eight” Ovechkin netted his sixth career hat trick and led the Capitals back to their winning ways, sealing a much-needed 5-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
The good guys in red were missing seven players heading into this pre-turkey day tussle.
Rookie defenseman Karl Alzner made his Capitals debut, and tallied 21 minutes of ice time for Coach Boudreau.
Alzner had this to say about his first NHL hockey experience:
“I’ve been shaking the whole time, ever since I got here," Alzner said. “It’s unbelievable, but I’m starting to settle down now.”
Along with the nubile youngster, the Capitals recalled fellow defenseman Sami Lepisto, left winger Chris Bourque, and right winger Graham Mink from the AHL to fill the roster spots of several injured players.
Washington will be without forward Chris Clark for at least three weeks. He suffered a stress fracture in his forearm against the Wild on Monday night. Defenseman Jeff Schultz is also sidelined for four to six weeks with a broken finger.
These two veterans are the only players who are not listed as day-to-day on the Capitals' injury report.
Cue the Capitals' ace in the hole.
The Russian bomber started the scoring at 3:29 into the first period, slicing through a screen from a Thrashers defender for a power play goal, his 10th of the season.
Just 54 seconds into the second period, Ovechkin became the benefactor of a sweet feed from the slot, set up by defenseman Tom Poti. Ovechkin squeezed a quick one-timer past Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec for a 4-1 lead.
The Thrashers were without goalie Kari Letonen, as he remained out with back stiffness, but even with him in the goal mouth, Ovechkin would not have been stopped. Washington outshot the Thrashers, 33-18, and constantly pressured Pavelec to make point blank saves.
Bryan Little, Slava Kozlov, and Nathan Oystrick slipped goals past Capitals netminder Jose Theodore, but could not silence the stick of one elite player.
“There’s a reason he scores 50 or 60, because it’s not just against our team. It’s against everybody,” said Atlanta coach John Anderson.
Ovechkin has scored goals in nine straight games. He has 12 goals through 21 games played on the season.
Slava Kozlov has played in 141 straight games.