The Washington Capitals (12-7-3-27, first place in Southeast Division) received three goals from Alexander Ovechkin, and were never really threatened by their Southeast Division rival Atlanta Thrashers (8-11-2-18, third place in Southeast), winning easily 5-3.
The Caps played without many of their regular skaters, including their captain, RW Chris Clark—who, along with D Jeff Schultz, was placed on the Long-Term Injured List before the contest. But it didn't matter, as the Capitals were playing their first home game after a five-game road trip, and had a surprising amount of spring in their collective steps.
The team recalled wingers Chris Bourque and Graham Mink, and defensemen Sami Lepisto and Karl Alzner—the fifth-overall pick in the 2005 entry draft. The youngsters seemed to elevate the overall level of urgency, and the Caps jumped all over Atlanta in the first period.
Ovechkin started the scoring at 3:29, with a slap shot that handcuffed Thrasher goalie Ondrej Pavelec. It was a power-play goal set up by Sami Lepisto, who slid a perfect point-to-point pass to Ovechkin, who let one blast. Four minutes later, Eric Fehr banged home a pretty tic-tac-toe from Tomas Fleischmann and Michael Nylander.
Bryan Little of Atlanta stemmed the tide just a bit, notching a power-play goal of his own at 12:08, but Ovechkin scored his second of the game with a wrist shot, gathering a rebound shot by Viktor Kozlov shortly befpre. The hat trick was completed less than a minute into the second period, as Poti found the Great Eight in the slot alone, and Ovechkin made no mistakes. The competitive portion of the game was complete.
Viktor Kozlov scored his third goal of the season in the third period, and Slava Kozlov and Nathan Oystrick both tallied for Atlanta, but the outcome was never in doubt after the hats rained down for last year's Hart Trophy winner.
Washington hosts the Montreal Canadiens (12-5-4-28) Friday night at 7:00 pm ET from Verizon Center.
1. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 3, Assists: 1)
2. V. Kozlov - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)
3. T. Fleischmann - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)
WAS: Ovechkin (10) from Lepisto and Kozlov (1-3:29-PP); Fehr (2) from Fleischmann and Nylander (1-7:23); Ovechkin (11) from Kozlov and Fleischmann (1-14:01-PP); Ovechkin (12) from Poti and Sloan (2-0:54); Kozlov (3) from Ovechkin (3-1:20)
ATL: Little (10) from Kovalchuk and White (1-7:33); Kozlov (12) from Little and Kovalchuk (2-13:06-PP); Oystrick (1) from White and Schneider (3-12:28)
Ovechkin has points in nine-straight games. He has 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in his last 11 games. The hat trick was his first since last March.
Jose Theodore stopped 15 of 18 shots faced.
D Tom Poti missed the second half of the third period. There were no details of possible injury.
Alzner, making his NHL debut, logged the second-highest ice time for the game, behind only Ovechkin.