Dennis Wideman had trouble believing the stat sheet after his first career hat trick.
When the Washington defenseman was asked about his feat after the Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 Friday night, Wideman said he thought his third goal went off teammate Brooks Laich. In Wideman’s mind, he was still waiting for his first career hat trick.
”I’ve never had one before. Still haven’t had one,” Wideman said.
The stats told a different story. Wideman was credited with three power-play goals, making him the third Capitals defenseman with a regular-season hat trick and the first since Sergei Gonchar did it on Jan. 4, 2000, against Montreal.
Wideman also tallied an assist, giving him a hand in all four Washington goals. Each of the goals came on the power play, which had been a weakness during the Capitals’ recent woes.
”Dennis is a smart player. He knows when to pass, when to shoot. He was bang-on tonight,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. ”Great decisions by him.”
Laich didn’t answer when asked whether he deflected the puck on Wideman’s goal with 1:19 left in the game.
”Don’t want to talk about that,” he said with a laugh.
Washington got even for its worst loss of the season by going 4 for 6 on the power play against Toronto, after going 3 for 51 in the previous 14 games. It was the first time this season the Capitals have scored more than two power-play goals.
”It helps to get our confidence back. It’s a long time ago we won two in a row,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who had a goal and two assists. ”Hopefully we can keep going off this and keep building. We need the points right now.”
Phil Kessel and Cody Franson scored for the Maple Leafs.
”Five-on-five, I thought we controlled, and at times dominated the game,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. ”Bad penalties, undisciplined penalties did us in tonight, simple as that.”
Toronto defeated Washington 7-1 in Toronto the last time these teams met on Nov. 19. That game marked perhaps the low point for Washington this season. Four games later, the Capitals fired coach Bruce Boudreau and brought in Hunter to try and turn around the team.
Washington lost three of the first four games under Hunter, but has now won two in a row.
”It’s encouraging to start seeing results,” Laich said. ”When you win, everybody feels good, and you’ve got pop in your step. The atmosphere around the rink is fun, and you just keep building it up.”
The Capitals were scoreless on five power-play chances in the teams’ first meeting, but Washington scored on its first three power-play opportunities Friday after getting off to a slow start.
The Capitals didn’t record their first shot on goal until nearly 12 minutes into the first period. The second shot came soon after, and Washington made it count.
Toronto’s Jake Gardiner was called for slashing at the 12-minute mark, and the Capitals scored 33 seconds later on Wideman’s shot from the right circle.
Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer was screened by Laich on the play, which gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead.
”We kind of shot ourselves in the foot tonight,” Reimer said. ”I thought we really out played them. We just took a few too many penalties.”
Wideman’s second goal on a slap shot from the point came less than two minutes into the second period, and only 11 seconds after Toronto was called for too many men on the ice. His third goal also came on a shot from the point late in the game.
Wideman also had a hand in Backstrom’s goal during a 5 on 3 at 18:50 in the second period.
Wideman got the puck in the right circle, faked a shot and then passed to Backstrom who was in front of the net on the left side. The goal was Backstrom’s 11th of the season.
”I’m sitting there,” Laich said, `looking at him, going, `Dennis, you’ve got two goals, just rip that baby and go for the hat trick.’ But he’s a patient guy.”
NOTES: Canadian telecommunication companies Rogers Communications and BCE Inc. announced Friday they have agreed to buy a majority stake in the Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors for about $1 billion. The deal is one of the richest in North American history. … Washington D Roman Hamrlik (lower body) returned after missing four games. D Jeff Schultz was a healthy scratch. … Toronto F Colby Armstrong was activated from injured reserve and returned to the lineup after missing 23 games with an ankle sprain. The Maple Leafs assigned F Joe Colborne to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League to make room. … F Clarke MacArthur also played after sitting out a game with an upper-body injury.