The Washington Capitals hope a visit to Toronto will be enough to wake their sleeping giant.
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Alex Ovechkin had his first three-goal game of the season to continue his strong play against the Maple Leafs and lead the Capitals to a 4-1 win on Saturday night.
Ovechkin, who hadn’t scored more than one goal in a game since Oct. 30, raised his career total to 22 goals in 22 games against the Maple Leafs.
”It’s always nice when you score goals,” said Ovechkin. ”I’ll take it. … I had three lucky goals.”
The Russian has struggled to find the back of the net this season with 19 goals in 49 games, putting him on pace for 32. Ovechkin’s lowest total in his first five NHL seasons was 46 in the 2006-07 season.
”You knew eventually he was going to break out,” said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. ”He’s gotten two first-period goals this year and when he got the third one today, I thought ‘OK, he gets that goal early and he’s going to be going.’
”I thought he was as good as he’s been all year.”
Matt Hendricks also scored for Washington and rookie Braden Holtby made 35 saves in his second straight start after being recalled from the AHL.
Tim Brent scored for Toronto.
”We missed empty nets, we had some great scoring opportunities in the first two periods,” said Toronto coach Ron Wilson. ”We could have and probably should have had the lead.
”Their goalie made some unbelieveable saves.”
Ovechkin opened the scoring by tipping home a Jeff Schultz point shot 5:33 into the game. The Russian and Leafs goalie J.S. Giguere bumped at the top of the crease on the play.
Ovechkin’s second of the night provided some much-needed breathing room. He fired a shot past Giguere just 1:12 into the third period.
Brent quickly ended Holtby’s shutout bid, taking a pass from Jay Rosehill and scoring with a low shot a little over a minute later.
But Hendricks restored the two-goal cushion at 8:13 by taking the puck from Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn and putting a nice breakaway deke on Giguere – looking more like a goal-scorer than an agitator getting his sixth of the season.
”It came at such an opportune time,” said Boudreau. ”For about three or four minutes after that it really disillusioned them.”
Holtby punctuated his evening with a glove save on Tyler Bozak shortly before Ovechkin raced past Tomas Kaberle and completed his hat trick into the empty net.
Notes: Leafs F Mike Brown returned from a three-game suspension … Eric Fehr was scratched for Washington … Giguere has made 507 more career NHL appearances than Holtby … Capitals F Nicklas Backstrom has just one goal in his last 23 games.