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A perfect 10

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fans chanted "We want 10" for much of the third period at Verizon Center last night. On a night when everything went right for the home team, it was only fitting their wishes were granted.

"We heard them. [Matt Bradley] was like, 'The fans wanted it, and I am a fan favorite, so I had to give them what they wanted,' " forward Brooks Laich said of Bradley's goal — the team's 10th — with 1:45 left in the game.

Alex Ovechkin had three goals and two assists last night as the Washington Capitals crushed the Boston Bruins 10-2 in front of 17,189 at Verizon Center.

After snapping a career-long seven-game goalless streak Saturday against Toronto, Ovechkin added another electrifying chapter to his amazing junior season in the NHL. He now has 52 goals, which ties his career-high from 2005-06, and his five-point night pushed him past Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin into the scoring lead with 90.

"I didn't score lots of games, and today everything goes in the net," said Ovechkin, who had his fifth career game with at least three goals. "I'm very excited and very happy."

It is the most goals scored by Washington since a 12-2 thrashing of Florida on Jan. 11, 2003. Things got so bad for Boston that coach Claude Julien switched goaltenders three times, pulling Tim Thomas from the game twice in favor of backup Alex Auld.

Thomas entered the night 8-0-1 with a 1.82 goals-against average in his career against Washington, but he ended up yielding seven goals on 24 shots. Boston had won five in a row against the Caps and six straight overall.

"It's really tough to take. It was embarrassing," Thomas said. "On the other hand, what's the difference? If you lost 3-2 or you lost like that, we're still in the playoffs as of now."

Newcomer Matt Cooke started the onslaught with his first goal in a Caps uniform — a wrist shot over Thomas' right shoulder 32 seconds in that was one of six in the first period.

Ovechkin's 50th came at 6:18 on a breakaway started by a perfect outlet pass from Nicklas Backstrom. The fans didn't have long to celebrate the milestone, because 50 seconds later Ovechkin notched No. 51 on another pass from Backstrom.

Matt Bradley chased Thomas the first time with a goal 81 seconds later. He knocked a pass from Cooke out of midair with his stick, settled the puck and ripped a shot from near the right faceoff circle through the goalie's legs.

Ovechkin completed the hat trick at 15:31. Alexander Semin held the puck for several seconds near the left boards during a power play and waited for Ovechkin to sneak from the right point to the crease before sending him a perfect pass for a tap-in.

"My morning skate [at Kettler Capitals Iceplex], I couldn't even shoot the puck," Ovechkin said. "I hit Olie [Kolzig] in the head. I was just little bit confused, but the pregame skate [at Verizon Center] everything go in."

Laich added the final insult of the opening period at 18:43. Viktor Kozlov centered a pass to him for a one-timer on the power play — one of four extra-man goals for the Caps in seven chances.

Ovechkin returned the earlier favor to Backstrom with a long breakout pass in the second period. Backstrom skated in and slipped a backhanded shot under Thomas, who was reinserted at the start of the second period, for his 10th goal of the year and first in 21 games. Backstrom's four-point outing moved him past Chicago's Patrick Kane for the rookie scoring lead with 56.

"[Backstrom] is great player," Ovechkin said. "I think if he keeps playing same way, he will be rookie of the year. Setting up Nick [felt better]. He don't score lots of games, but he had fun today."

Not much happened when Caps pugilist Donald Brashear and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara tussled in the first period, but Brashear pounded Boston's Shawn Thornton after Backstrom's goal. Then he made the score 8-1 with his fifth goal at 16:31 for good measure.

Laich tipped in a shot from Ovechkin for his second of the night and 15th goal of the season early in the final period. The goal was originally awarded to Ovechkin, and his new career high of 53 was announced in the arena.

"C'mon, he's got 50-some. He's got enough of them, so I've got to take some," Laich said.

The Bruins will not have to wait long to attempt to extract some revenge, because these two teams play twice more in the next 13 days.

"I didn't expect that," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "[Boston] has been going so good, and sometimes you just have a bad game. I guarantee this won't happen Saturday in Boston. They will be ready to play."

Note — Caps goaltender Cristobal Huet left the game after the second period because of back spasms, but he said it was a precautionary measure because of the lopsided score.

Caps report

Last night at Verizon Center

SEEN AND HEARD

Caps tough guy Donald Brashear pummeled Boston's Shawn Thornton after Nicklas Backstrom made the score 7-1. The best part though was the video clip on the scoreboard afterward. It was Bob Barker beating up Adam Sandler in a Bruins jersey during the movie "Happy Gilmore."

QUOTABLE

"Everything is still I think [about] how we play. It is not to the stage where we are, 'Oh, we hope, we hope, we hope.' "

— Caps coach Bruce Boudreau

BY THE NUMBERS

59 Assists for Boston's Marc Savard this season, which is tops in the league.

47 Assists for Nicklas Backstrom, which is tops among rookies.

6-19-7 Record for Washington against the team's next opponents (Buffalo, Boston and Pittsburgh) since the lockout.

Corey Masisak