- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2012

When the Washington Capitals score four goals and Troy Brouwer has three of them, that’s a good night. It was his first career hat trick in his 280th NHL game.

“I’m pretty excited. I was close once before. It’s a special feat,” Brouwer said after the Caps’ 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night. “But at the same time, I’m excited about the win tonight — two points closer to Florida for first in our division, and that’s what we’re really striving for.”

Brouwer is quick to pass off praise, but this was quite a performance which included not only three goals (one an empty-netter) but a dandy screen on Alex Ovechkin‘s goal that opened the scoring.

“He played exceptional tonight,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “It worked out for him tonight. He put himself in the right areas like he always does, and tonight it paid off, so I’m very happy for him.”

With his hat trick, Brouwer tied Jason Chimera for second on the Caps in goals with 14.

It had been a while since Brouwer‘s last trick, and he had the puck from the third goal sitting in his locker as a memento.

“I had one in the AHL one year. I don’t remember when or where, but I’ve had one in the past couple years,” he said.

It was actually Dec. 20, 2006 for the Norfolk Admirals, but who’s counting?

However, it’s possible that Brouwer‘s biggest plays of the night had nothing to do with his hat trick. He was involved in a dust-up with Lightning star Steven Stamkos after a hit on forward Marty St. Louis and most importantly had a perfect screen on Ovechkin‘s power-play goal very early on.

“For him, it was pretty big game,” the captain said. “He’s very tough guy in front of the net. It’s good to have him in front of the net because he gets the screen and do great job out there.”

Hendricks wasn’t sure if this was Brouwer‘s best game in a Washington uniform, but it was certainly his most productive. And the 26-year-old right wing did it his way — with a whole lot of grit.

“He’s hard to play against; he’s a tough guy, and also he’s got skills. It’s one of them players’ combinations that every coach likes,” coach Dale Hunter said. “By staying in front of the net, Ovi shoots it pretty hard — but he’s been doing it well for us this year and screening and also going to the dirty paint and getting good goals.”

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