- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2018

On the same day the Comedy Central show “Detroiters” was canceled, Detroit’s hockey team was sent packing, too.

Alex Ovechkin posted his first hat trick of the season, T.J. Oshie scored in his first game back from a concussion and the Washington Capitals ran the Detroit Red Wings off the ice with a 6-2 win at Capital One Arena Tuesday.

Ovechkin has now scored an NHL-best 25 goals in just 30 games. That has him on pace to finish the season with 68 goals if he plays all 82 games.

“Yeah, I’ll take it,” Ovechkin deadpanned after the game. “Couple lucky goals.”

Nicklas Backstrom added four assists. Brett Connolly and Travis Boyd also scored and Braden Holtby saved 35 shots.

The Capitals improved to 18-9-3 (39 points) with their third straight win and 10th win in their last 12.

It was the second time this month the Capitals scored five goals in the first two periods of a home game. On Dec. 2 against Anaheim, they surrendered a 5-1 lead to the Anaheim Ducks and lost a shocker in regulation. They would not let that happen twice.

“Obviously, you can see our team have fun right now,” Ovechkin said. “Our team starts with our goaltending and all of the other guys. We play solid, we play calm and this helps us.”

Oshie returned to game action after missing the Capitals’ last 11 games with a concussion he suffered Nov. 14 against Winnipeg, when Josh Morrissey slammed him to the ice. He scored a power play goal from the slot, fitting back in as if he’d never left.

“It felt good. Obviously winning that way is a nice way to come back,” Oshie said. “I don’t think I messed up any of the guys’ mojo.”

The scoring began less than four minutes into the game on a power play. Connolly tipped in a screaming John Carlson slap shot from the point.

Boyd set up the next goal by stealing a puck in one corner of the defensive zone and clearing it up the ice. Dmitrij Jaskin retrieved it and started some tic-tac-toe passing — himself to Nic Dowd, then Dowd back to Boyd, who became the beneficiary on his own play. It was Boyd’s second career goal, after scoring his first in the Capitals’ last game against Columbus.

Ovechkin rang up his first goal before the period was out. It flew wide right of its target, but took a fortuitous bounce off defenseman Niklas Kronwall, changed directions entirely and found the net.

“It was kind of bad shot by me, hit Kronwall shin pad and goes in,” Ovechkin said. “But sometimes you have to take those kind of goals. If you shoot the puck, different bounces and whatever happens happens, and it goes in.”

The captain scored again midway through the second on a 2-on-1 breakaway after deciding not to pass to Oshie.

But Oshie got his chance moments later when Washington received another power play. With a short assist from Backstrom and a swish of his stick, Oshie scored on an unprotected gap of the net and chased Detroit goalie Jonathan Bernier from the game.

“What he provides to our power play is the ability to be in that diamond area, as we call it, and his release,” Reirden said of Oshie. “He had a great chance early on in the game, they made a good save on him and he’s able to convert on the one later in the game … The other team has to respect that, but it’s just, if you watch his intensity to recover pucks and help out on battles and gain possession time, that’s where I really have it at for him.”

Despite his extended absence, Oshie’s goal tied him with Backstrom for second-leading goal-scorer on the team (10).

Detroit got one back early in the third off a rebound, but Ovechkin ensured the result with a goal from the left circle — his “office” — and completed his first hat trick since Nov. 25, 2017.

“He’s playing outstanding,” Oshie said. “I think that level that he got himself to last year, right at the start of the year, he’s really just kept building off that. It feels like it’s continued and it’s come into this year and he’s feeling it. It’s fun being on this side of that, when Big O is going like that.”

Reirden said Ovechkin is playing the best two-way hockey he has seen out of the Russian.

“In particular, it’s been his 5-on-5 play,” Reirden said. “Converting on his chances and taking advantage of some fortunate breaks that went his way tonight, but he’s earning it. He’s doing things the right way and he’s been a great leader for us so far this year.”

The Capitals have a back-to-back awaiting them this weekend. After heading out of town to play the Carolina Hurricanes Friday, they’ll return to Capital One Saturday to host the Buffalo Sabres, who just snapped a 5-game losing skid that followed their headline-grabbing 10-game winning streak.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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