- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Alex Ovechkin’s first few shots of the night couldn’t have come at a better time. The Washington Capitals had just fallen behind the Los Angeles Kings midway through the third period. And up to that point, Washington had been relatively quiet offensively.

So with Washington desperately needing a goal, the Capitals‘ captain flicked his wrist and ripped a shot right past Kings goaltender Jack Campbell. Slightly more than a minute later, he shot — and scored — again.

Ovechkin scored twice in a span of 70 seconds to give the Capitals a 4-2 win Tuesday at home over the Kings. For good measure, the 34-year-old also scored an empty-net goal with less than two minutes left to seal the victory.

Ovechkin’s latest hat trick, the 27th of his career, moved him just two goals away from the illustrious “700 club,” something only seven other players in NHL history have done.

“In less than five minutes, he took over the game,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “We win the game because of that. That’s what superstars do. We’re fortunate to have him. … This is a real, real special player.”

With his latest scoring outburst, Ovechkin also passed Boston’s David Pastrnak to become league leader in goals this season with 40. He now has 16 goals in the last 10 games.

Ovechkin now has 11 seasons of at least 40 goals, trailing only Wayne Gretzky. 

“Not yet,” said Ovechkin when asked if he’s ever amazed by his performance. “I’m still playing. Right after the year, yeah, I’m pretty sure my family and my friends are going to talk about it, but now personally I don’t try to concentrate about it. I’m just going out there and doing my job.”

For Tuesday’s game, the Capitals went back to starter Braden Holtby against the Kings, two days after they had tabbed rookie Ilya Samsonov in a pivotal matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Reirden has downplayed a goalie controversy, telling reporters Washington would need both netminders over the final three months of the season. But given Samsonov’s hot streak — he had won 11 in a row before the 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh — some had wondered whether the 22-year-old was grabbing control of the competition.

Holtby, though, was more than satisfactory. He gave up two goals on 31 shots, but helped preserve the win down the stretch after Ovechkin helped Washington take the lead.

There was no need for backup Vitek Vanecek, who was recalled Tuesday from Hershey when Samansov sustained an upper-body injury at the team’s morning skate. Samsonov had left practice after Ovechkin collided with him, but Reirden said the removal was as a precaution and the Russian is day to day.

Holts came up big,” defenseman John Carlson said. “We gave up a lot of chances there for a little stretch and kind of got our head on straight again and started to simplify it and not giving them anything good to thrive off.”

Los Angeles’ first goal, too, wasn’t solely on Holtby. Kings center Jeff Carter went uncovered while skating into the offensive zone, and winger Tyler Toffoli placed a perfect pass to Carter, who sniped a shot past Holtby’s glove from the left circle.

In the first, the Capitals again failed to solve some of their season-long issues. They couldn’t take advantage of a Los Angeles slashing penalty, registering zero shots on goal during the power play. Entering Tuesday, Washington’s power play ranked 11th leaguewide — but have converted only 13 of their 87 chances (14.9%, third worst) since Dec. 1.

If the first period was a reflection of Washington’s weaknesses, the second was a better representation of its strengths. Specifically, defenseman John Carlson scored his 14th goal of the season when he ripped a shot from the high slot on an uncovered rush. Carlson, who leads the league in points among defensemen, is now just two goals away from breaking his career-high of 15 — and there are still 27 games left.

The Capitals won despite only 24 shots on goal, their third fewest of the season.

Now, Ovechkin has a chance to get to No. 700 on Saturday when Washington takes on the Philadelphia Flyers.

“If you’re going to think about it too much, you’re never going to get it,” Ovechkin said. “So, I just have to go out there and play.”


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