Capitals Vs. Maple Leafs: Alex Ovechkin Scores Hat Trick In 4-1 Win

Nicklas Backstrom ended his scoring slump on Thursday. Tonight it was Alex Ovechkin, who scored his first hat trick of the season to help lead Washington to a 4-1 lead.

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Capitals Vs. Maple Leafs: Alex Ovechkin Scores First Hat Trick Of Season

Alex Ovechkin always does well in Canada, does well when the Washington Capitals are on Hockey Night In Canada, and does well against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It seems that tonight's game was the perfect storm for Ovechkin, because he netted his first hat trick of the season.

Ovechkin scored his first goal in the first period, and added his second just 1:12 into the third period. It wasn't one of his prettiest goals, but it counted just the same. Ovechkin hopped on a rebound from a Mike Green shot that was saved by Jean-Sebastien Giguere and put the puck into the net.

Less than two minutes later, Maple Leafs center Tim Brent redirected a shot from Jay Rosehill to cut the Washington lead to one goal again. That didn't last long though, as Matt Hendricks converted a breakaway opportunity by deking Giguere and putting the puck away. Ovechkin would also add an empty net goal to add a third talley to his stat sheet, and end the game with a score of 4-1.

Ovechkin was not the first star of the night though. That honor would be handed to Braden Holtby. Holtby has now stopped 59 of the 61 shots he's faced in the past two games, including some very impressive saves tonight.

Could this be the type of performance that vaults Holtby into the discussion as a possible regular starting goalkeeper? Bruce Boudreau has had the tendency to continue with whichever goaltender is hot, so Holtby may be staking a claim on the starting job, at least for Monday night's meeting with the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center.


Capitals Vs. Maple Leafs: Braden Holtby Shines In Scoreless Second Period

The Washington Capitals have been looking for a consistent starting goalkeeper ever since the departure of Olie Kolzig. Going into the 2010-2011 season, we thought that Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth would be battling for the starting job, and have hoped all along that one of them would step up enough to be considered an elite starter by the team the Capitals hit the playoff stretch. That still may be the case. But there could now be a third horse in this race.

Following his win against the New York Islanders Thursday night, Braden Holtby has once again been entrusted between the pipes, and he looks to be having the best game of his young NHL career to date. Holtby has turned away all 17 of the shots he's faced so far from the Toronto Maple Leafs, including some very big saves. One of his biggest was described on Twitter by Russian Machine Never Breaks.

Another great save! Puck squirts through, Holtby backs up in the crease and squeezes his pads before the puck crosses the line! Wow.

The Capitals have also been working hard defensively, blocking 18 shots through two periods.


Capitals Vs. Maple Leafs: Alex Ovechkin Combines With Jeff Schultz For Goal, 1-0 Lead

We talked before the puck dropped tonight about this possibly being the game in which Alex Ovechkin could get back on track. Well with only one period in the books, Ovechkin already has his first goal.

With 14:27 gone in the period, Jeff Schultz took a shot from the point and Ovechkin got a small tip while crashing the net. Ovechkin earned his 17th goal of the season as the puck skidded past Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

It was a sloppy opening for both teams at the Air Canada Centre . One penalty and one power play opportunity for each team in the first five minutes of action resulted in no goals, but plenty of chances. The goaltenders were the biggest stars early in the contest. Giguere made a big stop on Alex Ovechkin, and then Braden Holtby was forced into action to make a save on a 3-on-1 as the penalty to Mikhail Grabovski expired.

The Capitals took three penalties in the first period, and will start the second period down a man. Backstrom has hit the box twice, and Mike Knuble once. Despite this deficiency, the Capitals are still leading the Maple Leafs 11-6 in shots.


Capitals Vs. Maple Leafs: Nicklas Backstrom, Caps Hope To Continue Winning Ways In Canada

The Washington Capitals have struggled to score goals at various points of the season. That struggle has been highlight especially by the slumps of Washington's two biggest stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Fortunately for the Capitals, Backstrom ended his slump two nights ago against the New York Islanders. The Caps would go on to win that game 2-1.

If the slump is really in Backstrom's rear view mirror, the Capitals have a chance to do some great things tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. A confident and aggressive Backstrom might also help Ovechkin break out of his own slump. As noted by Mike Vogel, both of Ovechkin's two power play goals this season came in Canada. Hopefully that will continue tonight at the Air Canada Centre.

Young goaltender Braden Holtby remains with the team following his victory in New York, and will get the start once again in net for the Capitals tonight.

With the Wizards also playing tonight, the hockey game can be viewed locally on Comcast SportsNet Plus.

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