Ovechkin's hat trick tops Crosby's two goals, and Capitals beat Penguins for 14th win in a row

Trailing 4-1 late in the second period, Washington rallies behind an Alex Ovechkin hat trick and beats the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-4, in overtime for a franchise-best 14th straight victory.
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 8, 2010

Sidney Crosby scored the first two goals Sunday. Alex Ovechkin, though, ended up doing the Pittsburgh Penguins captain one better.

Ovechkin recorded his first regular season hat trick in almost a year, then assisted on Mike Knuble's overtime winner at Verizon Center, where the fans who trudged through two feet of snow were treated to a 5-4, come-from-behind victory that extended the Washington Capitals' winning streak to 14 games and ended any discussion about which rivalry is hockey's best.

"You can tell when he's having one of his days, and when he's having one of his days," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Ovechkin. "Days when I see that his recovery rate is unbelievable. He sits on the bench for 30 seconds and I know he wants to go again."

Since Ovechkin was named captain on Jan. 5, the two-time MVP has 16 goals and 20 assists and the Capitals have won 17 of 18. The winning streak is tied for the third longest in league history (with the 1929-30 Boston Bruins) and, with three games remaining before the Olympic break, puts them in position to tie the NHL's longest run, set by the Penguins in 1993. The win also marked Washington's 11th straight on home ice, setting a franchise record.

And the reason the streaks are still alive was a red blur with a tinted visor and yellow skate laces.

The Penguins took a 4-1 lead on Jordan Staal's second goal of the game with 6 minutes 53 seconds remaining in the second period. But the Capitals scored the next four goals -- two by Ovechkin, who leads the league with 42 goals and 86 points.

After Eric Fehr cut the deficit to 4-2 late in the second period, the stage was set for a vintage Ovechkin performance.

At 6:51 of the third period, the 24-year-old Russian backhanded in a shot that had been knocked down in front by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. Then, just 4:15 later, he rifled a one-timer off a faceoff past Marc-André Fleury (29 saves) to tie the score, send the crowd into delirium and elicit chants of "M-V-P" as hundreds of hats rained down on the ice. The Capitals have outscored opponents, 30-6, in the third period during their streak.

"It's always nice to win when you are a little bit frustrated in the first period," Ovechkin said. "The game didn't go well for us right away."

It almost didn't go well late, either. With 4:08 remaining in regulation, Jeff Schultz was penalized for slashing Matt Cooke's stick in two. There was only one problem: Schultz never touched Cooke's stick.

A poorly officiated game, though, might have helped the Capitals in the end. In overtime, Orpik was sent off for high-sticking Alexander Semin in the face. Just 23 seconds later, Knuble pushed a rebound under Fleury after Ovechkin had fired a shot off the post.

Afterward, Orpik, who received a game misconduct at the buzzer for arguing with referees, said Semin was guilty of embellishing.

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