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Sweet Sixteen, Part I - The Collection of Alex Ovechkin Hat Tricks

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T’was the night before Thanksgiving, and Alex Ovechkin recorded his 16th career hat trick.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last Wednesday night, Alex Ovechkin gave Washington Capitals fans something of a pre-Thanksgiving feast, a hat trick against the St. Louis Blues in a 4-3 win. It was the 16th regular season hat trick of Ovcechkin’s career, a total that is almost equal to the total number of hat tricks scored by other Capitals since Ovechkin came into the league in 2005-06 (17).

A total of 51 goals – almost 10 percent of Ovechkin’s career total of 537 goals – have been scored in those 16 games, each of them a Capitals win. Eight of the hat tricks were recorded on the road, and eight of them were recorded at Verizon Center, but all of them were special. We will take a look at all of them, fittingly enough, in two sets of eight. Here is the first set of them…

Hat Trick #1 – January 13, 2006, Washington Capitals 3 – Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 2 (OT)

The Context… When the Caps descended on Anaheim after dropping a 4-1 decision in Dallas to the Stars the night before, they carried with them a six-game losing streak (0-4-2), dropping them to 13-25-5 for the season, and they managed just 11 goals in the six losses. Not that Alex Ovechkin was part of the shortage. During the six-game losing streak he he recorded four goals and had 12 in 17 games (one each in 12 different games) going into the game with the Mighty Ducks.

On the other hand, the Ducks were unable to establish any sort of momentum of their own in games leading up to their contest with the Caps, going 7-5-3 in 15 games after posting a four-game winning streak to end November and begin December.

The goals... After a scoreless first period in Anaheim, the Caps and Ovechkin wasted no time breaking the scoreless tie in the second minute of the second period. Skating with Chris Clark on a 2-on-1 break, Ovechkin darted down the middle as Clark crossed the blue line. Taking a feed from Clark, Ovechkin skated in, deked Jean-Sebastien Giguere to the ice and lifted a backhand over Giguere’s right pad.

After Anaheim tied the game barely two minutes after the first Ovechkin goal, he struck again on a highlight-worthy goal. Snaking the puck aoround and through the legs of defenseman Ruslan Salei, spinning around and sanpping a shot through the pads of Giguere from the bottom of the left wing faceoff circle. After Anaheim tied the game a second time late in the second period, the teams played to a scoreless third period and went to overtime tied at 2-2. In the fourth minute, Ovechkin skated down the left side into the faceoff circle, and using defenseman Francois Beuachemin as a screen, rifled the puck through his legs and past Giguere on the short side for the 3-2 overtime win and his first hat trick.

Hat trick #2 – December 15, 2006, Washington Capitals 3 – Atlanta Thrashers 2 (OT)

The Context… Washington came into their mid-December game in Atlanta on a bit of a run, going 5-1-1 in their previous seven games, but their extra time loss was a tough 5-4 Gimmick loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home. Atlanta came into the game following up a five-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak in which they allowed 14 goals. Ovechkin went into the game with a somewhat quiet December (two goals in five games) after a hot November (10 goals in 14 games), but he did have points in eight of nine games (4-9-13) going into that game against the Thrashers.

The goals… As Southeast Division rivals, these were teams that had little love for one another, a fact reflected in three penalties being called in the first eight minutes of the game (thee previous time they met featured nine fighting major penalties and three suspensions), one for the Caps and two for the Thrashers. On the power play coming off the second Atlanta penalty, Ovechkin beat goalie Kari Lehtonen from the bottom of the left wing circle, one timing a cross ice pass from Dainius Zubrus in a play any Caps fan would recognize today to give the Caps a 1-0 lead.

Atlanta would come back to take a 2-1 lead in the third period, but the Thrashers had one more mistake in them. J.P Vigier was sent off for shooting the puck over the glass with 1:19 left in regulation, and Ovechkin made them pay. Zubrus skated down the right wing wall and sent a pass to Ovechkin between the circles. The puck was a bit into Ovechkin’s skates, but he still managed to get good wood (or composite) on a shot that beat Lehtoene with 30.4 seconds left in regulation to tie the game. If you blinked after the puck drop to start overtime, you missed the end.

The Thrashers won the draw to open the extra session, but Ovechkin circled around and pickpocketed Nicklas Havelid. With the game now on his stick, Ovechkin snapped a shot past Lehtonen just six seconds into the overtime for his second hat trick, the second time he scored the hat trick goal in overtime.

Hat Trick #3 – December 29, 2007, Washington Capitals 8 – Ottawa Senators 6

The Context… If not the wildest game in the Ovechkin era, this one is certainly on the short list. The Caps gave no indication in recent games that such a goal explosion was in them, going 2-2-3 in their previous seven games, scoring 19 goals in those contests. On the other hand, the Senators were coming in on a roll with a 9-1-1 record in their previous 11 games, averaging 4.3 goals per game on offense.

Ovechkin had been a model of consistency over the first two and a half months of the season with 26 goals in 38 games heading to Ottawa and only once going as many as two consecutive games without a goal. He also happened to be coming into this game injured, having been cut by a skate blade in a game against Pittsburgh two days earlier.

The goals… Folks might have had an inkling that this would be a wild affair when Alexander Semin opened the scoring just 61 seconds into the game for the Caps. Less than four minutes later, Ovechkin added to the lead with a power play goal of an odd sort. Taking a feed from Semin at the top of the offensive zone, the Senators backed off, giving Ovechkin room to skate and tee one up. He did, snapping a shot past goalie Martin Gerber from the tops of the circles to make it 2-0.

Ottawa tied the game on a Daniel Alfredsson goal late in the period, but Ovechkin restored the two goal lead early in the second frame, finishing off a 2-on-1 give and go with Tom Poti. The game took a stranger turn at that point, Ottawa coming from what became a 4-1 deficit to get within 6-5 on a power play with less than eight minutes left in regulation. Just 70 seconds after that goal to get the Senators within one, Ovechkin restored some order. Taking a pass at the Ottawa blue line from Jeff Schultz, he skated in, wound up, and drilled a slap shot through Gerber’s pads to make it 7-5 and complete the hat trick.

After Ottawa got back within a goal with 2:05 left, Ovechkin made it a four-goal night (and his first five-point game in the NHL) with a 160-foot empty netter to close the scoring in the 8-6 win. Ovechkin could have been describing the teams as well as his own performance when he said after the game… "Today, I shoot everything and everything go in…"

Hat Trick #4 – January 31, 2008, Washington Capitals 5 – Montreal Canadiens 4 (OT)

The Context… The 8-6 win over Ottawa was the springboard for a month of offensive fireworks for the Caps. Starting with that game, Washington scored 47 goals in 12 games, recording five or more on four occasions. However, they were going to face the Montreal Canadiens in a home-and-home set of games to end the month, and Montreal shut out the Caps, 4-0, in Montreal to open that set. Ovechkin was on a roll of his own, scoring 13 goals in 13 games going into that second game of the home-and-home set against Montreal, but what he was trying to avoid was his first three-game streak of the 2007-2008 season without a goal.

The goals… The first 13 minutes of the first period went quietly, and when Ovechkin twirled around the left wing circle without finding a shooting lane, sending the puck out to the right point to Milan Jurcina, it didn’t seem as though anything was going to happen as the clock ticked into the 14th minute, either. But Jurcina took a step to his right to get a lane to send the puck right back to Ovechkin, who one-timed a shot past goalie Cristobal Huet to give the Caps a 1-0 lead at 13:06.

The Caps added a goal early in the second period by Viktor Kozlov, then Ovechkin went to work again. Taking advantage of some nifty stick work by Kozlov to ease the puck through the skates of defenseman Roman Hamrlik, Ovechkin got behind the Canadien defense and roofed the puck over Huet’s glove to make it 3-0, 11:54 into the second period.

Montreal scored a pair before the second intermission to make a game of it, but Ovechkin restored the two-goal lead mid-way through the third period, carrying the puck from his own blue line down the left side, and then using Mark Streit’s skates as an aiming point, firing between them and over the glove of Huet to complete the hat trick and give the Caps a 4-2 lead.

Montreal was not done though, scoring a pair of goals in the last seven minutes, the latter of them with just 33 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, 4-4. In the fourth minute of overtime, Ovechkin was rubbed out along the right wing boards by Brian Smolinski, but he got to his feet and headed to the net. The puck came out to Mike Green who fired a shot turned aside by Huet, but onto the stick of Jeff Schultz, who fed Ovechkin between the hash marks.

Ovechkin wasted no time burying the puck past Huet’s left pad, and the Caps had a 5-4 overtime win, the third time in a hat trick game that Ovechkin ended the game in overtime. In recording his second career five-point game, he had a hand in each Capitals goal.

Hat Trick #5 – March 3, 2008, Washington Capitals 10 – Boston Bruins 2

The Context… By early March, the Capitals dragged themselves out of last place in the Eastern Conference and were challenging for a playoff spot. But they were struggling in making up the last difference between a playoff spot and being an also ran, going 8-7-3 over an 18-game stretch before hosting the Bruins at home. On the other hand, Boston was coming to Washington on a six-game winning streak and with points in eight straight games (7-0-1). Ovechkin was just getting over his longest streak of games without a goal for the season (seven) before breaking that string with a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs before Boston came to town.

The goals… If a hat trick can get lost in a game, this might be one of them. The Capitals hit the Bruins like a tsunami in the first period. It started with Matt Cooke just 32 seconds into the game. Ovechkin scored almost six minutes later on what would be his 50th goal of the season, taking a long lead pass up the middle from Nicklas Backstrom, skating in alone on goalie Tim Thomas, and beating him to the glove side at the 6:18 mark.

Just 50 seconds later it was Ovechkin again. With Backstrom holding the puck in the left wing corner, Ovechkin circled in front of him to the net. As Backstrom eased out of the circle, Ovechkin backed into position between the hash marks. Backstrom found him between two Bruin defenders for a one timer that left Thomas barely time to flinch.

Less than 90 seconds later, Matt Bradley scored to make it 4-0, but neither the Caps nor Ovechkin were done. With Glen Metropolit in the penalty box, Alexander Semin had the puck along the left wing wall. With all Bruin eyes on him, Semin waited for Ovechkin to dart in on the back side of the play. He laid a pass right on Ovechkin’s stick for a tap-in past Alex Auld’s left pad, and it was 5-0 on the hat trick goal. That would conclude Ovechkin’s contribution to the goal scoring parade, but a Brooks Laich power play goal made it 6-0 after one period, the Caps scoring a pair in each of the second and third periods to win, 10-2, on a night when Ovechkin would record a five-point game, his third such game in his career.

Hat Trick #6 – November 26, 2008, Washington Capitals 5 – Atlanta Thrashers 3

The Context… The Caps got off to a fine start in the 2008-2009 season with an 11-4-3 record in their first 18 games, but they went into their game against Atlanta on the day before Thanksgiving with a three-game losing streak. Atlanta had been on a skid of their own, dropping three in a row before snapping the skid with a 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs the night before arriving in Washington. Ovechkin had a slow start to the season following up his 65-goal season the year before, scoring only two goals in his first 11 games. He showed signs of coming out of it with goals in five straight games (six goals in all) and seven goals in eight game leading up to his meeting with the Thrashers.

The goals… It did not take Ovechkin long to get the Caps on the board. With Toby Enstrom in the penalty box for Atlanta, Ovechkin fed the puck to Sami Lepisto at the top of the offensive zone. Lepisto backed off toward the wall at the right point and returned the puck to Ovechkin for a one timer in the middle of the ice just inside the blue line for a one-timer that handcuffed goalie Ondrej Pavelec 3:29 into the first period.

After the teams exchanged goals later in the period, the Caps found themselves on another power play. Working the puck around the perimeter, Tomas Fleischmann found Viktor Kozlov in the high slot. Instead of shooting, Kozlov faked and fed Ovechkin low to the right of Pavelec. Ovechkin took advantage of what was an almost open net to make it 3-1 at the 14:01 mark of the first period. Just 54 seconds into the second period, Ovechkin completed the hat trick, giving the Caps a 4-1 lead when he took a feed from a pinching Tom Poti and snapped a shot from the high slot past a screened Pavelec. Ovechkin had his hat trick less than 21 minutes into the game as the Caps won going away, 5-3.

Hat Trick #7 – February 1, 2009, Washington Capitals 7 – Ottawa Senators 4

The Context… The Caps closed the 2008 portion and opened the 2009 portion of the 2008-2009 season with a six-game winning streak. However, they stumbled after that, going 4-4-1 in nine games to close January. Ottawa was having serious problems of their own. Since opening the season with a 6-5-2 mark, they went 11-18-5 in their run up to the game against Washington to open February.

Meanwhile, Ovechkin was not scoring often, but he was scoring in bunches. From January 6th through the end of January, he had goals in just three of ten games, but he had a pair of goals in each of those games, including a pair against the Detroit Red Wings the night before Ottawa came to town.

The goals… Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Green (on a power play) scored for the Senators and the Capitals, respectively, to open the scoring in the first period. Alex Ovechkin broke the tie late in the period on the Caps second power play of the game. Off a faceoff win by Sergei Fedorov to the left of goalie Alex Auld, Mike Green fed Ovechkin for a one-timer from the left wing circle that beat Auld four seconds into the power play.

After the Caps made it 3-1 on an Eric Fehr goal in the first minute of the second period, Ovechkin netted his second at the 2:15 mark. Viktor Kozlov fed Alexander Semin in stride heading through center ice. Semin crossed the Ottawa blue line and dropped the puck for Ovechkin easing into the offensive zone on the right side. Ovechkin crossed behind Semin and fired the puck past defenseman Filip Kuba, who screened relief goalie Brian Elliott as the puck sailed into the net. After the clubs traded goals to make it a 5-2 game, Ovechkin closed the scoring in the second period, taking a pass from Fedorov along the boards in front of the Caps’ bench, skating in, and using Kuba as a screen once more in firing a laser past Elliott. Ovechkin had his seventh career hat trick, and the Caps went on to win, 7-4.

Hat Trick #8 – February 15, 2009, Washington Capitals 4 – Florida Panthers 2

The Context… After beating the Senators on February 1st, the Caps spent the next five games alternating wins and losses, going 3-1-1 in the process. Florida was doing the same, alternating wins and losses over an eight-game stretch (4-4-0). Ovechkin was in the midst of a hot streak, though. He went into the game against the Panthers on an eight-game points streak (7-5-12), including the hat trick game against Ottawa two weeks before the Caps met the Cats.

The goals… Just over 14 minutes into the first period, Cory Stillman took a goaltender interference penalty to put the Caps on a power play. Just over a minute into the man advantage, Nicklas Backstrom skated the puck down the left wing wall to the corner before dropping it back to Alexander Semin at the far edge of the left wing circle. Semin relayed the puck back to Ovechkin at the left point, who circled out to the middle of the ice where he found a shooting lane. His wrist shot through a screen beat goalie Tomas Vokoun at the 15:38 mark to give the Caps a 1-0 lead.

The Caps opened up a 2-0 lead in the first minute of the second period on an Eric Fehr goal, but Florida came back with a goal late in the second and early in the third period to tie the contest. With the clock winding down and looking as if the game would go to overtime, Backstrom sent the puck up the left wing wall to Ovechkin just outside the Panther blue line. Ovechkin worked the puck down the wall, then turned into the left wing circle where, using defenseman Jay Bouwmeester as a screen, he snapped the puck past Vokoun with just 2:31 left in regulation to give the Caps a 3-2 lead.

Then, in the last minute, with the Caps nursing the one-goal lead, the puck came to Ovechkin along the wall in his own end. Looking to get the puck out of danger, he backhanded the puck up and out of the zone, but it slid all the way down the ice and banked off the post and in to give the Caps a 4-2 win and Ovechkin his eighth career hat trick.

We will be back with the second set of eight hat tricks in Ovechkin’s career in a post to come.