THE RESULT: The Washington Capitals rose to the occasion of "Hockey Night in Canada", with their superstar recording his first hat trick of the season en route to a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Center.
The Caps third baby goalie, Braden Holtby, was spectacular, making several "how did he do that" saves and kept his team in the game until they were able to break out in the third period.
Alex Ovechkin really wanted this one. Not only did he score three times, but he also had three blocks, including one late in the third period where he laid out on the ice to knock down a shot from the high slot.
Ovi's first goal was a redirect of a shot from Jeff Schultz from the point. Later, he victimized J.S. Giguere from in close after getting clobbered by defenseman Luke Schenn. To cap his trick, he beat Tomas Kaberle down the boards and dumped the puck into an open net to seal the win.
In between, Matt Hendricks turned hard work into a pretty goal. On a defensive zone face off, he was able to tip the puck between Toronto's defensemen and race up the ice in on Giguere, where he made an exaggerated pump-fake to get Giguere down on the ice, then Hendricks slipped the puck on the backhand past the fallen goalie.
Earlier in the night he'd gotten his nose rearranged in a tussle with Leafs Mike Brown, but that didn't keep Hendricks from missing a shift -- he played with a plug in his nostril to keep it from bleeding.
Holtby was the big story most of the night. He made 35 saves, allowing just a bang-bang goal to Tim Brent. But he made two huge kick saves early in the game, and robbed Mikhail Grabovski with the glove late in the third.
Taking the win on "Hockey Night in Canada" must be extra-special for Holtby. The youngster gave up five goals twice in November and was disappointed with his play. He went back to Hershey and was stellar, recovering his confidence. He has now won back-to-back games with Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov nursing injuries.
This team has as good of a stable of good, young, athletic goaltenders as anyone in the league. It's a luxury to be able to recall a player of Holtby's talent when an injury pops up.
So the Caps come home taking five of six points available on the three-game roadie. The games with the Islanders and Leafs were must games, and the Capitals were up to the task. They needed those points in the standings, and what's more, they needed to prove to themselves they still knew how to win.
THE GOOD: Ovi is scoring. Enough said.
THE BAD: Well, this game started pretty slow. Don't judge me, I'm in a good mood.
THE UGLY: I'm going to pass on handing out an ugly. Just a solid win as the third straight game on the road.
THE STATS: Alex Ovechkin (17) from Jeff Schultz (6) and Nick Backstrom (33) at 14:27 of 1st. Alex Ovechkin (18) from Mike Green (14) and Jason Chimera (10) at 1:12 of 3rd. Matt Hendricks (6) unassisted at 8:14 of 3rd. Alex Ovechkin (19) from Nick Backstrom (34) and John Carlson (16) at 19:36 of 3rd (EN).
NEXT GAME: Monday v. New York Rangers at Verizon Center at 7:00 pm.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS
3. Matt Hendricks. Broken nose in a fight? No big deal. He'll just score a pump-fake breakaway goal.
2. Braden Holtby. Was simply magnificent. He kept the Caps in the game with several ridiculous saves.
1. Alex Ovechkin. His hat trick is huge. He's using his outside speed and physicality inside.