Dennis Wideman had the greatest night of his NHL career on Friday. Just how great it was depends on whom you ask.
The official postgame scoresheet said the veteran defenseman scored three power-play goals for the first hat trick of his NHL career and assisted on another extra-man goal by Nicklas Backstrom as the Washington Capitals beat Toronto 4-2 for their third win in four games.
Wideman didn't dispute that he had four points, but he contended that the third goal isn't his.
"The third one went in off Brooskie [Brooks Laich]. I'm pretty sure that one's going to come back," Wideman said after the first multigoal performance of his 481-game NHL career. He set off a cascade of hats onto the ice when his screened slapper from the left point beat James Reimer with 1:19 left in regulation.
For his part, a laughing Laich wouldn't say whether Wideman's shot hit him.
"Don't want to talk about that," he said.
The NHL agreed a day later, switching the goal from Wideman to Laich and taking away what would have been the first hat trick by a Washington defenseman since Sergei Gonchar had one on Jan. 4, 2000, and just the third in the regular season by a Caps blueliner since the team entered the NHL in 1974.
Either way, it was the night of a lifetime for Wideman.
"Dennis is a smart player and he knows when to pass and when to shoot and he was bang on tonight with it," said Caps coach Dale Hunter, who is now 3-3-0 in his NHL coaching career. "It’s all decisions to make for a good power play. You have to read the defense just like a quarterback does. So he shot some and he passed some, great decisions by him."
The Caps (15-12-1) came into the game with the NHL's 22nd-ranked power play at 15.2 percent and mired in a 3-for-51 slump, but took advantage of a Toronto penalty-killing unit that was 28th at 76.0 percent to win for the third time in four games.
Phil Kessel and Cody Franson scored for the Maple Leafs (15-11-3), who lost for the second straight game; they allowed six power-play goals on 10 tries in the back-to-back losses.
"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot tonight," Reimer said. "I thought we really out played them. We just took a few too many penalties."
The Caps appeared to be in control after Wideman's perfect pass from the top of the right circle found Backstrom in front for an easy tap-in at 18:50 of the second period with one second left on a 5-on-3 advantage for a 3-1 lead.
"We were working it around pretty good," Wideman said. "I had some opportunities on the 5-on-3 and I got that pass in the slot, I was thinking I could maybe get one, and then I saw Nicky open on the back door and I had to give it to him."
But after the Leafs killed off an interference penalty to John-Michael Liles midway through the third period, they made it a one-goal game with 6:44 remaining in regulation when Cody Franson barely kept the puck in at the right point and slung a wrister at the net. The shot went through traffic and past a screened Tomas Vokoun, who finished with 26 saves.
However, Joey Crabb accidentally high-sticked John Carlson with 2:14 remaining, and the Caps answered with their fourth power-play goal in just six chances. It was Washington's first game with four power-play goals since an 8-2 win against Philadelphia on Dec. 5, 2009.
But Wideman insisted -- correctly, as it turned out -- that the goal wasn't his.
"I've never had one before. Still haven't had one," he said after the game when asked about getting his first hat trick.
Washington opened the scoring at 12:33 of the opening period on its first power play of the night. With rookie Jake Gardiner in the box for slashing, Wideman ripped a wrister from well inside the right circle past Reimer for his fourth goal of the season and first since Nov. 1.
It became 2-0 at 1:49 of the second period, 11 seconds after the Leafs were penalized for having too many men on the ice, when Wideman wound up for a straightaway 50-foot slapper that went through traffic and past Reimer.
Kessel regained a share of the NHL's goal-scoring lead at 12:52 when he wristed a rebound off Vokoun and into the net for his 18th goal, tying him with Ottawa's Milan Michalek for the most in the League.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson said the reason for the loss was simple.
"Five-on-five, I thought we controlled and at times dominated the game," Wilson said. "We didn’t have much puck luck the way some of the things bounced around the net -- but bad penalties, undisciplined penalties did us in tonight, simple as that."
Material from team media was used in this report