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#CapsSens Postgame Notebook: Hey, Nineteen

Ovechkin scores three in third to help Caps win opener, Kuznetsov and Vrana also excel, Connolly scores first and a heavy duty night for Caps' top four D

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

Alex Ovechkin recorded the 19th hat trick of his NHL career (including one in the Stanley Cup playoffs) on Thursday against the Senators in Ottawa. The Caps captain scored all three goals at even-strength, and all three came in a span of just six minutes and 33 seconds in the third period. 

The first two of Ovechkin's tallies brought Washington out of a two-goal hole, and his third goal also tied the game, erasing a one-goal deficit. On the 12th anniversary of his NHL debut, Ovechkin also hit a post and scored in the shootout to help his team to a 5-4 opening night win over the Sens.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Ovechkin is the first NHL player to score three goals in a single period of a season-opening game since New Jersey's Paul Gagne did so more than three decades ago, in a 6-5 win over Philadelphia on Oct. 10, 1985. 
Video: Ovechkin registers hat trick in Capitals' SO win
Again according to Elias, Thursday's performance marked the third time in his career that Ovechkin has scored three goals in the same period, matching Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg for the most one-period hat tricks among active players.

Casting aside empty-net goals, Thursday night's Ovechkin performance marked just the third time in those 18 hat tricks that Ovechkin scored three even-strength goals in regulation time. 

Last season, Ovechkin was limited to just 16 even-strength goals, the lowest total of his NHL career for a full 82-game season. Washington coach Barry Trotz has mentioned on more than one occasion this fall that the key for the Caps captain to improve upon last season's total of 33 goals - his lowest since he netted 32 in 2010-11 - is to score more at even strength. 

"We have only one power play," Ovechkin observes, "It's kind of weird, but we had pretty good chances as a team at five-on-five. I think our line felt the puck well tonight. We were moving, we had good communication, and the result was there."

With 18 regular season hat tricks, Ovechkin is now one behind Peter Bondra's all-time franchise mark (19). 
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | October 5
Tough Road - Thursday night's victory in the season opener marks the first time in eight years that the Capitals have been able to nail down two points in an opening night contest played on the road. Washington's previous opening night win on the road came with a 4-1 win over the Bruins in Boston on Oct. 1, 2009. 

Washington lost opening night games in Atlanta (2010-11), Tampa Bay (2012-13), Chicago (2013-14) and Pittsburgh (2016-17) between the victory in Boston eight years ago and Thursday's triumph in Ottawa.

Killing It - Washington's penalty killing outfit was at the top of its game on Thursday, and it needed to be. The Caps were tasked with five penalty-killing missions on the night, including two in the first period, and one each in the second, third and overtime.

"A lot of commitment from our penalty killers," remarks Caps coach Barry Trotz. "I thought our clears were much better, and that allowed us to get out of the zone a little bit. They've got some real dangerous shooters. From that standpoint, it was real key for us to just survive through that.

"And then obviously in overtime, when you're four-on-three, you've got to get some big blocks and you've got to get a couple of big saves. I thought [Caps goalie Braden Holtby] made some real key saves. It wasn't maybe his best performance, but he made really timely saves for us when we needed them, and we found a way to get it done."

Ottawa managed nine shots on net during the 10 minutes in which it enjoyed the man advantage, but Holtby had the answer for all of them. 
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | October 5
Helping Hands - Kuznetsov was a force all night long as he seemed to have the puck on a string at times. He was a one-man zone entry machine, and he supplied the primary helper on all three of Ovechkin's goals. Kuznetsov's best setup of the night didn't result in a goal; Ovechkin fired his cross-crease, thread-the-needle feed off the iron early in the second period. 

The trio of Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana accounted for 12 of Washington's 28 shots on goal and 20 of its 64 shot attempts in Thursday's opener. Vrana picked up a pair of assists as well, notching the second two-assist night and second two-point night of his NHL career. 

Heavy Duty - Washington's top four defensemen shouldered a heavy workload in Thursday's contest. John Carlson led the way with 27:45 in ice time, and he was followed closely by Dmitry Orlov (26:06), Matt Niskanen (25:03) and Brooks Orpik (24:47). That left Taylor Chorney with 12:41 and Aaron Ness with 11:12 in ice time for the evening. 

Orpik's ice time total is his highest for a single game since he skated 25:17 in a shootout loss to Edmonton on Jan. 20, 2015. That game came midway through Orpik's first season with the Capitals. 

Carlson logged 6:00 of shorthanded ice time and Orpik skated 5:54 while Washington was down a man in Thursday's game. 

First Strike - Brett Connolly scored the Capitals' first goal of the 2017-18 season at 8:07 of the first period. A healthy scratch on opening night of last season, Connolly still managed to score a career-high total of 15 goals in 66 games in his first season with the Capitals.

"You always want to get that first one out of the way early and move on," says Connolly. "It's going to take a lot of guys here to make up for the guys we lost [in the offseason] but we've got guys in here that can pull weight. I thought we were good tonight, and we're going to need more of that from a lot of guys to secure wins down the stretch."

Seven-Eleven - Although the two teams combined to score nine goals in Thursday's season opener, only 11 different players registered points on those nine goals. Seven of the 11 accumulated multiple points on the night, with Ovechkin (three goals), Kuznetsov (three assists) and Ottawa's Derick Brassard (one goal, two assists) leading the way with three each.

Four Score - The Brassard line includes Mark Stone and Bobby Ryan, and that trio helped to account for all four of Ottawa's goals on the night. Stone scored twice, and defenseman Chris Wideman supplied the other strike, tallying Ottawa's first goal of the season on the Sens' first shot of the season. All three members of Brassard's line finished the night at plus-4.
Video: Caps 365 | October 5
By The Numbers - Playing on the 10th anniversary of his NHL debut, Nicklas Backstrom led all Caps forwards with 20:36 in ice time … Dmitry Orlov led all Caps defensemen with 22:13 in even-strength ice time and Kuznetsov led the way among forwards with 18:22 in even-strength ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on net and 11 shot attempts … Orpik led Washington with six hits and three blocked shots … Jay Beagle won eight of 12 face-offs (67%) on the night.

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