The late, great James Brown musically noted the importance of getting off on the good foot, and the Capitals did as much on Tuesday night in St. Paul when they got out of town with a 5-4 overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild. The victory started Washington's season-long five-game road trip on the good foot, with two more critical standings points.
It wasn't an easy win by any means. Minnesota came into the contest with just one win (1-7-1) in its previous nine games, and the Wild were energized and determined all night long.
Washington, which has recently had 20-minute periods in which it has cranked up 30 or more shot attempts, was limited to a total of just 35 attempts for the entire game on Tuesday, and the Caps were held to just three even-strength shots on goal over the final 40 minutes of regulation.
Video: Ovechkin records hat trick, Oshie nets OT winner
Fortunately for the Caps, the Washington power play - and specifically, Alex Ovechkin - was clicking at a top level. Ovechkin scored three power-play goals to record his 17th career hat trick, and his second in his last two visits to St. Paul.
T.J. Oshie scored twice, sandwiching his strikes around Ovechkin's trio of tallies, and scoring the game-winner in overtime of what was a thrill-ride of a contest with a bit of a playoff feel to it.
"Yeah, it felt like it," says Oshie, when asked if it felt like as much of a playoff game as it looked like from upstairs. "They were playing a pretty tight game. It was an ugly, grind and just chip it in and throw it to the net and try to get some bounces [kind of game].
"[The Wild] got a couple of bounces on those last two [goals], and hats off to them. That's how you've got to play in the playoffs. You could tell the way things have been going for them, they're in playoff mode. They made it hard on us, but I thought we responded pretty well there in overtime."
Video: Caps players talk after a 5-4 OT/win vs. Minnesota
The Columbus Blue Jackets won their Tuesday night home game against Buffalo to pull within a point of Washington in the Metro Division, and the Caps' win over Minnesota later in the evening restored their lead to three points with seven games to go.
Good teams find a way to win under adverse circumstances, and that's what the Capitals did on Tuesday in St. Paul. It was nothing doing for Washington at even strength, so the Caps got it done on the power play.
Forty Times Three - Caps goalie Braden Holtby earned his fifth straight victory and his 40th of the season on Tuesday night in St. Paul. In doing so, he becomes just the third netminder in NHL history to record 40 or more wins in three straight seasons. He joins Martin Brodeur and Evgeni Nabokov on that short list.
"It's pretty special," admits Holtby. "It's a big accomplishment for our group here and our goaltending staff. It shows consistency and wins are the one thing that I like to look at and make sure that we're doing well in. It shows durability through our group.
"That's one stat that can be shared through the whole roster, because everyone pitches in for that. So it's pretty cool."
Fifty Mission Caps - Washington chalked up its 50th win of the season on Tuesday in Minnesota, reaching that barrier for the second straight season and the fifth time in franchise history. Four of those 50-win seasons have come during the Ovechkin/Nicklas Backstrom era.
Hats Off - Ovechkin's hat trick was the 17th of his NHL career and his second this season. All three of his goals came on the power play, and he now has 17 power-play goals on the season, tied for the league lead.
With 212 career power-play goals, Ovechkin is tied for 13th in NHL history with Keith Tkachuk. Ovechkin ranks second among active players in power-play goals, trailing only Florida's Jaromir Jagr (216). Ovechkin is the first Caps player to score three power-play goals in a game since Mike Ridley on Oct. 11, 1988 at Pittsburgh. Ridley had four goals and an assist in that game, an 8-7 loss to the Penguins.
Video: WSH@MIN: Ovi erupts in Minny for 17th career hatty
Ovechkin had a hat trick against the Wild in Minnesota last season, and he now has 14 goals and 20 points in a dozen career games against the Wild.
"[Andre Burakovsky] just told me that this morning," says Ovechkin, referring to his two hat tricks in as many visits to Xcel Center. "Obviously it's a loud building. It's a fun place to play."
Half Century - Marcus Johansson had four assists in Tuesday's game, a single game career best for him. He has 30 assists on the season now, and has reached that plateau for the third time in his NHL career. Johansson also surpassed the 50-point barrier on Tuesday, doing so for the first time in his NHL career.
Video: Coach Trotz talks after a 5-4 OT/win in Minnesota
Power Surge - Washington scored three power-play goals in a game for the first time this season and the first time since going 3-for-4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Dec. 18, 2015 game at Verizon Center, a 5-3 Capitals win.
"Obviously tonight, our unit played well," says Ovechkin. "You can see how we move the puck and how everything opened up. If not me, then maybe Osh scores, or Backy. Whatever, we are a dangerous power play unit out there and it's nice that we start clicking at the end of the year and going into the playoffs. It's very huge for us."
The Caps have climbed to third in the league with a 22.7% extra man success rate on the season. Washington has scored 32 power-play goals in its last 36 games, and its 33 power-play goals since Jan. 1 are the most in the NHL.
Oshie In OT - Oshie's overtime game-winner was his first for the Capitals in the regular season; he had one in the playoffs last spring against the Penguins in Game 1 of Washington's second-round series against the Pens.
Oshie's overtime game-winner on Tuesday was his first in the regular season since Dec. 13, 2014 at Colorado. Kevin Shattenkirk picked up one of the assists on that Oshie overtime winner from his days in St. Louis.
Video: WSH@MIN: Oshie nets OT winner with top-shelf snipe
You Like Apples? - Shattenkirk picked up a helper on one of Ovechkin's power-play goals, recording his 40th assist of the season in the process. It's the first time in his NHL career that Shattenkirk has reached 40 assists in a season.
By The Numbers - Matt Niskanen led the Caps with 24:57 in ice time. He also picked up an assist, but was not credited with a plus, on Oshie's game-winner. By the time Oshie scored, Niskanen was on the bench. Niskanen also led the Caps with four hits … Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on net and eight shot attempts … Karl Alzner led the Caps with three blocked shots.