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Caps and Nats put on a show, Vrana notches first hat trick as Caps match 32-year-old franchise mark, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Good Times Roll - The presence of the World Series champion Washington Nationals provided a joyous and boisterous backdrop as the Capitals rolled to their fourth straight win and their fourth straight win on home ice on Sunday night, a 4-2 triumph over the Calgary Flames.

The Nats hung out with the Caps before the game and read off the starting lineups, partied with the Caps after, posed for an epic pregame photo of the two teams together on the ice, rode the Olympia ice-resurfacer - sans shirts - between the second and third period, and generally lived the grand and celebratory life of world champs who are less than a week into their reign.

Meanwhile on the ice, the Caps continued with business as usual, and business has been good of late. Along with a previous four-game winning streak, the Caps' current four-win run is sandwiched around a 4-3 overtime loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Oct, 24, the lone blemish on Washington's record in a span of three weeks (8-0-1).

Jakub Vrana recorded the first hat trick of his NHL career, Lars Eller added a timely and crucial power-play goal early in the third, and the Caps turned in a strong defensive performance over the game's final 40 minutes, enabling Ilya Samsonov (25 saves) to come away with his fifth win in as many starts.

On Sunday morning, the Caps and coach Todd Reirden talked of needing to get to their physical game and play to their identity against a road weary Calgary team that played the night before in Columbus, and was finishing a five-game road trip in Washington.

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | November 3

"Something we talk about a lot is our north execution," says Reirden. "We want to make plays that are north, that are allowing us now with the personnel that we have and the style that we want to play, to force teams into mistakes. And we're doing that. It's not always a perfect pass; sometimes it's a puck out to an area where we can get into races. But especially [against] a team in back-to-back situations, that was a real focus point.

"It was a real focus point for us, and once we started doing that, we started to tilt the ice in our favor and we were able to capitalize on some good opportunities. But that is definitely close to our identity in terms of wanting to pressure and use our speed."

Washington has won four straight at home, and three of those victories have come against teams that played elsewhere the night before.

"Second half of a back-to-back, you have to make it hard on a team," says Eller, "which means use the full length of the ice, putting pucks behind them and make them skate a lot. Finish checks and those things. We did that well throughout most of the game, and that makes it easier on ourselves the further we go into the game."

Flying V - In Friday's 6-1 stomping of the Buffalo Sabres, Vrana scored a pair of goals and fired a single-game career high eight shots on net. With his hat trick on Sunday, Vrana now has five goals on 13 shots on net in his last two games.

Video: Postgame Locker Room | November 3

"I'm just trying to keep working hard and keep working on my shot," says Vrana. "I'm not going to stop and keep going forward, and focus on the right things. We've been playing great as a team, we've been winning lots of games, and that's huge and it's bringing us lots of energy."

"I'm not that surprised," says Eller of Vrana's recent roll. "He has it in him. Do I expect him to score three every night? He's got that kind of talent where he can do it once in a while. As he gets more and more experience, we'll see that more consistently. He is going to score a lot of goals in this league going forward. He's got speed and a shot, and he is starting to really figure out how to use them. Those are great assets."

Vrana's linemates Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson each had a pair of assists in Sunday's game, and the trio has combined for six goals and a dozen points in the last two games.

"Actually," says Reirden, "it's been probably the last five games where I think he has had a little bit of a refocus there when we were on the road trip, and he has really played his best hockey since then. We had him playing with Lars for a while, until we felt the right time for his game was to put him back with Kuzy and Wilson.

"Sometimes you have to let some things develop and let a player find his game, and he started to find his game, and then we moved him back there. And now we've seen some really good results, some of the best results we've seen from that line this year. They've been really solid."

Six-Pack Attack - When Vrana netted his second goal of the game late in the first period, it marked the sixth straight game in which a Capitals player had a multi-goal night. That ties a franchise record that stood for more than 32 years, since the Caps had a similar six-game spree from Feb. 7-24, 1987.

That 1987 streak began when Craig Laughlin scored a couple of goals in a 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers at Capital Centre on Feb. 7, 1987.

Fastest Horse In Town -- Sunday's win has Washington sitting at 11-2-3 after 16 games, giving them their quickest 25-point start in franchise history. Twice previously - in 1991-92 and in 2010-11 - the Caps had 24 points after 16 games, but this season is the first time they've made it to the quarter century mark in that span.

This One Goes To Eleven (Hundred) - Caps captain Alex Ovechkin skated in his 1,100th career regular season contest against Calgary on Sunday. In doing so, he became just the fifth Russian player ever to reach that milestone, joining Alex Kovalev (1,316), Sergei Gonchar (1,301), Sergei Fedorov (1,248) and Slava Kozlov (1,182).

Since he came into the NHL in 2005-06, Ovechkin has missed a grand total of just 30 games, and seven of those were because of suspensions from the league. Over the course of his 15 seasons in the NHL, only Patrick Marleau (1,110) and Eric Staal (1,107) have played in more games than Ovechkin.

"It's pretty special," says Ovechkin of his latest milestone. "Obviously, it shows I did the right things with my body, played the right way, and I'm just trying to keep up with all of the young guys right now.

"I think my body feels pretty good right now. Everything right now that's happening with me, I just enjoy it."

Video: Rinkside Update | Alex Ovechkin

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears finished off a busy weekend of three games in as many nights on Sunday, taking a 4-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch at Giant Center. The victory gave the Bears two wins out of the three games on the weekend.

Matt Moulson got the Bears started with his third goal of the season at 5:32 of the first, Mike Sgarbossa and Bobby Nardella assisting. After the Crunch evened the score with just over four minutes left in the first, Moulson struck again with his second of the period at 18:01, getting help from Chris McCarthy and Alex Alexeyev.

At 4:53 of the second, Beck Malenstyn scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal with help from Martin Fehervary and Christian Djoos, pushing the Hershey lead to 3-1.

The Crunch closed to within a goal in the third, and Sgarbossa scored his fifth of the season into a vacant Syracuse cage at 19:59 to account for the 4-2 final. With 18 saves in the Hershey nets, Pheonix Copley improved to 3-3-1 on the season.

The Bears are idle until Friday night when they start another three-in-three weekend against the Wolf Pack in Hartford.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays made it a clean sweep Sunday for the Washington organization, rolling to an 8-2 road win over the Solar Bears in Orlando.

Cole Ully and Max Novak each scored twice to pace the Stingrays' attack, and Novak finished the night with four points. Logan Thompson needed to make only 15 stops to run his record to 2-1-0-0 on the season.

South Carolina is back in action on Friday when it visits the Swamp Rabbits in Greenville.

By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 24:50 in ice time and with six shots on net … Ovechkin led Washington with nine shot attempts … Garnet Hathaway led Washington with six hits … Jonas Siegenthaler led the Caps with five blocked shots … Eller won nine of 15 face-offs (60 percent) … The Caps swept the season's series (2-0-0) from the Flames, doing so for the second straight season and the third season in the last four.

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