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Russian troika paces Caps' third straight win, Ovechkin reaches 20 goals with 24th hat trick, much more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Russian Lullaby - Three members of Washington's Russian contingent came to the fore on Saturday night in Detroit, combining to put the Red Wings to sleep in a 5-2 victory.

Making his first start in more than two weeks, goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 25 saves to earn his sixth win in seven starts this season. Caps captain Alex Ovechkin notched the 24th hat trick of his NHL career, and Evgeny Kuznetsov had a trio of helpers as the Caps started their four-game road trip on a winning note.

Detroit has dropped nine straight (0-7-2) and seven straight in regulation, but the Wings led 1-0 after the first period, and they hung right with Washington until the game's final minutes.    

After enduring his longest idle stretch between starts since he began his North American pro career, Samsonov showed no signs of rust. He got right into the action, facing and stopping four shots - all from inside 30 feet - in the game's second minute.

"I mentioned after the game that if there was one thing that I took from the game tonight that I wanted to pass on to our team was that he hadn't played in a couple of weeks," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "And that's tough for him to come in there in that type of game that's a little bit scrambly early on with both teams playing back-to-backs, and he was solid. I was real happy with his game."

Video: Reirden Postgame | November 30

Legendary Man - It won't go into the books as the prettiest of Ovechkin's two dozen career hat tricks, but the red light went on three times and he reached the 20-goal plateau in Washington's 28th game of the season on Saturday night in Motown.

Ovechkin's first goal of the game gave Washington a lead that it kept for the remainder of the evening, but it was also one that he himself called "lucky" after the game. His shot hit Detroit goalie Jonathan Bernier and bounded in on the short side. Each of Ovechkin's last two goals were empty-netters in the game's final two minutes, running his career total to 678.

In scoring those three goals on Saturday night, Ovechkin added significantly to the long and growing list of achievements he has amassed in his 15 seasons in the circuit. To wit:

He becomes the fifth player in NHL history to record 20 or more goals in each of his first 15 seasons in the league. He joins Marcel Dionne, Mike Gartner, Jaromir Jagr and Mats Sundin on that short list.

Ovechkin is the 15th player in league history to record two empty-net goals in the same game, and the sixth player in league history to complete a hat trick with a pair of empty-netters.

Video: WSH@DET: Ovechkin earns 24th NHL hat trick in 5-2 win

With those two dozen career hat tricks, Ovechkin passes Jari Kurri for the most hat tricks in league history by a European-born player.

Ovechkin victimized Detroit goaltender Jonathan Bernier for the seventh time in his career on Saturday, which makes Bernier the 32nd different goaltender to surrender as many as seven goals to The Great Eight.

The Caps captain now has 137 career multi-goal games, two shy of matching Dionne (139) for sixth place all-time. As my pal Tom Schaller points out, Ovechkin has now scored more than 300 goals just in his multi-goal games.

And finally,'s Tom Gulitti issued a couple of Tweets noting Ovechkin's remarkable goal-scoring consistency and dominance over the entirety of his 15-year career. From his rookie season of 2005-06 through 2011-12, he scored 339 goals in 553 games for a goals-per-game rate of 0.61. And from 2012-13, he has scored 339 goals in 559 games for a GPG of 0.61. The career total of 678 goals in 1,112 games also works out to a GPG of 0.61.

Gulitti also notes that in the first phase noted above, Ovechkin's 339 goals were most in the league, and Ilya Kovalchuk was second at 298. Ovechkin's 339 goals since 2012-13 are also tops in the league, with John Tavares a distant second at 245.

Count To Ten - Tom Wilson scored what would prove to be the game-winner with 5:37 remaining, his 10th goal of the season. In doing so, he joins Ovechkin (20), Jakub Vrana (12), T.J. Oshie (11) and Kuznetsov (11) to give the Caps five players with 10 or more goals this season. Washington is the only team in the league with as many as five double-digit goal scorers.

I Can Help - Kuznetsov has 15 career three-assist games, sixth most in the league since he came into the league in 2013-14. The Capitals are the only team with three different players with at least 45 multi-assist games since 2014-15: Nicklas Backstrom (64), John Carlson (48) and Kuznetsov (45). 

The 200 Club - Caps right wing Garnet Hathaway skated in the 200th game of his NHL career on Saturday in Detroit. Originally signed by Calgary as an undrafted free agent, Hathaway began his pro career after finishing his four-year collegiate career at Brown, at the tail end of the 2013-14 season. He made the leap from the AHL to the NHL and debuted with the Flames at Philadelphia on Leap Year Day, February 29, 2016. 

Century City - Including the phantom goals the NHL awards for shootout wins, the Caps pushed past the century mark in tallies on Saturday night with 101. In doing so, they become the second team in the last dozen years to reach the 100-goal plateau before the beginning of December. The 2013-14 Chicago Blackhawks (102) also achieved the feat. 

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears hosted the Belleville Senators on Saturday night at Giant Center. The Bears dropped a 3-1 decision. 

Playing in his first game as a member of the Bears, defenseman Eddie Wittchow made a good early impression by staking Hershey to a 1-0 lead at 6:20 of the first. Liam O'Brien and Kody Clark assisted, with the helper marking Clark's first professional point.

But that was it for the Bears' offense on the night, and the Baby Sens scored a pair of power-play goals in the second and added a late empty-netter for the win. Vitek Vanecek stopped 13 of the 15 shots he faced on the night in falling to 4-4-1 on the season.

The 8-9-2-3 Bears (sixth place in the Atlantic Division) are back in action on Sunday afternoon when they host the Hartford Wolf Pack at Giant Center.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays spent Saturday night on the road in Orlando, where they blanked the Solar Bears by a 2-0 count.

Matt Nuttle scored what would prove to be the game-winner at 19:42 of the second period, and Tommy Hughes added an empty-netter at 19:59 of the third, making a winner out of Logan Thompson, who made 36 saves to record his first professional shutout. Thompson is now 6-2-0 on the season. 

The 14-2-0-0 Stingrays own the best record in the ECHL. They are off on Sunday, but have a Monday night rematch with the Solar Bears in Orlando.

By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 22:48 in ice time … Vrana led the Caps with five shots on net … Ovechkin led Washington with six shot attempts … Ovechkin and Radko Gudas had four hits each to pace the Caps … Carlson led the Caps with four blocked shots.

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