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Ovechkin seeking hat trick history for Capitals

Forward could become first NHL player with three straight three-goal games

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Forward Alex Ovechkin will try to become the first NHL player to earn a hat trick in three consecutive games when the Washington Capitals play the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, NBCSWA, NHL.TV).

Ovechkin scored three goals in the Capitals' season-opening 5-4 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and four in a 6-1 defeat of the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. 

The record for most goals by a player through his team's first three games of the season is nine, set by Reg Noble of the Toronto Arenas and Joe Malone of the Montreal Canadiens in 1917-18, the first NHL season.

Ovechkin, named the League's First Star for the week ending Oct. 8, credits his teammates for his scoring outburst and said he's more concerned with the Capitals having a good start to the season.

"It's not about me it's all about my line," Ovechkin said. "We move well together. When you feel comfortable and you don't feel the pressure on yourself it's fun to play."

Video: Ovechkin, Fleury, Simmonds named 3 Stars of the Week

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov has assisted on all seven of Ovechkin's goals and rookie right wing Jakub Vrana has three assists, all on Ovechkin goals. 

"We just play our game," Ovechkin said. "Don't think about it. If you have a chance to shoot, shoot it. If not, create something."

Ovechkin didn't have his first multigoal game last season until he scored twice against the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 3, his 10th game, and did not score his seventh goal until Nov. 5, his 11th game. 

"When you score in the first game the pressure is off," Ovechkin said. "If you like to score goals obviously it's important to have a hot start because in the future you're going to feel confident."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz believes Ovechkin might have additional motivation to quiet the critics who say he's not the same player he was earlier in his NHL career. Ovechkin's 33 goals in 2016-17 were the second-fewest he's had in a full season.

"I think he had something to prove," Trotz said. "There are people questioning if he's still got it. I think he's a proud athlete. That's probably the No. 1 thing. And I think him and [Kuznetsov] have gotten a little chemistry with Vrana on that line. 

"Athletes are proud and when you doubt their ability to do something they get their back up a little bit and they want to prove you wrong. Hopefully he wants to do that not only just for two games but for 82 [games] and really prove us wrong. He'd be on pace for a couple hundred goals and I'm OK with that."

Video: MTL@WSH: Ovi redirects shot to notch the hat trick

Ovechkin has had plenty of success against the Lightning with 41 goals in 63 regular-season games, the second-most goals he's scored against any team in the League (45 against the Atlanta Thrashers/Jets). One of his 19 NHL hat tricks have come against the Lightning, a four-goal game on Dec. 10, 2013.

Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said defending Ovechkin is tough on any night but it can be even harder when he's on a hot streak.

"He's a guy that you try to take away time and space as much as possible but he's going to have chances and create opportunities," Callahan said. "You just try to limit him as best you can, especially with the way he's playing right now. He has a ton of confidence and you're always going to have to have somebody on him."

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