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Ovechkin leads Caps past Bruins

by Brian Hunter

Alexander Ovechkin and his teammates had plenty of things to celebrate in their 10-2 win over Boston, including Ovechkin's 50th, 51st, and 52nd goals.
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Not only did Alex Ovechkin reach the 50-goal mark for the second time in his three NHL seasons, he got a head start toward becoming the League’s first 60-goal scorer in 12 years.

Putting the puck in the net was contagious for the Washington Capitals on Monday.

Ovechkin scored three of the Capitals’ six first-period goals en route to a five-point night and Nicklas Backstrom registered a goal and three assists to pace a 10-2 rout of the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center.

Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich had a pair of goals each. Newcomer Matt Cooke opened the scoring – and the floodgates – just 32 seconds into the game with his first as a Capital and Donald Brashear also tallied as the team set a season high for goals.

“Today, everything just went to the net,” said Ovechkin, who endured a career-long seven-game goal drought before scoring his 49th Saturday against Toronto. “You are going to score (in) lots of games, and some you (won’t). I always tell myself not to think about goals and to just play how I can.”

Ovechkin continues to lead the League in goals with 52, and passed Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin for the scoring lead with 90 points. His next goal will set a career high, and eight in Washington’s 15 remaining games would make him the first player to score 60 in a season since Pittsburgh teammates Mario Lemieux (69) and Jaromir Jagr (62) each accomplished the feat during the 1995-96 season.

“When you go in an eight-game scoring slump, and you’re that good, you're going to start scoring again,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You just can’t hold him back like you can’t hold (Sidney) Crosby back and Malkin back for any length of time. Those guys are good hockey players.”

Cristobal Huet made 20 saves in his second start after being acquired from Montreal, but left after two periods due to mild back spasms. Olaf Kolzig mopped up and turned aside all five shots he faced.

Washington closed to within three points of first-place Carolina in the Southeast Division and still has a game in hand on the Hurricanes.

Boston received goals from Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm, but saw a six-game winning streak come to a screeching halt while remaining tied with the New York Rangers for sixth in the Eastern Conference.

“It's really tough to take,” said goalie Tim Thomas, who started and was pulled on two separate occasions. “It was embarrassing. On the other hand, what’s the difference? If you lost 3-2 or you lost like that, we’re still in the playoffs as of now. You definitely should learn from it, but you can’t get too far down.”

The Capitals took the suspense out of Monday’s outcome by building a 4-0 lead during the first 8:29 and extending it to 6-0 by the end of 20 minutes. Cooke, who scored seven goals for Vancouver before coming over to Washington at the trade deadline, struck first by ripping a shot past Thomas on the stick side ( 700K ) .

Ovechkin followed by scoring twice in a span of 50 seconds. His 50th of the season came at 6:18 ( 700K ) after he took a long breakout pass by Backstrom and got behind two Boston defenders before beating Thomas. On his next shift, Ovechkin set up in the slot and put home Backstrom’s centering feed ( 700K ). After both goals, Ovechkin jumped into the glass in celebration.

When Bradley took a cross-ice pass from Cooke and made it 4-0 ( 700K ), Thomas was lifted in favor of Alex Auld. It didn’t halt the Capitals’ momentum, as Ovechkin completed his hat trick with 4:29 left ( 700K ) and Laich lit the lamp with 1:17 remaining ( 700K ).

Both goals came on Washington power plays.

Wideman ( 700K ) and Sturm ( 700K ) scored in the second period for the Bruins, sandwiched around goals by Backstrom ( 700K ) and Brashear ( 700K ) of the Capitals. Laich ( 700K ) and Bradley ( 700K ) each netted power-play goals in the third to close the scoring. Washington finished 4-for-7 with the man advantage.

Thomas returned to start the second for Boston and was replaced again by Auld midway through the third. Thomas made 17 saves on 24 shots, while Auld faced 10 shots and turned aside seven.

In spite of the dominant effort, the Capitals are still on the outside looking in, and Ovechkin cautioned they have to be ready again when they travel to Buffalo on Wednesday to face the Sabres.

“Just wait, we have lots of games left, and one game can mean nothing,” Ovechkin said. “We just have to continue to do what we did today, and try to play the same way on Wednesday.”

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.

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