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Ovechkin nets three in 'Super' Sunday

by Brian Hunter
The Washington Capitals kicked off Super Bowl Sunday by putting a touchdown on the board against the visiting Ottawa Senators. Not surprisingly, Alex Ovechkin managed to get involved in the scoring.

Ovechkin notched his seventh career hat trick and second this season, leaving him one goal shy of the 200 plateau, and the Capitals won a matinee at Verizon Center for the second straight day, holding off the Senators, 7-4.

''I kind of feel pretty good today,'' said Ovechkin, who celebrated his goals as if he felt even better than that.

Mike Green finished with a goal and three assists while Nicklas Backstrom contributed a goal and two assists. Eric Fehr and Alexander Semin had the other goals for Washington, which jumped one point ahead of idle New Jersey for second in the Eastern Conference standings with a game coming up at the Devils on Tuesday.

Ovechkin, who has torched the Senators throughout his career to the tune of 15 goals and 24 points over 16 games, completed his three-goal game and staked the Caps to a 6-2 lead with 4:29 left in the second period, using defenseman Filip Kuba as a screen and ripping a shot past Alex Auld.

''It's amazing he manages to get shots through the defense's legs,'' Fehr said after Ovechkin twice put shots between Kuba's legs that beat the goalie. ''He's just got an amazing shot and an amazing release, and he gets a lot of goals.''

It was Ovechkin's NHL-leading 36th goal of the season and gave him five in his last three periods, including the two he scored in the third of a 4-2 win against Detroit on Saturday afternoon. Sergei Fedorov assisted on all three Sunday.

Daniel Alfredsson scored twice for Ottawa, which rallied to within 6-4 in the third on goals by Antoine Vermette and Dany Heatley. But Brent Johnson, who finished with 34 saves, shut the door from there, and Backstrom scored into an empty net with 24 seconds remaining to send the Senators to their second straight defeat.

Alfredsson opened the scoring 3:31 into the first period but Washington roared back by converting on its first two power-play opportunities, and needed only a combined seven seconds to do it.

Green scored his 15th of the season on a blast from the point at 9:43, just three seconds after Heatley was sent off for hooking, then Ovechkin took a Green feed and beat Ottawa starter Brian Elliott from the left side at 10:32, just four seconds after Jarkko Ruutu took a hooking penalty. Backstrom and Fedorov set up the quick goals with clean faceoff wins.

Fehr scored 46 seconds into the second and Ovechkin sent Elliott to the bench by getting his second of the game 1:29 later. The switch to Auld seemed to temporarily lift the Senators, as Alfredsson responded with his second goal at 5:01 to make it a 4-2 game, but Johnson shut the door on Jason Spezza moments later to keep it there.

"He made the big save at the big time,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That's all we care about. It was 4-2 and Spezza broke in on the power play and made that big save right then and that tells me that you've got a big-league goalie."

Semin then broke in alone to pot his 19th past Auld at 13:07 before Ovechkin caused it to rain hats down on the ice by completing his latest inspired effort. He said after Saturday's game he wasn't a big fan of 12:30 start times, but his results in the last two suggest otherwise.

"He's the star of the League," Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg said. "People pay a lot of money to come watch him play and he performs every night. He's certainly worth the price of admission; not for the other team, he isn't, but certainly for the fans."

Predators 2, Oilers 1 | Video

Nashville has been fading in the Western Conference playoff picture, but drew two points closer to the collection of teams bunched up in the middle of the pack, thanks in large part to goaltender Pekka Rinne.

J.P. Dumont and Martin Erat scored goals and Rinne made sure that offense stood up, making 32 saves as the Predators moved into a three-way tie for 12th with Colorado and Los Angeles, six points out of a postseason berth.

"We're trying to claw ourselves back into the group," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "There are teams that we have to catch on this trip and getting two out of three in Canada is pretty tough. The two teams that we're really realistically chasing are Vancouver and Edmonton. So we got the right games."

Ales Hemsky broke up Rinne's shutout bid 9:39 into the third period, but Edmonton couldn't manage the tying goal and remained one of five teams deadlocked for the final three playoff spots, each with 53 points.

"We really have to work on being more consistent," said Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert. "We don't want to fall back into the habit of winning one, losing one; going back and forth when you are trying to catch teams for a playoff run. We have to get back on the same page again."

Following a scoreless first period, Dumont got the Predators on the board with an unassisted goal with 7:56 left in the second. Gilbert gave the puck away to Dumont in the offensive zone and he banked the puck into the net off goalie Dwayne Roloson.
"He's the star of the League. People pay a lot of money to come watch him play and he performs every night. He's certainly worth the price of admission; not for the other team, he isn't, but certainly for the fans." -- Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg on Alex Ovechkin
Roloson kept the Oilers close by making 27 saves, but he couldn't stop Erat from making it 2-0 at 8:35 of the third. David Legwand set up the goal with a nice saucer pass that Erat converted for his 13th of the season.

"Our team is full of guys that haven't been drafted and worked their way up and I call them 'True Predators,'" Trotz said. "They've got a lot of fiber to their game. They might not have the stats but they have the intangibles. Our third and fourth lines always have a lot of that."

Hemsky responded just 1:04 later by one-timing Robert Nilsson's cross-ice feed into the net. Edmonton went on the power play with eight minutes left after a roughing call on Rinne, but were unable to capitalize.

"When you have a game like that where you can drive the nail in, you have to get that game," coach Craig MacTavish said. "One thing you want to show in a game like that is the intensity."

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

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