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game recap

Ovechkin hat trick lifts Capitals past Maple Leafs

Takes over NHL lead in goals, 21st place on all-time list

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

TORONTO -- Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick to help the Washington Capitals defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 at Air Canada Centre on Saturday.

His first goal was his 574th in the NHL, which broke a tie with Mike Bossy for 21st in League history. His third gave him 18 this season, which leads the NHL.

"Yeah, it's history," Ovechkin said. "To pass Mike Bossy, it's something special. My family is proud of me, but there's a long way to go."

 

[WATCH: All Capitals vs. Maple Leafs highlights]

 

Jakub Vrana scored, and Braden Holtby made 27 saves for the Capitals (14-10-1), who have won three in a row.

"I think we've been playing more of a game that we're going to find success with," Holtby said. "The third period today we might have to look at and figure out. We just kind of strayed away from what had brought us success, getting pucks deep and grinding teams, especially when we had the lead. We're trending in the right direction, though, and have some players who are putting good efforts in right now."

Video: WSH@TOR: Holtby turns away Martin's one-timer

Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev scored, and Curtis McElhinney made 17 saves for the Maple Leafs (15-9-1), who are 1-2-1 in their past four games.

"That was a game that was very winnable for us," McElhinney said. "As a goalie you want to come up big and make a key save at a key moment and we just didn't get it tonight. So it's tough."

Ovechkin put the Capitals up 1-0 at 12:43 of the first period. He carried the puck through the neutral zone and got around Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov, then skated into the zone, and, using defenseman Morgan Rielly as a screen, put a wrist shot from the top of the right circle past McElhinney's blocker.

"I thought he was 19 again," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Hopefully he bumped his head and he can stay 19, I'll just keep telling him he's 19 or something. He was fantastic; when Alex is skating, he's a big, powerful man, and that shot, those things explode off his stick."

Capitals forward T.J Oshie, who had three assists, said he could tell early on that Ovechkin was going to have an impact.

Video: WSH@TOR: Ovechkin completes hat trick with ENG

"When Big 8 is going, he pulls the team with him," Oshie said. "When you see him out there working hard, it wasn't only the goals, he was forechecking, hitting, when he does all that, there's not many guys in the world who can keep up."

The Capitals went up 2-0 when Ovechkin scored a power-play goal with 47 seconds left in the first period. Oshie won the face-off, and Ovechkin one-timed a shot from the slot.

"I actually liked us," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "We were down 2-0 after one but we'd given up not very much. I thought we played good."

Vrana scored at 11:02 of the second period to make it 3-0. He skated by defenseman Nikita Zaitsev in the neutral zone and carried the puck in on a breakaway before beating McElhinney with a shot to the blocker side.

Jake Gardiner scored at 1:24 of the third period with a shot from the point past Holtby's glove to make it 3-1. Zaitsev made it 3-2 at 6:09 when he carried the puck in from the blue line and had his centering pass bank off Holtby's stick over his right shoulder.

Ovechkin scored into an empty net with nine seconds left.

 

Goal of the game

Ovechkin's goal at 12:43 of the first period.

Video: WSH@TOR: Ovechkin lasers quick shot past McElhinney

 

Save of the game

Holtby's toe save on Auston Matthews at 19:28 of the third period.

Video: WSH@TOR: Holtby robs Matthews with glove save

 

Highlight of the game

Vrana's goal at 11:02 of the second period.

Video: WSH@TOR: Vrana beats McElhinney on breakaway

 

They said it

"Congratulations to him because he just passed Mike Bossy. Bossy is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest goal-scorers of all time, and we talk about Alex in the same breath. He's already passed [Bossy], and Alex has got a lot of good years left. That's real special for Alex and his own legacy. He's one of the purest goal-scorers you'll ever see." -- Capitals coach Barry Trotz

 

"Obviously he knows how to shoot the puck. And when you give him the taste a little bit he just starts playing better." -- Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov on Alex Ovechkin

 

Need to know

Ovechkin's hat trick was his 20th in the NHL. With 576 goals, he is one behind Mark Recchi for 20th on the NHL list. Ovechkin's 217th power-play goal tied Mike Gartner and Jaromir Jagr for 10th on the NHL list. … Capitals forward Tyler Graovac played 9:24, had one shot and was minus-1 after missing 17 games with an upper-body injury. … Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak played 14:46 and was even after being a healthy scratch the past 10 games.

 

What's next

Capitals: Host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, FS-W, NHL.TV)

Maple Leafs: At the Calgary Flames on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; SNW, TSN4, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Ovechkin's hat trick leads Capitals past Leafs, 3-2

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