Ovechkin nets hat trick in Caps’ shootout win over Sens
OTTAWA — Alex Ovechkin was quiet for two periods Thursday night. In the third, he erupted.
The Washington Capitals captain sparked a come-from-behind rally with a hat trick in the final 20 minutes, and Evgeny Kuznetzov scored the shootout winner in a 5-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators in the season opener for both teams at Canadian Tire Centre.
“It’s nice to get the hatty,” said Ovechkin, who also scored in the shootout, “but the most important thing, mentally wise, we needed the win and we got it.”
Mark Stone led the Senators with two goals, while Derick Brassard and Chris Wideman had the others. Brassard, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery and was only cleared for contact on Wednesday, added two assists.
Bobby Ryan also had a pair of helpers for the Senators, who were without captain Erik Karlsson and lost a second defenseman, Johnny Oduya, to a lower-body injury in the second period.
Brett Connolly had Washington’s other goal.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby stopped 28 shots, while Senators goalie Craig Anderson made 24 saves.
“If you look at our effort, I thought it was great,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. “Trying to rally without Erik is one thing, but having the entire third period and parts of the second period without Oduya, I think the guys tried to do their best.
“In the end, it’s three turnovers that cost us the game. Three last goals, we’ve got the puck and we basically give it back to them. They took advantage of it. Obviously, when you’ve got a guy like Ovechkin on the other side as the one taking advantage of it, it’s bound to hurt you.”
Ovechkin scored his three goals in a 6:33 span, his first coming with the Capitals trailing 3-1. Kuznetsov added three assists, while the third member of the line, rookie Jakub Vrana, added a pair of helpers.
“I said before the game, if he’s going to play the way he can play, he’s going to help us,” Ovechkin said of Vrana, a 21-year old former first-round pick. “And it’s going to be huge for him as well.”
After playing 21 games for the Capitals last season, Vrana would like nothing better than to keep his spot on the top line.
“One good game doesn’t make a next good game,” Vrana said. “You have to stay consistent. I made some mistakes today, and I’m going to learn from that. I did good things, too. I’m just going to stay consistent for next game and just continue.”
While the Capitals’ top line combined for eight points, the Stone-Brassard-Ryan unit had seven for Ottawa. All three players are coming off substandard campaigns, and all three have to maintain a decent pace for the offensively challenged Senators.
“Our line was clicking,” Brassard said. “When you play with two guys who are really good with the puck, and two big guys, it makes it a lot easier. Those two guys were all over the ice.
“I liked our game. I thought our team played a pretty solid game, but they have a guy on the other side that scores like 50 a year, and he came up big for their team in the second half of the game.”
Both teams return to action Saturday, with the Senators hosting the Detroit Red Wings and the Capitals playing their home opener against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Capitals hope to carry over the moment from the shootout victory into a schedule that sees them four of their first six on the road.
“I think that showed a lot of character, especially this early in the season,” Washington defenseman John Carlson said of the comeback. “A little rust, whatever, I think everyone stuck together, stuck to the game plan and worked through it when things weren’t necessarily going our way.”
NOTES: While Senators D Erik Karlsson missed the game with a surgically repaired ankle that is not yet 100 percent, GM Pierre Dorion told reporters he is “hopeful” Karlsson can play Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. ... With the Capitals losing key veterans in the offseason, coach Barry Trotz said Thursday morning the team is counting on 21-year old Jakub Vrana to pick up Justin Williams’ production and 22-year old Andre Burakovsky to replace Marcus Johansson. ... The Senators signed D Mark Borowiecki to a two-year extension with an annual average value of $1.2 million on Thursday morning. ... It was 12 years ago on this day that Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin made his NHL debut.