In his first season as a Stanley Cup champion, Alex Ovechkin is enjoying hockey as much as ever.
It showed again on Tuesday night, when he scored his 21st hat-trick and first this season to lift the Washington Capitals over the Detroit Red Wings 6-2.
The 33-year-old entered the night in a familiar spot as the NHL’s goal leader. He has 25 following the hat-trick, halfway to a potential eighth 50-goal season.
“After last year, you just enjoy it,” Ovechkin said about defending Washington’s title. “Of course, you don’t want to too much enjoy it, but I try to be the same, over and over again. And it’s fun.”
Nicklas Backstrom had four assists to help the Metropolitan Division leaders score six or more goals for the fourth time this season.
T.J. Oshie added a goal in his return from an 11-game layoff due to a concussion, and Travis Boyd and Brett Connolly also scored early.
Braden Holtby made 35 stops for Washington, who had scored 12 straight goals over more than six periods before Detroit’s Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist broke through in the third.
“One thing we’ve wanted to learn this season is we’ve kind of gotten sloppy at times when we’ve gotten leads,” Holtby said. “At times tonight we played really well. At times we kind of turned it into a chance for chance, and I think it’s something we just want to keep continuing to build at.”
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill pulled goaltender Jonathan Bernier midway through the second period after he saved 10 of Washington’s first 15 shots.
“I don’t know if I’ve been in a 5-0 game when a goalie had as little chance as he had,” Blashill said of Bernier. “I feel bad for him. But what he’s got to do is put it behind him and move on.”
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