Alex Ovechkin got his first playoff hat trick to lead the Washington Capitals to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins and a 2-0 series lead in the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday.
Sidney Crosby did all the scoring for the Penguins to claim the NHL's postseason lead with eight goals, but it was Ovechkin who had the winning hand in the matchup of the league's marquee rivals with his fifth, sixth and seventh goals of the playoffs.
Ovechkin broke open a tie game with a pair of goals less than 3 minutes apart in the third period. He followed a one-timer from the left circle on a power-play with 7:07 to play with a slap shot from between the circles with 4:38 remaining. Both times he celebrated by launching his body into the glass, the second time as red hats flooded the Verizon Center rink.
Game 3 is today in Pittsburgh.
Although they're in a two-game hole, historians of the Pittsburgh-Washington rivalry will say the Penguins have the Capitals right where they want them. From 1991-2001, the Capitals lost five series in which they led the Penguins, including 2-0 leads in 1992 and 1996.
David Steckel, who had only eight goals in the regular season, got his second of the series and was the only goal-scorer not named Ovechkin or Crosby. Rookie playoff phenom Simeon Varlamov made 33 saves for the Capitals.