Over his now 16-year career, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has delighted hundreds of thousands of fans with many a goal celebration. Of his 706 career goals, 81 of them (11.4%) have come on hat tricks. The active leader (and eighth all-time) in three-goal performances, Ovechkin’s first of 27 hat tricks came 15 years ago against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (now the Anaheim Ducks). In this Retro Recap, Diane Doyle looks back on that momentous night.
Going into the game, the Capitals held a record of 13-24-5 after six losses in a row, which included a regular overtime loss and a shootout loss; the dismal stretch pushed them into last place in the Southeast Division. The Mighty Ducks, meanwhile, had a record of 19-15-8 and were without their leading scorer, Teemu Selanne, who was sidelined with a groin injury. Additionally, forward Rob Niedermayer was missing his fourth game in a row with a concussion. Goaltender Brent Johnson got the nod in goal for then-Capitals Head Coach Glen Hanlon, his first start since December 28 after missing time to due a groin injury. His opposite in net was Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
The opening frame was rather uneventful, with neither team able to dent the twine and neither team granted a power play by the officials.
Unlike its preceding period, the second period saw both teams get on the board. Ovechkin opened up the scoring for the Caps at 1:45, finishing a 2-on-1 rush with a short backhander after knocking the puck away from Anaheim defenseman Todd Fedoruk, passing to Capitals captain Chris Clark, who skated with the puck most of the way towards the goal before passing back to Ovechkin who buried it for his 28th goal of the season; defenseman Shaone Morrisson had the secondary assist. The visitors’ lead was short-lived as Mighty Ducks forward Joffrey Lupul tied the score at 4:02 on assists from Todd Marchant and Scott Niedermayer.
Ovechkin put the Capitals ahead once more just over eight minutes later at the 12:06 mark, taking the puck at the top of the right circle, stickhandling through the slot past defenseman Ruslan Salei, and completing spin-o-rama before beating Giguere with a short wrist shot; assists were credited to Clark (his second of the night) and Dainius Zubrus. This lead lasted over five and a half minutes, as at 17:44, Travis Moen of Anaheim tied the score after firing a slapshot from the right circle that beat Johnson high to the glove side. The 2-2 score would remain on the scoresheet heading into the second intermission. The referees were proving to be very loose in their officiating, as neither team was handed a penalty nor power play during the middle frame.
Like the first period, the third and final period in regulation saw neither team score nor receive a power play opportunity, and as a result, the two teams headed to extra time, with Ovechkin needing one more tally to complete his first career hat trick.
Like he had in the second period, Ovechkin wasted little time in getting the Capitals on the board and securing a victory. Just over two minutes into the overtime period, Ovechkin scored his third goal of the game to carry the Capitals to a “W” and secure his first career hat trick. Zubrus passed the puck to Ovechkin, who then skated in on rookie defenseman Francois Beauchemin and sent a 20-foot wrist shot through the legs of Beauchemin and Giguere for the game-winning goal. The goal marked his fourth game winning-goal, his sixth multi-goal game, and his 30th goal of the year, which led all NHL rookies.
Ovechkin spoke after the game, “My teammates gave me great chances to score. I’m happy to score three goals and win this game. It’s my first hat trick in the NHL, and it feels like my first goal in the NHL.”
Hanlon also spoke, “He keeps on doing stuff like this. Just when I thought I’ve seen it all, he does something else. He did a lot of things tonight that were pretty impressive. I think you got a pretty good idea of what a force he is.”
By Diane Doyle