Photos: Capitals/NHL/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals franchise has featured numerous offensive highlights by defensemen throughout its history. This week defenseman Erik Gustafsson added to the history by scoring a hat trick in the Capitals’ 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was just the third time in Capitals’ franchise history that a defenseman scored three goals in a single game.
Here’s a look back at the previous two hat tricks in Capitals franchise history.
Kevin Hatcher – January 14, 1993
The first hat trick by a defenseman in Capitals franchise history was recorded by Kevin Hatcher on January 14, 1993, against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The Capitals dominated in shots against Rangers’ goalie John Vanbiesbrouck but fell behind 1-0 early in the first period.
However, later in the period while on a power play Hatcher fired a slap shot that bounced off the post and into the net to even up the score. This was Hatcher’s 15th goal of the season.
Hatcher scored his second goal about a minute later. Peter Bondra’s pass to Dimitry Khristich slipped past Khristich, but Hatcher grabbed the loose puck and shot it past Vanbiesbrouck to give the Caps a 2-1 lead.
Photo: Getty Images
The Caps increased their lead to 3-1 on a power play marker early in the second period. However, the Rangers would then score four unanswered goals, one on a power play and the other three during the third period to take a 5-3 lead.
Hatcher completed his hat trick with just over three minutes left in the game and just over a minute after the Rangers’ fifth goal. The score was now 5-4 in favor of the Rangers which was the final score.
Hatcher now had 17 goals for the season. He would ultimately end up with 34 goals for the season, which set the franchise record for goals by a defenseman, which still stands today.
Capitals Coach Terry Murray summarized the game in his presser following the game.
“We certainly had our opportunities in the first two periods,” Murray said. “With the number we had, if we could have capitalized, we could have put the game away.” The Capitals had 51 shots on goal, of which Vanbiesbrouck saved 47.
Murray also commented on the Hatcher hatty. “Hatcher had a fantastic night and really rose to the occasion.”
The game itself featured a cavalcade of minor penalties, as a total of 17 minor penalties were doled out to both teams. Both the Rangers and the Capitals had two power-play goals.
Hatcher played for the Capitals for ten seasons, playing from 1984-85 through 1993-94, scoring a total of 149 goals and recording 277 points for the franchise. His NHL career lasted until 2000-01 when he was 34 years old.
Sergei Gonchar – January 4, 2000
Sergei Gonchar, the second defenseman in Capitals franchise history to score a hat trick, achieved his hat trick on January 4, 2000. On that day, the Capitals hosted the Montreal Canadiens at MCI Arena in Washington DC.
Photo: Getty Images
Montreal scored the first goal of the game just over two minutes into the game on a power play strike by Sergei Zholtok. But just over four minutes later, Gonchar scored his first goal of the game and his fourth goal of the season.
Peter Bondra passed to Gonchar at the point who then teed up at the left point for the goal. Gonchar’s rising slapshot cut between the legs of Capitals forward Chris Simon, and struck the back of the net, sending the water bottle of the Canadiens goalie, Jeff Hackett, flying into the boards.
Jeff Toms added another goal for the Capitals as they took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Gonchar scored his second goal of the game just over two minutes into the second period. Andrei Nikolishin threaded a perfect cross-ice feed that Gonchar re-directed into the net as the Capitals took a 3-1 lead.
Just over five minutes later, Chris Simon scored the Capitals’ fourth goal of the game, increasing the score to 4-1.
Gonchar completed the hat trick halfway through the second period. Jan Bulis tried to pass to Richard Zednik but was tied up. Gonchar sent the puck to the net to complete the hat trick. The Capitals added one more goal during the third period and went on to win 6-1.
With this hat trick, Gonchar, who had a slow start that season, scored six goals in the past 12 games after scoring none in his first 20 games. This was similar to the prior season where he had failed to score in his first 13 games but went on to end the season with 21 goals.
In a post-game interview, Gonchar said, “I’ve been expecting this for a long time. Hopefully, I will break through and goals will come a little more often now. . . . The last couple of games I have more confidence in myself and jump in a little more often and that’s why I have those chances and get those goals.”
Gonchar ended the 1999-2000 season with 18 goals and 36 assists. He played with the Caps from 1994-85 until the 2002-03 season when he was traded to the Boston Bruins. He scored 144 goals and recorded 272 points for the franchise. He remained in the NHL through 2014-15 and retired at the age of 40.
By Diane Doyle
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