The 2009/2010 Washington Capitals are a great hockey team. Sure they sit atop the NHL standings, sure they're a ridiculous 27 points ahead of their next closest division opponent, but you know what really makes this year's Caps team special?
Their never say die attitude.
There doesn't seem to be any lead that is insurmountable for this hockey team - as witnessed again on Sunday afternoon. The always heralded match-up between Washington and Pittsburgh was nationally televised and did not disappoint any of it's viewers, as it proved to be a 5-4 scorcher, that the Capitals stole in overtime. Alex Ovechkin led the way again - this time with a hat trick.
Early on, it looked like Sid the Kid was going to be the game's darling, after scoring two first period goals. His 38th was unassisted and a nice backhander that beat Jose Theodore glove side. His second came just three minutes later on the power play with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Goligoski assisting on Crosby's 39th of the year.
Ovechkin opened the scoring for Washington at 9:01 of the second period. Jeff Schultz spotted the Russian superstar streaking out of his own zone and hit him with a perfect pass that put Ovi in alone on a breakaway on Marc-Andre Fleury. The Pens goaltender was helpless to stop a full-stride Ovechkin, and the Caps were back within one at 2-1.
Then another great young player put his stamp on the game, as Jordan Staal scored back-to-back goals of his own, less than a minute and a half apart. Staal's 15ht and 16th put the Pens up 4-1 - and against many teams - that would have been enough.
But not the Capitals.
Eric Fehr picked up his 15th of the season with three minutes to go in the second to bring Washington back to 4-2.
Ovi's second goal of the game came 6:51 into the third period, when he took a backhand swipe at a rebound, and the Caps were again within one at 4-3. There was a tangible shift in both momentum and crowd noise, as it started to look like Washington might again erase a three-goal deficit. The Verizon Center doesn't get any louder, and after the game, Ovechkin remarked that, "the crowd was just pushing us in the 3rd... it was sick."
The Caps responded. With just under nine minutes to go, The Great 8 grabbed a scrubbed faceofff in the circle to the left of Fleury and ripped a shot over his left shoulder. The only thing that happened quicker on Sunday was the Caps fans littering the ice with hats to pay tribute to the greatest hockey player in the world. That third goal gave Ovechkin 42 on the season - the fifth straight time that he has scored more than 40 goals. The guy is truly phenomenal, and on top of his considerable talent, he is the reason that this Caps team knows that they are never too far back in a game to make a comeback.
It stayed tied at fours for the remainder of regulation time, despite Pittsburgh threatening with a late power play.
Referees usually put away their whistle in overtime, but when Alexander Semin was high-sticked in the face with 2:34 to go - they made the call. All eyes were on Ovechkin who manned the point on the 4-on-3. Washington worked the puck around the outside until Ovi had a clear lane, and then he hammered a slap shot at the net. His shot hit the far post, but bounced straight out to Mike Knuble who poked his 21st of the year under a sprawled Fleury. Ovechkin was credited with his fourth-point of the game, and the Caps had completed yet another improbable come-from-behind victory.
That makes it fourteen wins in a row for Washington and they seem completely unstoppable right now. Not only is their 88-point total three points clear of the San Jose Sharks in the race for the President's Cup, but they are a gaudy fourteen points clear of the next closest team in the Atlantic Conference.
Other Game Notes:
Jose Theodore got his 20th win of the season, stopping 31 of 35 shots... Nicklas Backstrom picked up his 48th assist of the season... Sid Crosby's 39 goals put him 3 behind Ovechkin's 42 for the league lead.