Ovechkin trick leads surging Caps

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 07, 2013
Alex Ovechkin recorded his 12th career hat trick and added an assist, and the surging Washington Capitals survived a late rally by the Florida Panthers for a 4-3 victory on Saturday night. Ovechkin scored twice from in close on the power play, and weaved through traffic for his other goal, as the Capitals (19-17-2) improved to 8-2-1 in their last 11 games in completing a four-game season sweep of the Panthers. The Capitals, who scored at least five goals against Florida in their previous three games, struck quickly with a pair of goals from Mike Ribeiro and Ovechkin within 1:41 early in the second period. Braden Holtby made 27 saves in posting his fifth career victory over the Panthers (12-20-6) without a loss. The Panthers, who were seeking their fourth straight victory, rallied in the third period behind two goals from Tomas Kopecky and another by Peter Mueller. Ovechkin, who has 23 goals this season, started his night by beating Jacob Markstrom from the stick side following a five-minute boarding penalty to Panthers' defenseman Erik Gudbranson in the first period. Ovechkin tipped in a cross-ice pass from Ribeiro just over a minute following the major. Gudbranson's penalty, which included a game misconduct, followed a hit from behind to right-winger Martin Erat at the 14:37 mark of the first period. Erat, who came over from Nashville and made his debut with the Capitals on April 4, was down for several minutes and had to be helped off the ice with a lower body injury. He did not return and was to be re-evaluated. The league's top power-play producers struck again with the man advantage just 43 seconds into the second period when Ribeiro was able to tuck in a loose puck after Markstrom made the initial save off a blistering slap shot by Mike Green from the high slot. Washington made it 3-0 when Ovechkin maintained possession of the puck despite two poke-away attempts by Panthers' defenseman Filip Kuba and connected on a wrist shot past Markstrom. Overckin then took a perfect feed from Marcus Johansson and sent his patented quick wrist shot past Markstrom for Washington's third power-play goal in five attempts. Markstrom surrendered four goals on the Capitals' first 22 shots. Niklas Backstrom added three assists for the Capitals. He leads the team in assists with 33.
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