The Maple Leafs had no answer for Alex Ovechkin on Saturday night as the Capitals’ superstar registered his 21st career hat trick to lead Washington to a 4-2 victory.
Most of the 19,404 fans at Air Canada Centre went home disappointed, but 13-year-old Alex Luey was definitely note one of them. Luey, a cancer survivor, not only had the chance to spend the warmup with Ovechkin – his favourite player – but also received a signed stick, gloves and helmet from Number 8. The gestures were all part of Hockey Fights Cancer night at ACC.
Ovechkin beat Curtis McElhinney for a pair of first period goals; the first marker coming after the Capitals winger sped end-to-end into the Leafs zone before firing a shot into the top corner. A laser-quick point shot on the power play extended Washington’s lead.
In the second period. Jakub Vrana put the visitors in front 3-0 after he got behind Nikita Zaitsev for a breakaway before getting the better of McElhinney.
The Leafs finally find their offensive stride at the 1:24 mark of the third frame. Jake Gardiner rifled a shot from just inside the blue line and foiled Braden Holtby’s shutout bid. Zaitsev then atoned for his earlier misplay, speeding down the left wing and having his attempted centring pass deflect off Taylor Chorney’s stick into the Washington net, bringing the Leafs to within a goal.
However despite Toronto’s best efforts, the comeback bid was stalled, and Ovechkin completed the hat trick into an empty net.
“(Ovechkin) has been around long enough,” McElhinney said. “Obviously, he got the best of me tonight, he made some good shots but I’ve got to make one of those saves. That’s the key tonight and, obviously, at the end of the night that’s the difference.”
In 44 career games against Toronto, Ovechkin has compiled 36 goals and 63 points.