Instant analysis of the Capitals 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday at Verizon Center:
How it happened: Alex Ovechkin exploded with his first hat trick since Jan. 22, 2011, scoring once in the second period and twice in the third to lead the Caps to their first win since Valentine’s Day.
Welcome back, Ovi: Through the first 16 games of the season Ovechkin ranked second in the NHL with 68 shots, but was 56th in goals with five. His three-goal game was his first in a span of 128 regular season games and another 23 playoff games.
What it means: The Caps move into a 14th place tie with the Buffalo Sabres with 13 points, five behind the eighth-place Rangers.
Big hit of the game: One of the biggest actually came from birthday boy Steffan Matteau, who turned 19 on Saturday. Matteau said he grew up idolizing Alex Ovechkin and he drilled him into the boards early in the second period. Ovechkin scored later on the same shift.
Big save of the game: Braden Holtby stoned Steve Bernier on a penalty shot with 7:29 remaining in the second period. Bernier was pulled down on a diving attempt by Tom Poti. Bernier tried to go 5-hole but Holtby stopped the shot with his left pad.
Unusual guest: Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli took in the game from the press box. The Bruins have some extra cap space now that Tim Thomas and his $5 million contract is property of the Islanders. Chiarelli was in Pittsburgh earlier in the week for the Penguins-Flyers game. The Bruins don’t face the Devils or Caps until March 5 when they visit D.C.
No Greenie: Capitals defenseman Mike Green took warmups but sat out his third straight game with a groin injury. “He can’t be almost ready to go, he’s got to feel that he can go play and play 100 percent because I can’t have him go two shifts and then get hurt,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. On Friday Green said he’s feeling much better and with two days off until they play again on Tuesday the Caps are hoping he’ll be back in the lineup Tuesday against Carolina or Wednesday against Philadelphia. “It’s tough with a groin injury because [in] two more days we could be having the same conversation,” Oates said. “How long do they take? Sometimes you’ve got to get back in there, and that’s why it’s a tough decision.”