WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin took a stick to the face and put three pucks in the net for a hat trick to lead the Washington Capitals past the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.
Ovechkin reached 31 goals this season with his 25th career hat trick. He has scored five in his past two games to reach 689 total, one back of Mario Lemieux for 10th on the NHL’s all-time list as he approaches 700.
Mike Gartner is the only other player to reach the 30-goal mark in each of his first 15 seasons.
Carl Hagelin and Jakub Vrana also scored for Washington, which has won two in a row since a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Devils five days earlier. The Capitals looked much more like a first-place team Thursday than they did in these teams’ most recent meeting.
Ovechkin took an errant high stick from New Jersey’s Miles Wood that made him bleed from the mouth early in the game. Fired up, Ovechkin scored twice on Louis Domingue before the Devils starter exited after the first period with a lower-body injury. The Capitals put up three more on Cory Schneider, who was making his second relief appearance in as many games.
Washington rookie Ilya Samsonov stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced to win his ninth consecutive start. Samsonov got the nod over veteran Braden Holtby in back-to-back-games for the first time this season.
Wayne Simmonds’ goal for New Jersey early in the second period snapped Samsonov’s shutout streak at 135 minutes. He had stopped 55 consecutive shots over that time.
One of Ovechkin’s two goals came on the power play, which has now scored in three games in a row to break out of a mini slump. But New Jersey’s Blake Coleman also scored a short-handed goal early in the third period.
The Devils have lost two in a row.
Devils F Kevin Rooney missed the game with an illness. … Simmonds’ goal ended a 27-game drought. … With a secondary assist on Ovechkin’s third goal, Capitals defenceman Carlson picked up his 45th assist of the season to get to 58 points. … Vrana’s goal was his 21st of the season and Hagelin his second.
Devils: Make their third stop on a four-game road trip Saturday when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Capitals: Visit the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon in their final game before their break for the bye week and All-Star Weekend.
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press