Ovechkin on target as Caps take 2-0 lead

Alex Ovechkin was amongst the scorers as Washington Capitals defeated Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 to open up a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven NHL play-off series.

John Carlson, Jason Chimera, and Nicklas Backstrom also scored for the Capitals, while netminder Braden Holtby kept the Flyers at bay with 41 saves.

“They came out hot out of the gates,” Capitals’ forward T. J. Oshie said. “We had a pretty good full 60 minutes there.

“I think our special teams were really good tonight; they had some big plays, a lot of guys sacrificing the body on the penalty kill.

“Holtby, as always, played a really good game. We found a way to win, so hopefully we can take this momentum into Philly.”

Ovechkin now has 37 goals and 71 points in 74 career NHL play-off games.

Elsewhere, the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, are 2-1 down in their series with St Louis after the Blues came from behind in the final period of Game 3 to seal a 3-2 victory.

Colton Parayko, Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz got the goals for the Blues, with goalie Brian Elliott producing 44 saves.

The Blackhawks hadn’t lost in regulation when leading after two periods since May 2014, when Los Angeles won 6-2 at the United Center in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.

The Detroit Red Wings shut-out Tampa Bay Lightning with a 2-0 win to breathe new life into their play-off bid.

Andreas Athanasiou and Henrik Zetterberg scored, while Petr Mrazek made 16 saves to give the Red Wings their first victory after three games.

Red Wings’ boss Jeff Blashill said: “I thought we did a good job from the start of the game tonight all the way through – I thought we played well on both sides of the puck.”

New York Rangers produced the perfect road performance to level the series with Pittsburgh Penguins at one game each.

Keith Yandle, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider were all on the scoresheet, with netminder Henrik Lundqvist adding a solid 29-save performance.

Rangers out-hit the Penguins 57-25 and Lundqvist believes their added physicality was a key factor on the night.

“I think when you go into the play-offs, you’re not going to play the team one time,” Lundqvist said.

“You have to earn it many times. It’s so important that you play a physical game and make it hard, especially on their top guys. It should not be easy for them to create anything.”

Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators lead 2-0 in their respective series against Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, while New York Islanders are 2-1 up against Florida Panthers.

Ovechkin moves up NHL all-time scorers list with hat-trick

Alex Ovechkin hit the 14th hat-trick of his NHL career against Minnesota Wild on Thursday to move ahead of Montreal Canadiens’ legend Jean Beliveau on the league’s all-time goals chart.

Ovechkin’s second period trio for the Washington Capitals came in under 13 minutes to give him 509 NHL goals and 39th place on the list.

“My parents actually called me, probably a couple weeks ago, and said, ‘It’s time for you to get a hat-trick,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a good feeling. Obviously, when you get the second one it’s pretty cool, but when you have three goals in one game, it’s kind of special.”

Capitals went on to claim a 4-3 victory to move to 40-9-4 for the season, while Ovechkin now tops this season’s goals chart with 34 – one ahead of Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Patrick Kane.

The Russian opened the scoring two minutes into the middle period. Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk almost kept out Ovechkin’s shot, but the puck crept through his five-hole and trickled across the line.

“The first one was kind of a lucky goal – it hit my shaft and goes right between his legs,” Ovechkin said. “I was kind of surprised, but a goal’s a goal so I’ll take it.”

His second came three minutes later when he followed up a rebound off the boards from a John Carlson shot to coolly finish, while his third in the 14th minute of the period hit the post and Dubnyk before finding its way in.

“Somehow he knows how to get the puck to the net – it’s not always a highlight goal,” said Capitals’ forward Nicklas Backstrom.

“It’s incredible. The puck just comes to him, but he has that ability when it comes to put it in the net. It’s hard to do.”

“It’s how fast he gets it off and he can place it,” added Capitals’ boss Barry Trotz. “A lot of times in those close areas you’ve got to elevate the puck, and he’s got the ability to elevate it in real tight areas. It’s hard for goaltenders to read it off the stick. He’s really good.”

Ovechkin will now look to overtake Gilbert Perreault in the all-time list. The Canadian forwards scored 512 goals for Buffalo Sabres between 1970-87.

Wayne Gretzky is the NHL all-time leading scorer with 894 goals.

Kane extends points streak to 24 games but Gretzky’s record is still far away

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane took his points streak to 24 games, but not everyone was happy about it.

With Chicago 3-0 down going into the third period against Nashville Predators they needed someone to ignite some offensive. Kane, as is so often the case, delivered.

Blackhawks dumped a puck deep towards Predators netminder Pekka Rinne early in the final session. He appeared to cover up the puck with his glove, but no whistle was blown so play carried on.

Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger charged at Rinne from the right and dislodged the puck in the crease as he made contact with the goaltender. Kane picked up the rebound and slotted it home for his 16th goal and 24th consecutive game with a point.

The Predators challenged the play for interference with the Bridgestone Arena crowd heckling the officials for the lack of a whistle after the initial shot on Rinne.

The goal was ruled good so Kane extended the records for the franchise and American-born NHL players to 24 games.

Rinne strongly disputed the decision, having numerous conversations with officials during breaks in the action. The Predators went on to win 5-1, but Rinne still wasn’t happy after the game.

He said: “I guess it was loose, but for sure, he didn’t make the contact with the puck. He tried to push me in the net.”

Kane will look to extend the record to 25 games on Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets. That would tie Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (2010-11) for the longest streak this century, but would still leave him some way short of the all-time League record set by Wayne Gretzky in 1983-84 at 51 games with the Edmonton Oilers.

Gretzky believes Kane can break his record: “He can get there, absolutely,” he said. “What does it take to get there? It’s a combination of things. First of all, you have to be good and you have to get a little bit lucky.

“I was a little bit lucky during the streak, whether it was a (secondary) assist late in the game or an empty-net point. You have to stay healthy and you have to be surrounded by really good teammates. He has all the intangibles he needs.”

Gretzky also spoke about the team’s importance in making individual records happen – especially when it comes to maintaining a streak over such a large number of games.

“Even though it’s an individual record it becomes a team-oriented record when the players start thinking about it and trying to be part of it. There are going to be scenarios and situations probably when Kane might not have been on the ice in the past and Joel Quenneville is going to give him that opportunity as Glen Sather gave to me. You have to run with it and so far he has.”

“Records are made to be broken. I’m going to watch him and if he breaks the record I’ll be the first guy to shake his hand.”