Ovechkin recorded his first regular-season hat trick in almost a year, then assisted on Mike Knuble's overtime winner at Verizon Center, where the fans who trudged through 2 feet of snow were treated to a 5-4, come-from-behind win that extended the Washington Capitals' winning streak to 14 games.
"You can tell when he's having one of his days," coach Bruce Boudreau said of Ovechkin. "Days when I see that his recovery rate is unbelievable. He sits on the bench for 30 seconds and I know he wants to go again."
Since Ovechkin was named captain Jan. 5, the two-time Most Valuable Player has 16 goals and 19 assists and the Capitals have won 17 of 18. The winning streak is tied for the third longest in league history (with the 1929-30 Boston Bruins) and, with three games remaining before the Olympic break, puts them in position to tie the longest run, set by the Penguins in 1993. The win also marked Washington's 10th straight on home ice, setting a franchise record.
The Penguins took a 4-1 lead on Jordan Staal's second goal of the game with 6 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the second period. But the Capitals scored the next four goals - two by Ovechkin, who leads the league with 42 goals and 86 points.
After Eric Fehr cut the deficit to 4-2 late in the second period, the stage was set for a vintage Ovechkin performance.
At 6:51 of the third period, the 24-year-old Russian backhanded in a shot that had been knocked down in front by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. Then, just 4:15 later, he rifled a one-timer off a faceoff past Marc-Andre Fleury (29 saves) to tie the game, send the crowd into delirium and elicit chants of "M-V-P."
In overtime, Orpik was sent off for high sticking Alexander Semin in the face. Thirteen seconds later, Ovechkin fired a shot off the post and Knuble pushed the rebound under Fleury.
Knuble's winner was his 11th goal in the past 13 games.
"I never saw it," Knuble said. "I thought they had blown the horn for [Ovechkin's] shot. But it was under Fleury. I didn't see anything. I just got my stick on it and poked it through. I heard everyone yelling and I didn't really know what happened."