Ovechkin lights up Sens for hat trick

Alexander Ovechkin recorded the seventh hat trick of his NHL career on Sunday afternoon to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-4 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Alexander Ovechkin recorded the seventh hat trick of his NHL career on Sunday afternoon to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-4 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Ovechkin, who scored twice in his team's win on Saturday over Detroit, now has 36 goals, best in the league. He has 34 in his last 37 games to roar back from a slow start to the season.

"He's the star of the league," Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said. "People pay a lot of money to come watch him play, and he performs every night. He's certainly worth the price of admission — not for the other team, he isn't, but certainly for the fans."

Washington (32-15-4) leapt over New Jersey into second place in the Eastern Conference with the victory. Defenceman Mike Green had a goal and three assists for the winners, with Nicklas Backstrom, Eric Fehr and Alexander Semin also scoring.

Veteran Sergei Fedorov contributed three assists, with Brent Johnson finishing with 35 saves in net.

Ottawa (17-24-7) struck first, but penalties, terrible neutral zone coverage and mediocre goaltending would cost them.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson scored twice in his 900th career game, with Antoine Vermette and Dany Heatley also finding the mark. Brian Elliott was pulled for Alex Auld after allowing four goals on 15 shots.

Alfredsson got Ottawa off to a quick start by taking a drop pass from Heatley and firing a wrister past Johnson.

But Heatley and Jarkko Ruutu soon took penalties in quick succession, allowing Washington to go ahead.

Green from the point recorded his 15th goal, the most of any NHL defenceman.

Just 49 seconds later, Ovechkin prospered from his favourite spot on a power play, the left faceoff circle. The sniper had plenty of time to set up his shot, which blew by Elliott.

Washington scored a pair in the first two minutes of the middle period, spelling the end for Elliott.

Fehr, of Winkler, Man., took advantage of a rebound that the Ottawa netminder couldn't corral, potting the puck for his fourth of the season.

Ovechin's second goal was regrettable for Elliott, a fairly long shot that beat him to the blocker.

The rookie stormed down the hallway after getting pulled for veteran Alex Auld. Elliott had been impressive in a 3-2 victory over the Capitals on Jan. 20.

Alfredsson cut the lead to 4-2 by one-timing a slapshot after a pass from Anton Volchenkov. Chris Phillips also drew an assist.

Green flipped a pass over a pair of Ottawa players to send Semin streaking in alone on Auld. The forward, who had a seven-game point streak snapped on Saturday, started a new one by roofing a backhander for a 5-2 lead.

Less than three minutes later, another long breakout pass from the Washington end victimized Ottawa, enabling Ovechkin to speed down the left wing and complete the hat trick at 15:31 of the second.

"You could tell that his shot was on today," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He was just on, he could have had a couple more. You can tell early when that shot's going, when it's not fluttering and it's not going all over the place.

"I think it was about this time last year he started to get into a pretty good groove and started to kind of take over, and hopefully he's about to do the same thing."

The Senators did a commendable job of clawing back in the third. Vermette beat Johnson to the short side, with Heatley scoring a fluky goal with one hand on the stick.

Chris Neil had a chance to make it a one-goal game, but Johnson made a good glove save, effectively ending the Ottawa threat.

With Ovechkin on the bench, Backstrom hit the empty cage with 24 seconds left.

Washington is now 21-3-1 at Verizon Center, with only San Jose better in their own building.

Ovechkin's only previous hat trick this season came against Atlanta in November. Last season, he had a pair of four-goal games and a hat trick.

The Senators return home for a game Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Ottawa defenceman Alex Picard did not complete the game, leaving with an upper body injury.

With files from Associated Press