Alexander Ovechkin gave himself and his loved ones a stunning New Year's gift.
In the last match for Washington in the outgoing 2022, he scored a hat-trick and helped his team defeat Montreal with a score of 9: 2.
The Russian, who rewrote a number of league achievements in this meeting, was recognized as the first star of the NHL game day.
As you know, in the regular season of the league, a break is provided only for Catholic Christmas, since the New Year is not widely celebrated in North America.
It fell to the Capitals to play the match on December 31 at their home arena, and the Capitals came up to it in excellent shape.
At the end of December, the team scored points in six games in a row, losing only once in this segment in overtime.
The opponent, on the contrary, came to Washington, having a series of four defeats and being in the tail of the standings of the Eastern Conference.
The difference in class showed up already at the 33rd second of the meeting, when the hosts took the lead.
Four minutes later, the Capitals doubled their lead.
Ovechkin scored for the first time in the middle of the second period, when his team was already leading with a score of 3:1.
The forward intercepted the puck from the hesitant Montrealers and sent it to his partners, and then, having received a reverse pass, he effortlessly outplayed Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen.
The captain chalked up the second goal at the beginning of the third period, having distinguished himself in most of his usual “office”.
According to Ovechkin, playing with an extra player is the key to Washington's success.
“I believe that playing in the majority or in the minority can turn the tide of the match, give it a push in a different direction.
Of course, we lost key players, but the other guys who took their places should do their job and create chances, ”said Alexander after the match.
For the third time, the Russian distinguished himself under the curtain of the meeting, setting the final score.
He dragged the puck at speed to the gates of Montreal and effectively threw Allen who had fallen onto the ice.
The 18,000-strong stands of the Capital One Arena at that moment burst into applause and the fans threw their caps on the ice.
At the end of the match, the Russian was very pleased with its results.
“We got off to a great start.
I think we created as many chances as we could,” commented on the crushing victory of the eighth number of “Washington”.
It is noteworthy that Ovechkin has already scored 37 goals against the Canadiens in 53 games.
When asked if he was particularly pleased to meet with this team, the hockey player shook his head with a smile.
“No, I just like playing hockey,” the Russian emphasized.
Ovechkin's New Year's hat-trick was already the 31st in his career, if you count the games of both the regular season and the playoffs.
According to this indicator, he reached the sole seventh place in the history of the NHL, beating the legendary Bobby Hull and Jari Kurri, who each have 30 hat-tricks.
Only Maurice Richard (33), Brett Hull (34), Phil Esposito (36), Mario Lemieux (43), Mike Bossy (44) and Wayne Gretzky (60) have done more.
This season, the Russian has already scored three times in one match - in mid-December, visiting Chicago.
It was then that Alexander broke the mark of 800 goals in his career.
In addition, after a hat-trick in the game with Montreal, the striker had more than 50 goals in a calendar year - the eighth time during his performance in the NHL.
Before Ovechkin, only famed Islanders forward Mike Bossy could boast of such an achievement.
Thanks to high performance, the eighth number of "Washington" broke into the top 5 best snipers of the season with 26 goals.
Topping the list is still Connor McDavid (32).
It is also important to note that after the match with the Canadiens, Ovechkin bypassed the longtime Pittsburgh leader Sidney Crosby in the list of top scorers in league history and went to a clean 17th place.
Now the Russian has 1455 (806 + 649) points, while the Canadian has 1452 (536 + 916).
From the 16th line, which is occupied by Teemu Selanne, the Great Eight is separated by only two points.
Meanwhile, American journalists at the end of December calculated how many matches the captain of Washington would need to break Wayne Gretzky's eternal record for the number of goals in the NHL.
At the moment, 88 goals separate Ovechkin from the legendary Canadian.
As noted in the NBC Sports Washington material, if the Russian maintains the same pace of scoring - an average of 0.61 goals per meeting - he will need to play about 145 more games.
If it shows 75% of this indicator, you will have to play more than 190 matches.
Both in the first and in the second case, Gretzky's record will fall in the 2024/25 season.
Well, if the performance drops by half, then Alexander needs to play about 290 more matches, and then a historic event can only be expected in the 2026/27 season.