Cam Tucker

Ovechkin makes statement with hat trick vs. Senators

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It’s been a difficult few months for Alex Ovechkin. And we’re not even talking about the fact NHL player — including The Great 8 — won’t be going to the Olympics next year.

No, the difficult times date back to the 2016-17 regular season.

— His goal production was down. He still scored 33 times, but this is a player who has consistently reached the 50-goal mark throughout his career.

— The Capitals made the playoffs as the No. 1 regular season team and then suffered a crushing defeat to their rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the seventh game of the second round. Another disappointment set forward an interesting offseason in Washington as a number of changes were made to the roster.

— Ovechkin, himself, was even mentioned as part of trade speculation.

— General manager Brian MacLellan wanted Ovechkin, who just turned 32 years old last month, to change his offseason training.

— The Capitals were told by coach Barry Trotz toward the end of the preaseason to “quit with the self pity” after last season’s playoff defeat.

Plenty has happened for the Capitals and Ovechkin in the last year or so.

If there was any worry or doubt about how Ovechkin would respond at the beginning of this season, well, he made a statement about that on Thursday in the Capitals’ season opener versus the Ottawa Senators. He took over the game in the third period, scoring the hat trick — needing not even seven minutes of game time to do so — and helping his team to a come-from-behind 5-4 victory in the shootout. Oh, he also scored in the deciding breakaway competition.

He joins Connor McDavid, Wayne Simmonds and Brandon Saad to open this season with three goals in a game.

That’s also the 18th hat trick of Ovechkin’s career. Until he wins a Stanley Cup (or an Olympic gold medal for that matter), there will always be doubters and naysayers. Of course, many factors in this team sport go into winning a championship and only time will tell if everything falls the Capitals’ way this spring or the next.

Ovechkin obviously won’t sustain this scoring pace. And he’s another year older, now well into his 30s. But would anybody be surprised to see one of the most prolific scorers for more than a decade rebound in spectacular fashion?

Perfect 10: Blackhawks crush Penguins

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This hasn’t been a good start to the season for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Yes, it’s only been two games. No need to panic. The Pittsburgh Penguins managed a third-period comeback to force overtime versus the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, before losing in the extra period.

But what occurred Thursday on the road versus the Chicago Blackhawks?

This was a disaster.

The night after raising a Stanley Cup banner to the rafters, the Penguins were thoroughly crushed 10-1 in Chicago. Yes, 10-1.

The Blackhawks had already posted four goals on Pittsburgh before the midway point of the first period, chasing Antti Niemi from the game and forcing last night’s starter Matt Murray back into action. By the end of the second period, Chicago had put an eight-spot on the board and wasn’t done there, as a number of players racked up hefty point totals.

Brandon Saad recorded the hat trick.

Ryan Hartman had a goal and five points.

Patrick Kane had a goal and four points.

You get the idea. In fact, only four Chicago players were unable to register a point in this game.

The Penguins don’t have much time to dwell on this one. They host the Nashville Predators on Saturday, in a rematch of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Red Wings open new arena with win over Wild

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Anthony Mantha made history. And the Detroit Red Wings made some memories playing their first regular season game in their new home.

Mantha scored the very first Red Wings regular season goal at Little Caesars Arena, breaking a scoreless deadlock late in the second period before Detroit prevailed in the third period for a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

After the Wild worked its way back into the game, erasing a two-goal deficit, it was long-time Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg putting his team back in front, this time for good, before Martin Frk provided the insurance marker.

Devan Dubnyk made a spectacular save in the first period, channeling his inner Dominik Hasek with a sprawling effort.

He did allow four goals on 31 shots, while at the other end, Jimmy Howard was impressive with 37 saves, as he was busy throughout this contest.

Bruins youth movement on display in season-opening win vs. Predators

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The Boston Bruins were without veteran forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes on Thursday. And yet they still held on for a 4-3 victory over the defending Western Conference champions from Nashville.

This eventually changed with Brad Marchand‘s late third-period goal (and the winner, as it turned out), but for the longest time in this game, the oldest player to score for the Bruins was David Pastrnak. At the age of 21.

He celebrated that birthday in May, right after a breakout 34-goal season that earned him a long-term deal at six years and a total of $40 million. On a night the Bruins were missing two important, experienced players in Bergeron and Backes, it was Boston’s youth movement that came to the forefront with a productive outing.

It started with Pastrnak and his power play blast before the midway point of the first period. That’s a good start for him after entering this season with added pressure thanks to that lucrative deal. It continued with the first career NHL goals for Jake DeBrusk, playing in his first career game with the big club, and Charlie McAvoy, who also had an assist on Boston’s opening goal.

That’s a promising sign for the Bruins, albeit after one game. Bergeron, one of the best two-way forwards in the game, and Backes are important pieces in Boston’s lineup, but when they were not available, the Bruins’ future stepped into the spotlight and delivered against an opponent with high expectations for this season.

And remember, DeBrusk was taken in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft, when the Bruins management was criticized for a rather curious trio of selections in that opening round — Jakub Zboril, DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn — when someone like Mathew Barzal was still on the board.

DeBrusk finished this game with two points. McAvoy not only scored a key goal to expand Boston’s lead in the second period, but he played 22 minutes.

Those are performances the Bruins must be pleased with. Yes, it’s just one game, and the key moving forward will be to get those outings on a consistent basis.

Still, despite some anxious moments at the end, it’s a positive start.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers at Kings

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Wayne Simmonds made franchise history with his hat trick last night in San Jose, and now he and the Philadelphia Flyers look for another win in California, this time against the L.A. Kings.

You can catch the game on NBCSN (10 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Wings vs. Wild; Flyers vs. Kings

Simmonds net historic hat trick in Flyers opener

Don’t be surprised if Kings, Sharks, Ducks finish with similar records

Kings ‘have a plan’ to keep Quick healthy this season