Ovechkin nets hat trick as Caps win third straight

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Here come the Washington Capitals.

That was the story out of Florida on Saturday as the Caps beat the Panthers 4-3 — on the strength of Alex Ovechkin’s second hat trick of the season — to move into first place in the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference.

Ovechkin opened the scoring in the first period, on the power play, after Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson was tossed for boarding Martin Erat. Ovi scored his second at 2:24 of the second period, then completed the hatty 12 minutes later with another PP marker.

The Washington captain also assisted on Mike Ribeiro’s goal, giving him four points on the night.

The Caps dined out on the power play all night long, going three-for-five with the Ovechkin-Ribeiro-Nicklas Backstrom trio doing the majority of the damage. They combined for nine points all told, and Backstrom moved into third in the NHL with assists (32).

Ovechkin, meanwhile, moved into a tie for second in the NHL in goals, with 23 (tied with New York’s John Tavares).

With the win, the Caps moved even on points with Winnipeg for first in the division — with 40 — but are in first place because they’ve played 38 games to Winnipeg’s 40.