Alex Ovechkin has hat trick, Capitals rout Canadiens 9-2

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WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin recorded his 30th career hat trick to speed up his pursuit of Wayne Gretkzy’s goal record, Charlie Lindgren made 31 saves against his first NHL team and the Washington Capitals skated circles around the Montreal Canadiens on the way to a 9-2 rout Saturday.

Ovechkin’s 804th, 805th and 806th career goals put him 88 back of Gretzky’s mark that long seemed unapproachable. He has scored six times in four games to reach 26 this season, past the halfway point to his 10th 50-goal season, which would be one more than the “Great One.”

Lindgren stopped former Canadiens teammate Nick Suzuki on a breakaway among a handful of key stops in winning for the ninth time in his past 10 starts. An undrafted free agent signing by Montreal, Lindgren is unbeaten in two games against the organization he spent his first five professional seasons with.

The Capitals dominated absent a short stretch from late in the first period through five or so minutes of the second. They made the Canadiens look helpless and haphazard in their own zone, and on their seventh goal, multiple Washington players did laps around Montreal defenders before Marcus Johansson scored.

Erik Gustafsson and fourth-liners Garnet Hathaway and Nic Dowd scored before Ovechkin made it 4-1, center Dylan Strome finished for a power-play goal late in the second and Anthony Mantha added a goal. Washington has won 11 of 13 to go from struggling amid injuries to solidly in playoff position.

Gustafsson has six goals and five assists during a Capitals season-best seven-game point streak. Evgeny Kuznetsov, who set up the goals by Gustafsson and Strome, has points in five in a row.

Dowd’s goal poking the puck through Jake Allen‘s pads came minutes after son Louie was shown on video screens to celebrate his third birthday.

Wisconsin native and former University of Wisconsin star Cole Caufield scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season for the Canadiens in their fifth consecutive loss. He’s the first Montreal player to reach 20 goals in 37 of fewer games since Martin Rucinsky and Brian Savage in 1995-96.

Allen allowed nine goals on 38 shots for the Canadiens, who have lost eight of nine.

NOTES: Forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel was a healthy scratch for the Capitals. Joe Snively replaced him in the lineup, playing his sixth game of the season and first since Nov. 15. … Defenseman Chris Wideman returned for Montreal to take the spot of injured rookie Kaiden Guhle.

UP NEXT

Canadiens: Visit the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.

Capitals: Wrap up their three-game homestand Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.