Holtby Ties Wins Record, Ovechkin Gets Hat Trick in Victory

It was a milestone evening for the Washington Capitals. And a forgettable finale for the St. Louis Blues.

Alex Ovechkin had three goals to reach 50 for the seventh time, Braden Holtby won his 48th game to tie the NHL single-season record and the Capitals dashed the Blues' Central Division title hopes with a convincing 5-1 victory on Saturday night.

"It's harder and harder to score goals in this league," Ovechkin said. "It's a pretty big number so I'm pretty excited."

Vladimir Tarasenko started the scoring with his 40th after getting the tying and winning goals in an overtime victory Thursday night at Chicago. The Blues did little else in their regular season finale and finished with the third seed in the Western Conference while Dallas won the Central. St. Louis will face the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

"Might as well start at the top,'' coach Ken Hitchcock said about Chicago. "We get first crack at them.''

Blues captain David Backes, who missed the final week with a lower body injury, said on the ice after the game that he'd be back for the playoffs.

"Nothing holding me back at this point," he said.

Washington, the runaway President's Trophy winners and Eastern Conference champions, will open against the Flyers.

Ovechkin is the third player in NHL history with seven 50-goal seasons, joining Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky. He's the first to do it in three consecutive seasons twice, from 2007-10 and 2014-present.

This was Ovechkin's second hat trick of the season, the other coming Feb. 11 in a 4-3 victory at Minnesota. It was the 15th of his career, tying Jaromir Jagr for most among active players.

"Obviously, it's nice," Ovechkin said. "The guys tried to find me out there."

Holtby tied the mark set by Martin Brodeur with the Devils in 2006-07 in his third attempt. The 43-year-old Brodeur, now a Blues assistant GM after retiring last season with St. Louis, watched from the press box and after the game went to the Capitals locker room to congratulate Holtby.

"It just shows how good of a season he's had," Brodeur told The Associated Press. Who knows what's going to happen tomorrow, but I think it's great."

Brodeur remembers when he broke Bernie Parent's record of 47 wins. Parent, who set the previous record in 1973-74, was in the house at the time.

"So, it's ironic how these things happen,'' Brodeur said.

Holtby, who is 5-0-3 in his last eight starts, can break the record in the Capitals' finale against Anaheim on Sunday night. Coach Barry Trotz said he hadn't decided whether Holtby would play.

"After a couple of overtime losses it starts to drag on you," Holtby said. "It becomes a little bit of a distraction and you just want to get it over with. It was a great team response and a pretty special day."

Tarasenko, whose previous career high was 37 last season, is the Blues' first 40-goal scorer since Brad Boyes had 43 in 2007-08.

The Capitals outshot the Blues 26-10 the first two periods to chase Brian Elliott, who had won 11 consecutive decisions. St. Louis whipped Washington 4-0 on the road in the other regular season meeting on a day off for Holtby.

"That's the team we thought we were going to see in Washington," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "They played a heck of a game."

Nicklas Backstrom assisted on all three of Ovechkin's goals to reach 50 assists. John Carlson and Jason Chimera also scored for the Capitals.

Holtby reached 48 wins in 66 games, 12 fewer than Brodeur in 2006-07. He's 48-9-7 overall.

Washington finished 27-10-4 on the road, a franchise record for victories and second-best in the NHL.

NOTES: Washington is 37-0-1 when leading after two periods. ... Elliott had been 6-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average, .946 save percentage and three shutouts since returning from a lower body injury. ... The Blues had won eight of their previous nine, outscoring the opposition 32-11. ... St. Louis F Robby Fabbri, among the rookie leaders with 18 goals, returned after missing four games with a lower body injury. ... Capitals F Justin Williams played in his 999th career game.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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