Gustafsson hat trick helps Capitals beat Samsonov, Leafs 5-2

Erik Gustafsson recorded his first career hat trick to steal the spotlight from Alex Ovechkin’s latest pursuit of hockey history and help the Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2

BySTEPHEN WHYNO AP Hockey Writer
December 17, 2022, 9:42 PM
Erik Gustafsson
Washington Capitals defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) celebrates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jess Rapfogel)
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Erik Gustafsson recorded his first career hat trick to steal the spotlight from Alex Ovechkin's latest pursuit of hockey history and help the Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 Saturday night.

Ovechkin called for fans to throw hats on to the ice after Gustafsson's third goal of the game early in the third period. Many chanted “Ovi! Ovi!" after he checked Maple Leafs defenseman Conor Timmins into the bench in the second, but they did not get to see Ovechkin score his 801st goal and tie Gordie Howe for second on the NHL career list.

The Capitals instead celebrated a career night by one of their most unlikely scorers, with Gustafsson beating former Washington goaltender Ilya Samsonov for his first three goals of the season. Gustafsson became the third defenseman in franchise history with a hat trick, joining Kevin Hatcher and Sergei Gonchar.

Sonny Milano had three assists and Trevor van Riemsdyk and Garnet Hathaway also scored for the Capitals, who lit up Samsonov in his first game back in his old home arena. Samsonov allowed five goals on 28 shots.

Samsonov was not tendered a qualifying offer and became a free agent last summer with the team looking to make wholesale changes at the position. On Saturday night, one of his replacements put on a show while Samsonov was shaky at the other end.

Charlie Lindgren made 34 saves in his seventh consecutive start, keeping Washington in the game when Toronto tilted the ice in his direction, especially in the second period. Hathaway scored 10 seconds into the third to provide some breathing room.

The Capitals have won six of seven and will take two important points to continue catching up in the playoff race, but they also may have suffered another injury. Winger T.J. Oshie skated off in pain during the second period, never sat down on the bench and needed assistance getting down the tunnel.

The team said Oshie had an upper-body injury and would be re-evaluated Sunday. He missed 11 games from late October through mid-November with what was called a lower-body injury.

William Nylander and reigning league MVP Auston Matthews scored for the Maple Leafs, who have lost two in a row. Samsonov had not allowed a goal in either of his previous two starts, and his shutout streak ended at 163:46 when Gustafsson beat him midway through the first period for his first goal in a Capitals uniform.

NOTES: Capitals center Nic Dowd missed the game with a lower-body injury. ... Zach Fucale was recalled from the minors two hours before the game to back up Lindgren because Hunter Shepard was unavailable because of an upper-body injury.

UP NEXT

Maple Leafs: Return home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

Capitals: Host the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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