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Game features 2 hat tricks and 1 winner: Capitals

WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin’s first playoff hat trick was cause for celebration, worthy of so many red caps that Sidney Crosby wanted fans to stop throwing them.

Minutes later, Crosby notched his first postseason hat trick, a consolation prize in a loss. Fewer than a half-dozen pieces of headgear made it to the ice.

It was a historic night for the NHL. Its two biggest stars – rivals who don’t care for each other – had their biggest playoff head-to-head performances. Ovechkin claimed the winning hand, breaking a tie with a pair of goals less than 3 minutes apart in the third period Monday night in the Washington Capitals’ 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Sick game. Sick three goals by me and Crosby,” said Ovechkin, who celebrated by bouncing his body high off the glass after both of his third-period goals. “It’s unbelievable to see how fans react, how fans go crazy. The atmosphere right now, it’s unbelievable in town. You see all the red, and – probably I’m afraid to go home right now.”

The Eastern Conference semifinal series moves to Pittsburgh for Wednesday’s Game 3 with the Capitals leading 2-0. From 1991-2001, Washington lost five series in which it blew a lead against Pittsburgh, including 2-0 advantages in 1992 and 1996.

But that’s ancient history for Alex the Great and Sid the Kid, who quickly realized what a special game they had just played.

“It’s nice to score,” Crosby said. “But it’s better to win. I’m sure it’s entertaining for people to watch, if I were to look at it from a fan’s point of view. As a player, you don’t like when the guy on the other team gets a hat trick. That’s usually not a good sign.”

Ovechkin nailed a one-timer from the left circle that beat Marc-Andre Fleury on a power play with 7:07 left, then skated between the circles before unleashing a slap shot that sailed past Fleury’s glove with 4:38 remaining for his third goal of the game and seventh of the postseason.

After the first wave of hats came a second wave, prompting Crosby to speak to the referee about the long delay.

“People kept throwing hats,” Crosby said. “And I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop.”

Crosby gave the Penguins leads of 1-0 and 2-1. His third goal came on a power play in the final minute after Fleury was pulled for an extra attacker, giving Crosby an NHL-leading eight in the playoffs.

“When you build up hype of superstars playing against each other, and then the superstars play like superstars, it’s a neat thing,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.

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