Alex Ovechkin has certainly picked the right time of the season to get hot, and the Washington Capitals hope their captain can keep up the pace when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.
Ovechkin had 10 goals through the first 27 games of the season, but he has more than doubled his goal total over the last 11 outings, scoring 13 times over that stretch. He has 19 total points during the 11-game stretch and Washington has compiled an 8-2-1 record in those contests.
The Russian sniper recorded his second hat trick of the season and 12th of his career on Saturday, helping the Capitals record a 4-3 road win over the Florida Panthers. It was the third straight win for Washington and the club can record its first four-game winning streak of the season on Sunday.
Ovechkin notched three goals and an assist as Washington recorded two points to stay tied with Winnipeg for first place in the Southeast Division. The Jets, who beat Philadelphia on Saturday, have played two more games than Washington and are idle on Sunday.
"Now that we are healthy and we are playing our game it is hard to stop us," Ovechkin said. "We just have to be focused. When we are focusing, our system is going to work."
Mike Ribeiro added a goal and an assist for the Capitals, while Braden Holtby had 27 saves in the win.
Washington is playing four of its next five games on home ice, where it is 9-8-0 this season. The Caps' next game is Tuesday's test in Montreal and they'll follow that with a three-game stay at Verizon Center.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is running out of time to make a run at the postseason, as the Bolts currently sit in a tie for 13th in the conference with Carolina. The Lightning are eight points out of the East's last playoff berth with just 11 games remaining on their schedule.
The Lightning were on the wrong end of Saturday's 4-2 decision with the New York Islanders, who are tied for the conference's last two postseason spots.
"I guess at this point of the season every loss hurts just a little bit more. If you're not picking up points, someone else is," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
Matt Carle had one goal and one assist and Richard Panik added a tally for the Lightning, who have dropped two of their last three games. Ben Bishop made 24 saves but allowed three goals in the setback. It was Bishop's second start with the club since being acquired from Ottawa at Wednesday's trade deadline.
Tampa fell to 6-12-0 as the visiting team this season and is closing a three- game road trip on Sunday.
The Lightning and Caps split a pair of meetings in Tampa earlier this season and the Bolts have won four of six overall in the series. Washington, which will also host the season series finale between the teams on Saturday, has taken three straight, five of six and 12 of the last 14 at home against Tampa in the regular season.