Alex Kovalev is becoming the Senators' very own Rain Man.
Only when he's dancing, hats pour from the skies.
Kovalev recorded his second hat trick in 12 games -- and the 12th of his career -- then added another goal for good measure for his first four-goal performance, leading Ottawa to a 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday at Scotiabank Place.
Kovalev, who also had an assist and was plus-5 in the game, scored twice in the first, then added two more goals in the third after the Senators had choked up a 4-1 lead.
It was the type of electric effort expected more often of the shifty Russian, who entered the afternoon having scored in just one of his previous 27 games, a Dec. 12 'trick against the Carolina Hurricanes, also at The Bank.
Nine of his 11 goals have come on home ice.
“Sitting next to him on the bench, you could just tell he was hot,” noted Kovalev's linemate, Ryan Shannon. “He had confidence, he was talking to me, he knew how to beat (the Flyers goalie), where to expose him.”
That was just about anywhere, as the Senators chased Philly starter Michael Leighton by the 7:07 mark of the first with two goals on seven shots, then also had their way with his replacement, Brian Boucher, who they lit up five times on 25 shots.
Good thing, too, because also having a rough day was Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire, who gave up three goals on 10 shots before Brian Elliott entered to stop 10-of-11 in the last 34 minutes.
“All I can say is it’s a good way to start 2010,” said Kovalev. “Hopefully, that’s the way it’s going to go for me the rest of the season.
“I’ve been trying to find the right spot, to be in the right spot at the right time, and I think today that’s exactly what happened. I’ve been chasing that for many games and (have) started shooting the puck, (but) been hitting the post too much. Today was just perfect. Everything I wanted to do happened for me.”
For his first goal, Kovalev stepped out from behind the net and made good with a turnaround attempt Jonathan Cheechoo likes to try with little success. Kovalev squeezed his next shot through a small opening after Filip Kuba’s shot was stopped. For his hat trick goal, which stood as the game winner, Kovalev pushed the puck across the line after Boucher had made good stops off Shannon and Erik Karlsson.
Kovalev joined Marian Hossa, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Martin Havlat as the only Senators to score four times in one game at 12:58 of the third, taking a Mike Fisher pass in the slot and beating Boucher with a wrist shot to the glove side.
“His line was playing well (and) he buried his chances,” said coach Cory Clouston.
Chris Kelly had the first two-goal game of his career and added an assist, while linemate Jarkko Ruutu had a goal and an assist. Shannon and Anton Volchenkov each chipped in with three helpers.
“Figures, eh, first game ever having two goals and he gets four,” Kelly joked after following Kovalev to the post-game scrum. “What are you gonna do? Obviously, we got off to a good start, and kind of lapsed in the second, but came out in the third and found a way to win.”
Up next for the Senators is tomorrow’s home game against the Bruins.