Alex Ovechkin stretched out his arms in celebration, teammates mobbed him along the boards and jubilant fans launched their hats onto the ice.
This was the performance they had waited to see.
Ovechkin scored his first hat trick this season and 16th of his 10-year NHL career to lead the Washington Capitals over the St. Louis Blues 4-3 on Wednesday night.
In the process, the three-time MVP and six-time goal-scoring champ showed the attitude that echoed his best seasons.
The 31-year-old Ovechkin played fewer than 16 minutes but had a goal in each period to move one hat trick ahead of Florida's Jaromir Jagr for the most among active players.
Ovechkin's second multi-goal game this season also propelled the Capitals to their third win through four games of a five-game homestand.
Ovechkin made it 2-0 in the second when he took John Carlson's cross-ice feed and fired a slap shot from a similar spot inside the left faceoff circle off the goalie's blocker.
The Blues begin a five-game homestand against Minnesota on Saturday.
Capitals will close a five-game homestand Friday against Buffalo.