September 25, 2016

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 6 Recap: Disappointment again

CAPS RALLY FROM THREE-GOAL DEFICIT BUT BOUNCED IN OVERTIME

 (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Yup. We all feel that way. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals rallied from a three-goal deficit to force overtime, but once there they were overwhelmed and Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into the extra session to promote the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending the President’s Trophy winning Caps packing, once again.

It was, perhaps, the most Caps-like way of being eliminated from a playoff series.

Logically, it shouldn’t have gotten to overtime. The Penguins came out focused and flying, dominating the Caps in all facets of the game though the first 38 minutes. Phil Kessel put the Pens up 1-0 in the first, then Brooks Orpik was assessed a double-minor high-sticking penalty, and Kessel and Carl Hagelin made it 3-0, cashing in on both penalties, midway though the second period.

But T.J. Oshie got the Caps on the board with a power play goal with 1:30 left in the second, giving the Caps some hope going into the third. Then Justin Williams added one 7:23 into the third period and suddenly a comeback looked do-able. Then things got weird, as the Penguins were assessed three consecutive delay-of-game penalties, giving the Caps a pair of five-on-three power plays.

They made good on just one, however, with John Carlson’s rocket tying the game at three with 13:01 left in regulation.

Both teams had good opportunities down the stretch, but as they had all series, Braden Holtby and Matt Murray stood tall and kept things deadlocked to force an extra session.

Unfortunately for the road team, the Penguins came out on fire once again in overtime. A sequence early should have ended it there, but Holtby made several “how did he do that” saves, and Jay Beagle dove to deflect a puck off the goal line, only to prolong the agony.

Bonino’s game winner came off another excellent save by Holtby, a low kick save, but Matt Niskanen was unable to tie up the Pens’ forward and Bonino got just enough of the rebound on the backhand to sneak it past the prone Holtby and into the gaping net.

There are no clever words to describe the disappointment for this Caps team being eliminated in the second round, prolonging the District’s bizarre tenure of being the only city with at least three of the four major sports not advancing a team into a conference finals since the last time the Caps did it in 1998.

This team seemed to be “built the right way.” It rolled four lines all season long, and had legitimate NHL forwards in the press box most nights. Could they use another defenseman? Sure, but who can’t? As they’re constructed, the Caps have a nice blend of youth and experience and should challenge the top of the conference again next season.

That doesn’t help now, though. For now, it’s disappointment, yet again.

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 3 Recap: Everything but the win

CAPS CONTROL PLAY BUT NOT SCOREBOARD; LETANG HIT ON JOHANSSON TO BE REVIEWED

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals got two third-period goals but couldn’t find the equalizer and dropped Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2, before a capacity crowd decked out in yellow t-shirts at Consol Energy Center.

Typically, when a team outshoots the other 49-23 — including 21-9 in the third — the outcome is predictable. Unfortunately, these things seem to happen to the Caps more often than not in the playoffs. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 2 Recap: Fehr’s late tip tops Caps

OUTPLAYED MUCH OF GAME, CAPS CAN’T FIND THE GO-AHEAD IN THIRD

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

For much of the second half of the regular season, the Washington Capitals got into a habit of playing 20-25 minutes with enough energy to pull out a favorable result. On Saturday night at a raucous Verizon Center, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Old friend Eric Fehr tipped an entry pass from Evgeni Malkin past Braden Holtby late in the third period and the Pittsburgh Penguins evened their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with the Caps at a game apiece with a 2-1 regulation win. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals First Round Game 2 Recap: Holtby stellar as Caps build series lead

HOLTBY MAKES 41 SAVES TO LIFT CAPS TO 2-0 SERIES LEAD

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

After a physical Game 1, the Washington Capitals came in to Game 2 expecting nothing less from the Philadelphia Flyers, except maybe that they would ratchet the hitting, antagonizing and overall agitating up even another notch. That was certainly the case — and then some — as the Flyers controlled play in just about every facet…except the scoreboard.

Braden Holtby was again exceptional, especially in a first period where the Flyers got 18 shots, and the Caps were the beneficiaries of one of the strangest goals you’ll ever see, and the Caps beat the Flyers 4-1 before a raucous Saturday night crowd at Verizon Center to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Flyers came out, well, flying, at the start of Game 2, outshooting the Caps 7-1 in the first few minutes.

It was Washington that got the first power-play opportunity, and they made good on it. The Flyers tried to clear with a lob, but John Carlson caught it open-gloved to keep it in the zone. Stung, he passed it off twice before trying a shot, and his wrister from center point got through a double-high screen and past Steve Mason to put the Caps up 1-0, despite being outplayed.

The Caps managed to avoid the early penalty calls they suffered in Game 1, but it caught up to them late in the first, with Jason Chimera and Carlson both whistled for cross-checks within 50 seconds of each other late.

But as he’s been all season long, Holtby (41 saves) was the Caps’ best player, turning aside the Flyers on every opportunity and the first ended with the Caps up by one.

Early in the second, Washington made it 2-0 on one of the all-time strangest plays. After a tie-up at center ice, both teams went for a change and Chimera sent a soft backhanded deflection toward the Flyers cage. Mason went down to block it, but it somehow eluded him and went right between his legs and behind him into the net. It needs to be seen to be believed.

It stayed that way for about seven minutes before the Flyers got back in it. On an odd-man rush, Brooks Orpik got caught playing a man instead of the puck and it slipped right between his legs to the awaiting stick of Jakob Voracek, who flipped it past Holtby to trim their deficit to one.

But just before the second intermission, Mark Streit was whistled for holding, giving the Caps’ vaunted power play another opportunity. Backstrom held at the half-boards, then slipped a pass through T.J. Oshie’s legs – a play they work on in practice — to Alex Ovechkin in his normal spot in the left wing circle. The Great 8 made no mistake, ramming it home to make it 3-1 before the break.

The Caps were content to play dump and chase most of the third period, but with just over two minutes left, Nick Backstrom carried in on the right wing and when Mason went down thinking about the pass Backstrom called his own number for the insurance goal and a 4-1 lead.

The series moves to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.

Washington Capitals First Round Game 1 Recap: Caps withstand early pressure, shut Flyers down and out

CAPS LIMIT FLYERS TO 18 SHOTS IN GAME 1 SHUTOUT

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

John Carlson and Jay Beagle scored, the team defense was stifling — especially on the penalty kill — and the Washington Capitals took Game 1 of their first round matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0.

The Flyers managed seven shots on their four power play opportunities without scoring. The Caps, meanwhile, were 1 for 6 with their extra-man opportunities.

Braden Holtby was strong, especially early with the Flyers spending so much time with the advantage. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 82 Recap: Caps fall in listless finale

JUSTIN WILLIAMS HONORED FOR PLAYING 1,000TH NHL GAME

With absolutely nothing left to play for except finishing the 82-game schedule, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz scratched Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Jay Beagle, the last of whom nursing a sore knee after blocking a shot in Saturday night’s win over St. Louis.

That left the team with some odd line combinations, with Stan Galiev, Michael Latta and emergency call-up Zach Sill manning the third line and Philipp Grubauer between the pipes. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 80 Recap: Comeback falls short in overtime loss to Pens

HOLTBY’S CHANCE AT BRODEUR’S ALL-TIME WINS RECORD TAKES HEAVY BLOW

(Photo by Greg Fiume/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Greg Fiume/NHLI via Getty Images)

Marcus Johansson — yes, Marcus Johansson — led a three-goal comeback for the Washington Capitals, only to see Sidney Crosby take a long head-man pass in overtime to beat Braden Holtby and lift the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Caps 4-3 on Thursday at a noticeably divided Verizon Center.

Pittsburgh won its eighth in a row and locked up second place in the division win the win.

The Caps (55-17-8) needed the late comeback because once again they came out complacent, suffered defensive breakdowns and received sometimes nonchalant goaltending.

A mere 44 seconds into the game, on a three-on-two rush, Tom Kuhnackl turned Nate Schmidt inside-out and passed to wide open Matt Cullen, who cleanly beat Holtby for a 1-0 lead. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 79 Recap: Holtby’s record chance has to wait as Isles top Caps in OT

OVECHKIN SCORES TWICE BUT THIRD PERIOD BREAKDOWNS LEAD TO LOSS

Braden Holtby entered play against the New York Islanders needing one win to tie Martin Brodeur’s all-time record for wins in a season for a goaltender with 48. He was spectacular at times, and was victimized by sloppy defense and a little casualness on his own part, and the Isles came from two goal down to beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime Tuesday at a disbelieving Verizon Center.

The Caps dominated early on, with several very good chances. Then, on an offensive-zone faceoff, Alex Ovechkin took matters into his own hands. He gathered the won faceoff, looped around a defensemen and let a wicked wrister go through a screen into about eight inches of open net past Christopher Gibson — making his second NHL start — for his 46th goal of the season.

It was Ovechkin’s third goal in his last four games and marks the eighth time the Great 8 has reached the 46-goal mark in his illustrious career. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 67 Recap: Caps furious comeback earns point against Kings

WILLIAMS, RICHARDS HONORED BY KINGS IN RETURN TO STAPLES CENTER

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)

It wasn’t over until it was over.

The Washington Capitals continued their recent string of bad starts and furious finishes, coming from three goals down to salvage a point against one of the better teams in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings. Jeff Carter’s goal at 2:50 in overtime dealt the Caps a 4-3 loss that for many might have felt like a win.

T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Dmitry Orlov — in spectacular fashion — scored three third period goal to forge a tie and carry the game to a frenetic overtime period. Or half of an overtime period, as it was.

The Caps improve to 49-13-5 for 103 points on the season. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 66 Recap: After 65 minutes of championship-level hockey, Caps beat Ducks in shootout

OSHIE, BACKSTROM SCORE IN SHOOTOUT TO LIFT CAPS OVER DUCKS

The Washington Capitals started a grueling west coast swing with a matchup against the only team in the league that’s been hotter than them since Christmas. After 65 minutes of exhilarating hockey, the Caps and Anaheim Ducks needed a shootout to settle the score.

T.J. Oshie and Nick Backstrom scored in the shootout and the Caps edged the Ducks 2-1. As was pointed out on social media throughout, if this was a Stanley Cup finals preview, not a single hockey fan could complain.

The win marks the Caps 11th straight one-goal game and ups the season record to 49-13-4, 102 points. Braden Holtby (27 saves) earned his 41st win, tying himself (’14-’15) and Olie Kolzig (’99-’00) for most wins in a season. [Read more…]

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