April 1, 2015

Washington Capitals Game 77 Recap: Caps take care of business against Canes

ALEX OVECHKIN SCORES 50TH GOAL OF THE SEASON, TIES BONDRA FOR FRANCHISE LEADER

The Washington Capitals took care of business Tuesday night. They scored early, they responded to a couple of their opponent’s goals, and the best player in franchise history added to his accolades. At the finish, the Caps beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 before a not-quite capacity Verizon Center.

With the two points, the Caps pull within a point of both Pittsburgh and the Islanders, tied for second in the Metropolitan Division and both idle, while further distancing themselves from the now-remote possibility of missing the playoffs.

The Caps got things started early in the first. On a good cycle, Curtis Glencross and Tom Wilson kept the puck deep in the Carolina end and Mike Green snuck into the slot, took the pass from Wilson, and beat Cam Ward for his eighth goal of the season.

Then, the moment everyone was waiting for.

Midway through the frame, Evgeny Kuznetsov entered the offensive zone carrying the puck, drawing the defense to him. He backhanded it to Ovechkin on the left wing, and the Great Eight whipped it past Ward glove-side for his 50th of the season.

Ovechkin becomes the sixth player in NHL history to record six 50-goal seasons, joining Mike Bossy (9), Wayne Gretzky (9), Marcel Dionne (6), Guy Lafleur (6) and Mario Lemieux (6), and with that goal he tied Peter Bondra for the Caps all-time leading goal scorer, with 472 career goals.

“Every year, it’s harder and harder,” Ovechkin said. “But it’s a huge accomplishment with those names up there. It’s always nice. But every year, you don’t know what to expect from yourself, how you are going to play.”

“It was good,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “I mean I hadn’t been around anybody who’s ever scored 50 goals in this league, especially the way it’s so hard to score goals in this league. You know it’s a part of history, a guy who scores 50 in this league right now the way the goal scoring is. Teams check. The goaltenders are so good in the National Hockey League. To get 50, I mean I think I said yesterday, I think he’s like 20 percent than the people next to him.”

But nothing comes easy for this team.

Carolina halved the lead exactly five minutes into the second, as Alexander Semin beat Karl Alzner and Nathan Gerbe was able to take advantage and beat a defenseless Braden Holtby. Later, Tom Wilson got pick-pocketed in the offensive zone, sending the play the other way. Eventually, Chris Terry found Eric Staal completely alone on the doorstep, and Stall buried into the open net to tie the game at two.

The Caps recaptured the lead at 17:06 of the second. Jason Chimera made a really hifty backhanded pass to Brooks Laich, who was streaking through the slot. Laich deked, and slipped the puck past the fallen Ward.

Then, while P.A. announcer Wes Johnson was calling the goal, they scored again. Ovechkin slid it through the crease to Joel Ward, who got enough of the puck to get it past Ward to make it a two-goal game again.

With the assist, Ovechkin tied Michael Pivonka for No. 2 on the team’s all-time assist leader list.

All that was left was for an uneventful third period to play out, which it did.

The Caps resume play Thursday in Montreal.

Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin scores 50th goal of the season

TIES PETER BONDRA FOR FRANCHISE RECORD WITH 472

At 11:12 of the first period Tuesday night, Alex Ovechkin took a backhanded pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and whipped a shot past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, scoring his 50th goal of the season.

Ovechkin becomes the sixth player in NHL history to record six 50-goal seasons, joining Mike Bossy (9), Wayne Gretzky (9), Marcel Dionne (6), Guy Lafleur (6) and Mario Lemieux (6).

Additionally, he tied Peter Bondra for the Caps all-time leading goal scorer, with 472 career goals.

Washington Capitals Game 76 Recap: Caps find big road win in New York

ALEX OVECHKIN SCORES 48 AND 49TH GOALS OF THE SEASON, INCHES CLOSER TO BONDRA’S TEAM RECORD

Jason Chimera had scored two goals in his past 23 games. On Sunday against the New York Rangers, he scored on two consecutive shifts in the third period to lift the Washington Capitals to a much-needed 5-2 road win over a team they could very well see in the first round of the playoffs in two weeks.

Chimera would not have been able to play the hero on Sunday without the contributions of the team’s best player, Alex Ovechkin. The Great Eight scored goals in the first and second periods to almost single-handedly keep the Caps in the game through the first 40 minutes. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 75 Recap: Slow start dooms Washington as Caps come up short

Exasperated sighs and disappointed faces told the tale on Saturday afternoon in the Washington Capitals locker room. Squandering an early 5-on-3 power play, the Caps spotted the Nashville Predators a 3-0 lead before clawing back to pull within a goal twice. A late flurry of shots with an extra attacker wasn’t enough, and Washington ultimately fell 4-3 to the Predators at Verizon Center.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 74 Recap: Caps blow lead, win in OT

Matt Niskanen saved the Washington Capitals from adding insult to injury, scoring quickly in overtime to lift the Caps to a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, to whom the home team surrendered the game-tying goal with an even 30 seconds left in regulation.

The Caps (40-24-10) pulled to within one point of Metropolitan Division third-place Pittsburgh, who fell to Carolina 5-2 and put themselves five point clear of eighth-place Ottawa, which also lost, 5-1, to the division-leading New York Rangers and Boston, 3-2 losers to Anaheim. [Read more…]

Secondary scoring remains Caps’ biggest weakness

Marcus Johansson - Washington Capitals practice at Kettler, 3/28/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Marcus Johansson – Washington Capitals practice at Kettler, 3/28/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

What is the biggest weakness of the Washington Capitals?

It’s a simple question, but an important one. The playoffs have a way of exposing every weakness of every team very quickly. Knowing what those weaknesses are can help determine who the true Stanley Cup contenders are.

With nine games left in their regular season schedule, the Washington Capitals sit in a playoff position with a four-point cushion. To put it simply, they are the seventh best team in the Eastern Conference. But why? [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 73 Recap: Caps downed by the Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are trying to stave off the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference and entered winners of three in a row and 10-2-2 in their past 15 home games.

You can add one to the win column in both cases, as the Jets scored a goal in each period and Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves, some spectacular, to shut out the Washington Capitals 3-0 on Saturday at the MTS Center, halting the Caps modest three-game winning streak.

It ends the Caps (39-24-10) seven-game winning streak against Winnipeg. Washington is now two points behind Pittsburgh for third in the Metro, and the Penguins have a game in hand with 10 to play. The Caps are four points ahead of Boston, who has a game, and five clear of Ottawa, who has two games in hand and sit outside the playoffs currently.

Winnipeg got the scoring started halfway through the first. Drew Stafford carried down the left wing, centered to Mark Scheifle in the slot which drew all the defenders, and Scheifle flicked to Mark Stuart, alone to his right for the unmolested attempt and goal.

It was Scheifle doing the damage in the second. This time, Stafford picked John Carlson’s pocket on the Caps goal line and knocked it to Blake Wheeler, who then found Scheifle cruising through the slot by himself and he buried it.

Pavelec saved his best for late. With just under five minutes to go, the Caps streaked in on a rush and Marcus Johansson found Mike Green alone on the doorstop, but Pavelec was able to slide across the crease and snare Green’s wrister to preserve the shutout.

Winnipeg added an empty net short-handed goal from their own zone by Adam Lowry with 1:22 left in the game.

CAPS NOTES:

  • Washington hit four posts in the contest.
  • The Caps top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Johansson managed four shots on goal, two apiece by Ovechkin and Backstrom. Ovechkin had six attempts blocked and missed on five.
  • The Caps were o for 3 on the power play, but also killed all three short-handed situations.
  • Troy Brouwer wiped out 50 seconds of power play time early in the third period with an elbowing penalty.
  • Two-and-a-half minutes later, Michael Latta was called for high-sticking. The combined penalties made it hard to engineer a comeback.
  • Braden Holtby made 21 saves on 23 shots.

Washington Capitals Game 72 Recap: Curse lifted as Ovechkin leads Caps over Wild

The Washington Capitals continued their three game road trip this Thursday with a visit to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. Facing off with a surging Minnesota Wild team (8-2 in their past ten games), the Caps looked to build on the momentum of their two game win streak and continue their push for the playoffs.

When the two teams met at Verizon Center earlier this month (March 5), the Wild won 2-1. Notably absent at that game was superstar Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s leading scorer, who was sorely missed due to an injury. Fortunately for the visiting Caps, they were nearly at full health for this rematch.

Not only did they have Ovechkin back, but Brooks Orpik returned to the lineup after he was sidelined this past week due to a lower-body injury. This time, they came away victorious – their first-ever win at Xcel Center – a gritty 3-2 win that left them tied for points with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.

Despite their unimpressive 11-11-3 record against Western Conference opponents so far this season, the Caps came to St. Paul to prove they can compete with playoff caliber teams. In many ways, the two teams are similar. Not only are they each fighting to secure playoff slots, but they are evenly matched in their respective strengths and weaknesses.

The Caps have the league’s top power play (25.7%), the Wild have the league’s best penalty kill (86.7%). Goals Per Game? The Caps average 2.89, the Wild 2.80. Goals Against Average? The Caps average 2.41, the Wild 2.47.

First period

Jason Chimera had a great opportunity 9:15 into the game on a long breakout pass from Joel Ward that led to a one-on-one that he shot wide of the net. Just thirty seconds later, Minnesota had a scoring opportunity of their own, a quick pass in front of the net to a wide-open Mikael Grandlund that ended up getting caught in his skates.

Tom Wilson and Sean Bergenheim received matching minors 9:27 into the first period that opened up the ice a bit. Washington had a few scoring chances, but they were stamped out by Devan Dubnyk, the massive Wild goalie who has helped propel them from the depths of the Western Conference to a wild card spot, and fourth place in the Central Division.

Nicklas Backstrom’s great puck movement in the offensive zone at the end of the period led to the first Caps power play, a hooking call on Mikko Koivu. On their first chance to test out their power play against the Wild’s penalty kill, they kept the pressure on but were stifled by Dubnyk’s netminding.

Second period

The back-and-forth continued for the first few minutes of the second period, an even battle that saw the puck in both ends. Eric Fehr and Mike Green had the best chance of the opening five minutes of the period, a 2-on-2 opportunity that Green was unable to convert on a phenomenal pass from Fehr.

Earlier in the same play, Minnesota’s Jordan Leopold drew a holding call against Ward (4:49) at the other end of the ice. Despite the Wild’s swarming penalty kill, the Caps power play nearly scored when a close-up slap shot from Ovechkin glanced off the crossbar.

When Tom Wilson and Zach Parise tangled up for another matching minor at 14:45 into the period (Parise for roughing, Wilson for a questionable embellishment call), the Caps pounced. Ovechkin raced through the neutral zone, firing a wrist shot at Dubnyk that resulted in a rebound that he ripped to the top of the net (15:25, assists from Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen). Less than a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetzov swiped the puck from Jonas Brodin right in front of the Wild net, putting a nifty deke on Dubnyk to put the Caps up 2-0 (16:04).

With the second period closing down, Minnesota scored their first goal of the night when Granlund passed up to Parise, who broke into the Caps’ end and found Christian Folin at the other side of the zone. Folin took the pass and sniped a wrist shot past Braden Holtby to put the Wild on the board (19:51).

Third period

At 3:05, Ovechkin scored his 47th goal of the season on a set play from the faceoff to give the Caps a 3-1 lead. Backstrom won the draw, winding back and passing to the Great 8 who rocked a snapshot past Dubnyk before anyone could blink an eye.

At 12:21 into the period, Chimera drew a hooking call on Chris Stewart that led to a power play goal for Minnesota. Jared Spurgeon came from the side of the net to tip-in an airborne puck (14:04) with assists credited to Thomas Vanek and Granlund.

The final two minutes of the game were a scramble in the Caps’ end as they fended off furious attempts by the Wild to even the game. Pulling Dubnyk to get the man advantage, Minnesota frantically tried to crash the net but Braden Holtby stood strong in net despite heaps of goalie interference that went uncalled.

Final takeaways

Ovechkin snapped his two-game scoreless streak with two huge goals.

For the most part, the Caps played a phenomenal defensive game. They were physical in front of the net and limited Minnesota’s scoring chances.

Holtby had a great night – the two goals against him were not reflective of his play. At least one of them (a power play goal batted in from the air) was unstoppable.

The Caps had a tough time adjusting to the aggressive style of the Wild’s penalty kill. Minnesota smothered the puck carrier in the zone and effectively minimized the Caps’ passing, an important part of their power play success. In fact, the Caps did not have a single power play goal, despite scoring two during 4-on-4 play and one in regular strength.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 4, Buffalo Sabres 3 (SO)

FIRST STAR: Evgeny Kuznetsov. The rookie had one of his better games of the season, with a power play goal, shootout goal and eight shots on goal.

SECOND STAR: Alex Ovechkin. Did not score, but had a whopping 22 shot attempts (9 SOG, 10 blocked, 3 misses) with three credited hits, and it seemed like twice or thrice that. Ovechkin was pretty much a one-man wrecking crew and get very little help from his mates, especially of the veteran variety.

THIRD STAR: Braden Holtby. Did not have his best game of the season, but playing the second of a back-to-back on the road he was still sharp, spectacularly so at times, and he needed to be since his defense took much of the night off.

Washington Capitals Game 71 Recap: Caps outlast Sabres, “win” in shootout

One night after playing “playoff atmosphere” hockey to shut out the Boston Bruins, the Caps came out flatter than Stanley, needing a shootout to secure two points from the Buffalo Sabres, a team trying to secure its standing in line for the opportunity for the first pick in next year’s NHL draft.

The Caps (38-23-10) are four points ahead of Boston for the seventh seed in the East and nine clear of Ottawa, which is the first team outside of playoff seeding currently. Boston now has two games in-hand over the Caps and the Senators have three.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was the only player in the shootout to score.

[Read more…]

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