April 19, 2014

Washington Capitals Game 1 Recap: Grabovski notches hat trick but Caps fall to Blackhawks, 6-4

For the third time in a week, the Washington Capitals took on the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, but this time, it counted for something. Unfortunately for the Caps, it counts more for Chicago, as two late goals by the defending Stanley Cup champions led them to a 6-4 win in the season opener

After a long banner-raising ceremony honoring the Cup champs, the puck was finally dropped on a brand-new NHL season.

Emotions ran high on both benches: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, freshly back from his torch escapades in Greece; and the Blackhawks, still riding the wave of their Cup run.

The Hawks wasted no time getting on the board. Brandon Bollig scored just 4:06 into the first. But it seemed that for every goal the Blackhawks buried, the Capitals sneaked one past Corey Crawford shortly after.

And how fitting it was that the first Capitals goal scored this season was by its captain, Ovechkin, and even more apropos, on the power play, which proved to be as efficient as ever Tuesday night.

Patrick Kane scored near the end of the first; Mikhail Grabovski got one back for the Capitals. And so it went.

Brent Seabrook put the Hawks up 3-2; Grabovski deflected the first of two Mike Green power play shots to even things at 3-3.

Less than five minutes later, Grabovski deflected another Green point shot to make it 4-3 to give him his first career hat trick in his first regular season game as a Capital.

But only a few minutes later Brandon Saad got behind the Caps defense — notably veteran John Erskine — and equalized it for the Hawks. Defenseman Johnny Oduya increased the lead by one several minutes later on a goal Braden Holtby would probably like to have back, deflecting off his catching glove and slipping by him into a gaping net, to make it 5-4 Blackhawks late in the third.

The Capitals had a prime 5-on-3 opportunity late in the third period they couldn’t make good on, then another 50 seconds with a one man-advantage that yielded scoring chances but no goals. Crawford, as he has been so many times for the Blackhawks, was brilliant in killing the Caps power play.

It would be remiss to not mention the three assists Nick Backstrom had, all on the power play. Grabovski finished with three goals and an assist, and Ovechkin added an assist on Grabovski’s power play goal as well.

Despite pulling Holtby in the final minute, the Capitals still came up short to the reigning champions. Mike Green attempted a diving save in front of the empty net to thwart Marion Hossa’s scoring attempt, but the Hawks were awarded the goal.

In the end, it was a rousing opening night act. The Caps did many things right. They did many things wrong. They had a third period lead they could not hold. In the grand scheme of things, a one-goal loss to the defending champs on their home ice isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it feels like an opportunity slipped through the Caps hands in this one.

Washington Capitals Media Day Audio

Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein

Thursday was the Washington Capitals annual media day, where all the players were made available to tell the media they were in the best shape of their lives (except, of course, for Brooks Laich, who left practice with a strained hip flexor) and that they are looking forward this season to competing for the Stanley Cup.

Below you can find the raw audio from many of the Caps players from media day today. In addition, this season once again courtesy of Sky Kerstein, District Sports Page will have the largest online library of raw audio from Caps practices, games and postgame press conferences.

 

09-12-13 Alex Ovechkin Practice RAW

09-12-13 Brooks Laich Practice RAW

09-12-13 Karl Alzner Practice RAW

09-12-13 Mike Green Practice RAW

09-12-13 Nicklas Backstrom Practice RAW

09-12-13 Steve Oleksy Practice RAW

09-12-13 Troy Brouwer Practice RAW

CAPS: Mike Green Receives SneakerBall Award

Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green accepts the JB Impact Award from CBS sportscaster James Brown during the 10th annual SneakerBall, the Greater Washington Sports Alliance’s signature charity gala, on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The JB Impact Award honors a player who has used sport to positively impact the area through community service. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green accepts the JB Impact Award from CBS sportscaster James Brown during the 10th annual SneakerBall, the Greater Washington Sports Alliance’s signature charity gala, on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The JB Impact Award honors a player who has used sport to positively impact the area through community service. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Capitals Defenseman Mike Green Receives SneakerBall Award
Capitals defenseman honored at the celebration of D.C. sports

ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green was named the recipient of the James Brown Impact Award, presented during the 10th annual SneakerBall, the Greater Washington Sports Alliance’s signature charity gala, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, in recognition of his involvement in the community. The award honors a player who has used sport to positively impact the area through his or her commitment and compassion for Washington, D.C., through community service.

Entering his ninth season with the Capitals, Green has devoted many hours of community and charitable service for a variety of organizations in need. In 2008 Green created the “So Kids Can” program with DC 101’s Elliot Segal to benefit youth-focused nonprofit organizations. To date, So Kids Can has donated nearly $250,000 to charity. In addition Green has participated in a number of other community initiatives.

“It is an honor to receive the JB Impact Award,” said Green. “I’ve been fortunate to be involved with several projects that have given back to the Washington, D.C., community, and I look forward to another season giving back to those in need through service.”

SneakerBall is the only black tie and sneakers gala that annually celebrates the best of sports in the region. The event is organized to benefit the Greater Washington Sports Alliance Foundation, which is made up of six local charities and creates avenues for corporate philanthropy to enhance the region’s youth sports programs and facilities. The Greater Washington Sports Alliance Foundation, a 501(c) 3, supports youth investment initiatives that provide young people from greater Washington the leadership skills to live healthier, happier and more productive lives through sports and fitness.

About Greater Washington Sports Alliance:
Established in 2003, The Greater Washington Sports Alliance (GWSA) is a regional, nonprofit sports commission created to foster economic development and civic pride through the power of sports. GWSA’s mission encompasses the attraction of sporting events to the region, the promotion of the regional professional, collegiate and amateur franchises, the support of youth investment organizations and the branding of Washington, D.C., as a world class sports destination.

Washington Capitals End-of-Season Roundtable, Part V: How would you rate the defense?

With the conclusion of Washington Capitals season, too early yet again, it’s time for appreciation, evaluation and critique. In this seven part series, the Caps staff at District Sports Page, and a few friends, will be taking an in-depth look at what went right, what could be better, suggest some changes and grade out the team position-by-position.

Our panel: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief of DSP; Abram Fox, Caps Team Editor of DSP; Katie Brown, Caps Beat Writer for DSP; Sky Kerstein, 106.7 The Fan and DSP contributor; Ted Starkey, SBNation.com and DSP contributor, Adam Vingan, NBCWashington.com; and Harry Hawkings, RocktheRed.net.

PART I: What was the Capitals’ biggest accomplishment this season?

PART II: What was your biggest disappointment about the Caps this season?

PART III: What single adjustment would you advocate for next season?

PART IV: How would you rate the offense this season?

PART V: How would you rate the defense this season?

DAVE: D. I thought, pretty clearly, the blueline was the Caps’ biggest problem this season. In the very beginning everyone was a liability, including the normally stalwart Karl Alzner. I don’t know if it was adjusting to Adam Oates’ system, or the layoff from the lockout (remember, not a single member of the defensive corps played competitively during the lockout), but until about 25 games in, everyone was just getting in each others’ way, pucks were bouncing off skates into their own goal almost every night, and breakouts died in the neutral zone because no one knew what to do with the puck.

When Mike Green came back from his yearly injury absence, things got much, much better, but that because there was nowhere else to go. Green ended up leading the NHL defensemen in goals scored, but teams still keyed their forecheck on clobbering Green any chance they could. John Carlson ended up in the top five in the league in blocked shots, but according to most of the fan base he should have been a candidate to be sent back to the minors early in the season. Pundits wondered for a while, without irony, if Carlson did indeed peak in juniors. Alzner rebounded from his slow start to put together another solid defensive season and even insinuated himself in the play more often this season, and was tied for third on the in shots on goal in the playoffs. Not that Karl being third on the team in shots on goal is a good thing.

The others? A hodgepodge of has-beens, journeymen and never-weres. Tom Poti proved to the team — and probably the league — that his career has come to an unceremonious conclusion. John Erskine enjoyed something of a renaissance, but was completely exposed during the playoffs. Roman Hamrlik, employed by the Caps for a good chunk of the season, was sent packing to sit in the press box at Madison Square Garden instead of Verizon Center. The #fancystat folks loved Jack Hillen’s contribution, but it was really hard to see that translate to success on the ice, and his lack of physical stature left him open to punishment. Steve Oleksy provided some depth, but he’s a career minor league journeyman for a reason, and those reasons were evident if willing to look for them.

Dmitri Orlov and Tomas Kundratek were banished to Hershey, and for the life of me I don’t understand why, especially in Orlov’s case. But both should see plenty of time with the Caps next season.

About the only thing that was legitimately encouraging on defense this season is that Jeff Schultz, finally, took his proper place in the press box after about mid-way through the season. I fully expect the Caps to try to trade the 6’6″ liability, if not simply buy him out under the amnesty clause in the CBA.

ABRAM: 6/10. The defense gets the same rating as the offense, even though they weren’t as good, because Washington’s D corps was working with much less talent. Steven Olesky, a career minor-leaguer, became a stalwart on the back line, and Jack Hillen and John Erskine both earned a great deal more ice time than a putative playoff team would prefer. The Caps were in the bottom half of the league allowing 2.71 goals/game, and allowed a deflating 32.3 shots/game. In the playoffs the defense made a marked improvement, cutting the scoring down to 2.29 goals/game, and limited shots as well, cutting that number down to 29.3/game, fifth best in the league (though it should be noted that five of the top eight teams in that stat were also eliminated in the first round). Notably, the team’s penalty kill stepped it up in the playoffs, finishing the playoffs with a 92.9% kill rate after ending the regular season in the bottom of the league at 77.9%.

KATIE: Aside from Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson, the blue line was not stellar this season. John Erskine, who signed a contract extension this year, seemed a step or two behind or looked lost for as many times as he blocked a shot or jumped in the crease to save a flying puck. Jack Hillen rebounded from injury and proved to be reliable, and Steven Oleksy, called up from Hershey earlier in the season, provided an inspirational story and a little bit of grit. Overall, the defense wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either, so mediocre with flashes of brilliance should sum it up.

SKY: C.

TED:B. Defensively, the Capitals are thinnest, with the top two of Mike Green and Karl Alzner being reliable, but John Carlson was wildly inconsistent this season. John Erskine and Jack Hillen weren’t really the answer, either. While Dmitry Orlov was in Hershey, the bottom end of the Capitals’ defense was part of the breakdown in the series against the Rangers.

ADAM: I’m not sure if I can simply give an entire defensive corps a grade, but I was impressed by the team’s depth. Twelve defensemen played over the course of the regular season, which at one point was a league-high. Karl Alzner and John Carlson continued to grow, while Mike Green looked like his old self again near the end of the season. Jack Hillen was solid when he wasn’t injured, and Tomas Kundratek, Dmitry Orlov, Cameron Schilling and Steven Oleksy proved that the Capitals’ blue line pipeline is strong.

HARRY: I give the defense a B-minus this year.  Mike Green, Karl Alzner, Steve Oleksy (seriously) and John Carlson all had good seasons individually but the bottom half of the defense, like Jack Hillen, John Erskine, Tom Poti, and Jeff Schultz were all inconsistent or downright bad.  The Capitals’ d-zone play never looked right all season; it seemed as though they were running around constantly and their penalty kill was 27th in the NHL at 77.9% and showed little improvement through the season.  In short, there was always an issue with the defense despite the solid play of some individuals, and unlike the offense, it didn’t get noticeably better as the year progressed.

Washington Capitals Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game 2: ‘Casual Mike’ Green’s OT goal, Holtby’s shutout put Capitals up 2-0 in series

Going into this series with the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals knew there would be tight games against John Tortorella’s stingy shot-blocking team. Getting quality shots through defensemen and past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist would be key to the Capitals success.

Saturday afternoon,  the Capitals showed they were up to the challenge. After no score during three periods of play, all it took was a cool-headed Mike Green shot on the power play to win it, 1-0, for the Capitals, putting them 2-0 in the best-of-seven series over the Rangers. The goal was assisted by Mike Ribiero and Alex Ovechkin.

Green made sure to give credit to Ribiero for the pass. “He does such a great job drawing guys to him and obviously they are on Ovi, so I just happened to be open and my goal to get it by the first guy and try to hit the net,” he said.  It was his eighth career playoff goal, and his eighteenth career game-winning goal and the first overtime game-winning goal of his career.

“We talk about this a lot,” said coach Adam Oates on Green’s ability to score in high-pressure situations. “It’s a reason why I don’t want Mike to try too hard to be a scorer during the game because we need him to have the poise back there at a key moment when it’s a big power play, place is going crazy, there’s electricity. You need guys out there who are calm. That’s one of his gifts.”

Defenseman Karl Alzner agreed. “He’s a big-time player, he handles the pressure well. He’s calm all the time with the puck in regulation, so when it gets to overtime and guys start to get the shakes a little bit, he’s still calm Mike Green,” he said.

“He’s able to find those holes, it really is amazing, I wish I could do it like him. We call him Casual Mike every now and then,” Alzner quipped.

Special teams have arguably been the deciding factor thus far in this series. The Capitals’ penalty kill has been perfect, while the Rangers’ power play has been sputtering. Out of seven total Rangers power plays, the Capitals have allowed exactly zero Rangers goals. Conversely, the Capitals’ power play is firing on all cylinders. They have two goals on seven power play opportunities.

The Rangers had three power plays, not including two four-on-four situations, but the Capitals penalty kill picked a great time to click, only allowing two shots on the three Rangers man-advantages.

“We’ve been working hard and working together,” said center Nicklas Backstrom when asked about what’s working on the penalty kill. “That’s the biggest key, I think. They have really good players on their team, so you’ve got to make sure to take away all those options.”

The power play that led to Green’s game-winning goal was earned after a delay-of-game penalty was called on New York’s Ryan McDonagh – a situation that Karl Alzner was faced with earlier in the game. Alzner attempted to tip the puck out of the Capitals’ zone, but it bounced up over the glass. After the initial no-call on the play, the officiating staff called into Toronto to get clarification of the rule, and it was determined that the call made on the ice was correct. It is only a penalty if the puck is deliberately shot out of the zone and ends up over the glass.

Goaltender Braden Holtby recorded his first career playoff shutout, stopping all 24 shots that came his way.  Holtby downplayed his accomplishment, acknowledging that a personal milestone takes less precedence than a team victory. “A shutout’s one thing, but a win is the big thing,” he said.

The Capitals will take on the Rangers in Game 3 of the series at Madison Square Garden on Monday, May 6, at 7:30 p.m.

 

Katie Brown is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page. She grew up in Virginia and Maryland, currently resides in Arlington, VA, and developed a love for the sport of hockey as a youngster while watching her brothers play. She combined her enthusiasm for the game with her love of writing after college. Katie has covered the Capitals as credentialed media for two seasons for several area blogs before joining the DSP staff. Katie works at a nonprofit organization by day but the rest of her time is devoted to watching, writing, and talking about hockey and perfecting her mean one-timer. You can follow Katie on Twitter@katie_brown47.

Instant Analysis Game 2: GAME OVER GREEN; Caps take 2-0 series lead

Game Over Green. The Washington Capitals take a 2-0 series lead over the New York Rangers in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup with a 1-0 overtime win, as Mike Green’s bomb from the high slot deflected off a Rangers’ skate past Henrik Lundqvist for the game winner.

Some thoughts:

– The Caps had to figure the Rangers would come out with more fire in the first period after dropping Game 1, and they did. The Caps did a good job killing off the Rangers power play in the middle of the period and overall was solid withstanding the Rangers early assault. The Caps looked a little sleepy on offense to start but they brought the physical game to match New York, especially the captain, whose check on Carl Hagelin set the tone for him.

– Marcus Johansson had a golden opportunity to break the scoreless tie early in the second. Playing four-on-four, Alex Ovechkin hit Johansson at the far post and he had an open net, but instead of simply sweeping the puck to the net, Johansson tried to stick handle, giving both Henrik Lundqvuist and Ryan McDonough a chance to recover and ultimately Lunqvist made the save from a prone position.

– Toward the end of the second, the Caps put on a good bit of pressure against Lundqvist but couldn’t get one to drop. The best chance came from Nick Backstrom on a nice criss-crossing feed rom Johansson to Ovechkin to Backstrom at the far post. Backstrom’s shot seemed to glance off Lundqvist’s right skate and into the corner harmlessly.

– The Caps did a pretty good job on Rick Nash all afternoon, until about 3:45 left, when Nash won a battle at center ice, split a couple of Caps D and walked in on Holtby. Troy Brouwer slashed from behind and was able to hold Nash just enough to keep him from getting a great shot off. Still, Nash hit the pipe then almost bounced the rebound in. The penalty to Brouwer earned the Rangers a two-minute advantage, but the Caps were strong again on the kill, not allowing a single shot to go through to Holtby.

– The teams traded delay of game penalties in the third, but like the rest of the first two games, the Caps had the better of play during special teams.

– Once again: Braden Holtby. He made a couple of careless plays with the puck in the first period, but after that was impenetrable. He’s building quite a Stanley Cup Playoff resume.

Game 3 is Monday night from Madison Square Garden at 7:30 pm. It’s a lot nicer to go in there 2-0 instead of 1-1.

Washington Capitals Game 48 Recap: Fehr beats Bruins again on overtime goal; Caps face Rags in ECQFs

GREEN WITH TWO GOALS; CAPS TO FACE NEW YORK RANGERS IN STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

With the third seed in the Eastern Conference bracket of the Stanley Cup Playoffs sewn up entering the game, the Washington Capitals had very little to play for Saturday evening except health and pride. For the Boston Bruins, however, first place in the Northeast Division was still up for grabs, so the game had a little more significance.

An entertaining affair boiled down to overtime, and the Caps’ Eric Fehr, as he did earlier in the season, tallied the game winner in the extra frame as the Caps finished the NHL regular season with a 3-2 win over the Bruins, setting up a Quarterfinals Matchup with the New York Rangers for the fourth time in five years.

The Bruins gained a point and own a one-point lead over Montreal in the Northeast with one game to play.

Fehr’s tally came on a four-on-three power play, with Boston’s monolith Zdeno Chara off for hauling down Mike Ribeiro. Riberio found Mike Green with a cross-ice pass at the left-wing circle for a blast that Tuukka Rask couldn’t handle. The rebound popped into the slot, and Fehr slipped past defenseman Wade Redden to get enough of the puck with his backhand to flip it past the sprawled Rask (34 saves) and into the net. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Game 45 Recap: Les Capitals frappent Les Habitent dans la nuit d’hockey

The Washington Capitals knew during Saturday night’s matchup in Montreal against the Canadiens that the Winnipeg Jets had cut their lead in the Southeast Division to a single point by virtue of a shootout loss to the New York Islanders. What was a big enough game already — a Saturday night game in Montreal is akin to a holiday festival — became even bigger, with Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg potentially setting up to be a game to decide the division.

With all that drama in mind, the Caps came out buzzing, took control of all three zones early, and spanked the Canadiens to the tune of a 5-1 final. As has been the case for the past 30 games, the team was led by their captain, Alex Ovechkin, who tallied twice to extend his league-leading goal total to 30, and their goalie, Braden Holtby, who made 35 saves look easy in the winning effort.

Washington is now 9-1-0 in the last 10 games.

The Caps jumped all over the Canadiens in the first period with a strong forecheck. That early attack paid dividends at 4:49 when Ovechkin corralled a turnover in the high slot, turned away from the defense, faked a pass to Marcus Johansson who was on the far post, and ripped a wrist shot past beleaguered Montreal goalie Carey Price to get on the board first.

Just over a minute later, Troy Brouwer scored the first of his two goals. Mike Ribeiro (three assists) won an offensive zone faceoff to Karl Alzner at the point. Alzner found Brouwer walking off the half-boards and the veteran forward found space between two Montreal defenders. Brouwer, from the top of the left-wing faceoff circle then whipped a shot toward net that eluded Price through a maze of bodies, including the aforementioned Ribeiro and winger Martin Erat to give the Caps a 2-0 lead not even six minutes into the contest.

With the normally rowdy Centre Bell crowd taken out of the game, the Caps turned up the forecheck even tighter, making the sledding for the slumping Canadiens almost too much to bear.

The Caps did not let up in the second stanza. Brouwer got his second of the night at 3:49 of the second frame. Ribeiro won a foot race to a puck in the corner and gained control over two Canadiens defenders and slid the puck up the boards to Marcus Johansson. The young Swede had the presence to know that Brouwer was drifting through the high slot, despite having his back to the play. Johansson hit Brouwer in stride and the veteran ripped a shot past Price for his 19th goal of the season, just three off his career high.

A little later, it was the power play’s turn to light the lamp again. Mike Green found Ovechkin in his “sweet spot” at the left-wing faceoff circle. This time, instead of unleashing his standard one-timer, the captain found Nick Backstrom at the far post for a tip-in which rattled off two posts. After a brief review, the goal stood for Backstrom’s seventh of the campaign.

Ovechkin himself closed the Capitals scoring onslaught in the third period with his 30th of the season with another power play marker. They used the same play that set up the Backstrom goal, with Ribeiro hitting Green at the top of the umbrella, who then fed to Ovi at the left-wing circle. This time, the captain was selfish and ripped the shot past Price to cap the scoring and brought a close to the competitive portion of the evening.

Through the festivities, Holtby was stellar again. Montreal broke up the shutout bid a third of the way through the third period, but the contest was well out of hand by that point. The young netminder has been dominant against Canadian teams and he was no less Saturday night, showing up the favorites of his countrymen time and again.

The Caps are off until Tuesday, when they host the Jets with a three-point lead in the division. Depending on Winnipeg’s result Monday against Buffalo, a win by the Caps Tuesday could clinch the division — and the No. 3 seed that comes with it – and put the Jets playoff hopes in peril.

The Caps have been playing in “elimination mode” pretty much since the first of February, owners of a 23-10-1 record (113 point pace) since Feb. 9 after the awful 2-8-1 start. They’ve lost in regulation just once in the past four weeks and for maybe the first time in the Ovechkin era, they have earned the mantel of “team no one wants to play in the playoffs.”

The Caps still haven’t qualified for the postseason yet, but they took one step closer Saturday night, destroying a very good team on their home ice in quite possibly the most hostile territory in the league. If the Caps can take care of their own business and qualify for the playoffs, with the East as seemingly open as it is, who knows? No one has played better in the past two months.

Washington Capitals Game 42 Recap: “Game Over” Green beats Lightning in OT

What started out as a laugher ended up as a nailbiter, as the Washington Capitals frittered a four-goal lead to the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night in front of a squirming sellout crowd at Verizon Center, prompting overtime. There, a terrific offensive move by an inconsistent forward drew a four-on-three power play which resulted in a scintillating goal for one of the hottest Caps players to deliver a 6-5 win and a four point lead in the Southeast Division with six games remaining in the regular season.

The Capitals, winners of seven straight, are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, 13-3-1 in their last 17 games, and their 48 points would qualify for sixth in the conference were they not leading the Southeast, enjoying the No. 3 seed that comes with that distinction.

The overtime goal came at four-on-three courtesy of Marcus Johansson, who gathered a puck along the right wing boards and made a slick move around veteran Vincent Lecavalier, dangling the puck at the end of his stick. Johansson cut hard to the Lightning net, where Lecavalier had little choice but to haul down the Caps forward or surrender a clean scoring chance.

But the tactic only delayed the outcome for a few more moments. On the ensuing power play, Mike Green collected a pass from Mike Ribeiro, took two strides into the high slot, and fired a BB past Mathieu Garon, Tampa’s second goalie of the night, for the game-winner — his tenth of the season.

The overtime tally was the 15th game-winning goal of Green’s career, the sixth in overtime. He ranks tied for third among active defensemen in overtime goals.

“Tomorrow we are going to wake up and we have our two points and that’s all that matters,” Green said, alluding to Tampa Bay’s comeback. “And this game’s put away, but we have to learn from this. We can’t let situations like that happen. They used to call us the Cardiac Kids for a reason and we showed that tonight.”

Washington raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, with Troy Browuer (16), Jack Hillen (2) and Alex Ovechkin (27) all tallying against Lightning starter Ben Bishop. The Capitals dominated play at both ends and Tampa looked interested only in getting it over with and heading for the bus.

The Caps extended the lead to four early in the second on Jason Chimera’s second goal of the season. Tampa showed a bit of life, answering a minute later with Richard Panik’s first goal of the night. But two minutes later, Eric Fehr tipped in a nifty pass from Matthieu Perreault and at 5-1, things looked bleak for the Lightning.

Tampa Bay cut the lead to three with less than two minutes to go in the second on a goal by Martin St. Louis, setting up the big third period comeback. The Caps, who seemed to be playing from their heels in the third frame, surrendered three third period goals to complete the comeback and force overtime.

Head coach Adam Oates described how the Caps fell flat after playing so well the first 40 minutes of the game. “Guess there is no really easy explanation. First of all, they are a good team. And everything went our way in the first period. You lose a little bit of momentum because it was a little too easy, you get a little flat and all of a sudden, here they come. You start sinking yourself and before you know it, it’s happening pretty fast.”

The Caps are off until Tuesday when they will host the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:00 pm.

Washington Capitals Game 41 Recap: Caps keep streaking, knock off Canes 3-1

The Washington Capitals know that all they need to do is take care of their own business the rest of the way to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Thursday night, against a Carolina Hurricanes team that has nothing to play for, the Caps withstood a clunky start to put another two points to their total, beating the Canes 3-1 to extend their late-season win streak to six games.

Troy Brouwer had two goals, including the empty netter with five seconds left to put the final nail in the coffin. Mike Green scored his ninth of the season, and Braden Holtby was excellent yet again, registering 43 saves in the win.

Alzner, Beagle, Wolski, Ovechkin gather around Mike Green to celebrate his goal - Carolina Hurricanes v. Washington Capitals, 4/11/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Alzner, Beagle, Wolski, Ovechkin gather around Mike Green to celebrate his goal – Carolina Hurricanes v. Washington Capitals, 4/11/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The first period was a bit of a scramble. The Caps were granted an early power play on a delay of game call just 3:06 into the contest. The advantage lasted all of eight seconds though, as Troy Brouwer erased the power play with a high sticking infraction of his own. Things got worse as Jack Hillen was called for tripping while the teams skated four on four. It only took Carolina only 10 seconds to capitalize on the four-on-three, with Jeff Skinner beating Caps goalie Braden Holtby for the first goal of the game.

In fact, it took the first ten minutes of the game for the Caps to wake up for this one. They were outshot at one point 14-0. But a tripping call against Alexander Semin gave the Caps another power play in the middle of the frame. They did not score, but the advantage was enough for the Capitals to get their legs under them. The play the rest of the period was much more balanced, and the shot differential after 20 minutes was 15-8.

The hard work late in the first paid dividends in the second. The Caps were having the better of the play already, and were given their second man-advantage of the frame at 7:54 when Jordan Stall went off for slashing. The Caps finally took advantage of the situation, as Mike Ribeiro found Tory Brouwer in the low slot for a one-timer that eluded Canes goalie Justin Peters 28 saves) blocker side to knot the game at one.

It was Brouwer’s first goal in six games.

After a quick and uneventful fight between Matt Hendricks and Nicholas Blanchard, the Caps went back to work. After an extensive offensive zone possession from several lines, Jay Beagle found Mike Green floating into the offensive zone. Green took the pass near the blue line, eluded a soft attempt of a check from Jeff Skinner and walked in on Peters. With Alex Ovechkin distracting Peters at the top of the crease, Green rifled a wicked wrist shot over Peters’ blocker to give the Caps a 2-1 lead.

The Capitals mostly tried to play keep-away in the third period, and they managed the task primarily due to some excellent work by Holtby. After the two-game rest given to him by head coach Adam Oates, Holtby shook off any rust early and was stellar down the stretch, including a blocker save with about 1:30 left that could have forced the issue at the end of the game.

The Caps have a couple of days off to rest — and scoreboard watch — until they face Tampa Bay Saturday night. But with task at hand, they continue to excel as the regular season very quickly now is dwindling.

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