October 31, 2014

Washington Capitals Game 82 Recap: All over but the crying

The Washington Capitals fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0, in a shootout naturally, ending their season in what most folks would consider a premature manner. It was the 21st time this season that a Caps game ended in a shootout, an NHL record. That, in itself, says a lot about this team this season.

If you polled people across the NHL this preseason, most would have accepted the idea of the Capitals qualifying for the playoffs. I don’t think anyone expected them to be serious Cup contenders, but even with the move to the Metropolitan Division, this team on paper seemed to have enough talent to survive to the second season.

But they don’t play hockey on paper, they play on ice. And this season, the Washington Capitals weren’t good enough on the ice.

There’s a large segment of fans in any fan base, but they seem more vocal here, that believes any time their team isn’t successful they aren’t trying hard enough, or they don’t “want it” enough. They equate poor play with desire. But that’s very rarely the case. Modern professional athletes are highly-driven, highly-motivated individuals.

At the very least, these players are motivated to achieve the highest success their talent can carry them to.

This season’s failures weren’t about motivation or desire. It was about talent, and mismanagement of that talent. It was about players playing out of position — intentionally. It was about a difference in philosophies between the general manager and the head coach. It was about carrying three goalie for a month and a half. It was about performance — or lack thereof — on the ice.

So while we wait to see what changes are made at Kettler this week, next week, over the offseason, the only thing for certain now is that the Washington Capitals were simply not good enough on the ice to qualify for the playoffs this season, which should provide all the motivation the organization needs to make the necessary changes to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Washington Capitals Game 43 Recap: Caps blow 2-goal lead but beat Tampa on Fehr’s late tip

The Washington Capitals have blown two-goal leads in in four of their past 10 games, and added to that total Thursday, allowing the Tampa Bay Lightning to come back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game with 5:30 left in the game. But Eric Fehr’s second goal of the game, a tip-in of a shot from Mike Green with 51 seconds left, allowed the Caps to escape with a 4-3 regulation win.

Dmitry Orlov made a nice play to hold the zone and shuffled the puck to Green at the right point. Green lifted a wrister toward the goal that deflected off Fehr, who was camped out just to the left of Lightning goalie Anders Lindback.

The Caps (21-16-6) stayed one point ahead of Carolina, who won earlier in the night, for third place in the Metropolitan Division, but were outplayed for large stretches of the game and were outshot 36-20.

Tampa Bay took advantage of Troy Brouwer errant pass just 4:08 in, as rookie Tyler Johnson went the length of the ice and beat Philipp Grubauer top-shelf to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

The Caps answered with three goals of their own in the frame, despite being outshot 12-9.

Fehr took a nifty cross-ice pass from captain Alex Ovechkin and snapped it past Lindback (16 saves) for his seventh goal of the season to tie it at 7:04.

Washington then utilized the league’s second-ranked power play twice. Mike Green blasted a shot from center point that Mikhail Grabovski tipped on the way through for his 12th goal of the season at 10: 37.

Then, with just 12 seconds left in the period, Marcus Johansson took a pass from Nick Backstrom on the left pipe and stuffed it through Lindback, for his seventh of the season, putting the Caps up 3-1 at first intermission.

Tampa got one back in the second. Defenseman Victor Hedman sprung B.J. Crombeen along the right wing, and Crombeen lofted a fairly innocuous wrist shot toward Grubauer (33 saves) from 30 feet that somehow eluded the rookie netminder to draw the Lightning within one at 3-2.

Tampa’s Ondrej Palat though he tied the game a few moments later when a cross-crease pass deflected off his skate past Grubauer. But after official review it was determined — very clearly — that he made a distinct kicking motion with his skate and the goal was waived off.

Palat then did tie the game at 14:30 of the third, tipping in a shot from defenseman Matt Carle, completely erasing the Capitals two-goal advantage.

On this night, all it did was serve to set up Fehr’s heroics.

The Capitals host the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night at 7:00 pm.

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 39 Recap: Ovi nets two in win over Lightning

If the Washington Capitals go on to win the Southeast Division or otherwise qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs, their current stretch will surely be looked back upon as the impetus for that run, however improbable that might have seemed earlier in the season. Sunday evening, before a sellout crowd at Verizon Center, the Caps won their fourth game in a row, knocking off the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 to secure sole possession in the division for the first time this season.

The Capitals have a two-point division lead with nine games remaining in this truncated season.

The Caps were paced, as they so often are, by their captain, Alex Ovechkin, who scored twice to tie Steven Stamkos at the top of leaderboard for goals scored this season with 25. Ovechkin has now recorded 16 goals and seven assists in his last 14 games, a period where the Caps have gone 10-4 to catapult them to the top of the division and rejuvenate their once moribund playoff hopes.

Michal Neuvirth’s performance in goal, to the tune of 28 saves, should not be forgotten however. Neuvirth has been something of a forgotten man on the Cpas this season, with Braden Holtby taking command of the No. 1 goaltender job. But with the Caps playing in the second game on back-to-back nights, Neuvy showed that he can still be a quality contributor to the Caps effort down the stretch.

The visitors got on the board first in a somewhat sleepy first stanza, befitting of the back-to-back stature of the game. Granted a power play courtesy of a Steve Oleksy tripping call just 1:45 into the game, the Lightning didn’t waste any time making the Caps pay. A mere seven seconds into the infraction, Vincent Lecavalier beat Neuvirth for his eighth goal of the season, off a feed from Caps nemesis Martin St. Louis.

The Caps tied things up at 3:13 of the second. Jack Hillen collected a pass from Nick Backstrom from the half wall and lofted a shot toward Bolts goalie Ben Bishop. Alex Ovechkin cut through the slot and redirected Hillen’s shot past Bishop for his 24th  goal of the season, rising to the No. 2 spot in goals for this season behind Tampa’s Steven Stamkos.

Tampa retook the lead a few moments later when Alex Killorn put a deke on Hillen one-on-one, and Hillen fell to the ice, allowing Killorn to come in alone on Neuvirth and beat him cleanly.

The Caps answered back though in the latter stages of the second period, fairly dominating play and tallying twice more in the frame. John Carlson unloaded a bomb from just over the blue line on a drop pass from Joel Ward that had Bishop looking skyward for help. Less than four minutes later, Ward himself took advantage of forward Nate Thompson, rushing hard to the outside to get position to come on net, and then slipping a shot past Bishop that the 6’6″ netminder should have stopped.

All that was left was for the Caps to stifle any semblance of comeback, something that has proven difficult for them throughout the season. But they thwarted every Lightning attempt to get back into the game, and Ovechkin added his second goal of the night on an empty netter with just five seconds remaining in the contest.

It showed head coach Adam Oates’ great confidence in Ovechkin, having the captain defending the Caps territory in a one-goal game in the final minute.

The Caps are far from a complete project, but they are playing well at the right time and seemingly now have their playoff hopes in their own hands. They have yet to defeat a team that holds a playoff spot in regulation this season, but will have their chances down the stretch to eliminate that negative mark as well, starting Tuesday when they travel to Montreal to face Les Habitents.

Every season there’s a team that no one wants to face come playoff time. Maybe this season that team will be the Washington Capitals.

Washington Capitals Game 1 Recap: Caps Disappoint in Uneven 6-3 Season-Opening Loss to Tampa Bay

After an extra four months of waiting thanks to the NHL lockout, the Washington Capitals took the ice for their 2012-13 season opener Saturday night in Tampa against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Any high expectations for the Caps this campaign were blunted after a tepid 6-3 loss that revealed a team not quite ready for games that count in the standings.

Rookie netminder Braden Holtby allowed six goals on 34 shots, including two goals on the first two shots he faced.

Joel Ward potted Washington’s first two goals of the season, and newcomers Wojtek Wolski and Mike Ribeiro added a goal and an assist and an assist, respectively. Unfortunately for the Caps, those three players were the extent of the list  of Washington players who can feel good about Saturday’s performance.

Tom Poti, Jason Chimera, John Carlson, and Roman Hamrlik all also finished with one assist a piece.

Particularly disappointing was Holtby, who was lights out during last season’s playoff run. One line of thinking was that Holtby, one of two NHL starting netminders who played in the American Hockey League during the lockout, would benefit from facing significant North American competition before the season started. That notion fizzled out at some point during the third period, in which the Lightning turned a 3-3 tie into a 6-3 lead on the strength of goals by Martin St. Louis, Cory Conacher, and Eric Brewer.

Brewer, a stay-at-home defenseman who tallied all of two goals over the course of the past two season, sent two pucks past Holtby in the season opener. His first goal, along with several others by the Lightning, was the beneficiary of poor defensive zone play by the Caps. In fact, the first five of Tampa Bay’s six goals came as a result of a Washington positional breakdown.

For the first two periods of the game both teams traded goals to get to 3-3. Brewer’s shot from the right point that slipped past Holtby sliding to the weak side was answered by Ward’s first goal, a tip-in from the slot. That strike was set up by a shot from Tom Poti, the long-time Caps defender who hasn’t played in an NHL game since January 2011.

Ward’s first goal was a power play strike, and his second goal came on a delayed penalty call early in the second period. That one was a result of a great deal of luck, as Ward’s shot from the top of the crease bounced off Lightning goalie Anders Lindback’s pads, hit the toe of Ward’s left skate, and slid back between Lindback’s legs into the net.

By the time Ward potted his second goal the Lightning had already struck twice, with captain Vincent Lecavalier knocking a puck into a vacated net after a defensive-zone scramble by the Caps left Holtby flat on his back at the bottom of the right faceoff dot and defenseman Jack Hillen sprawled in the crease attempting to block the shot. Lecavalier and Hillen would meet again later in the game, when a strong check by Lecavalier along the goal line caught Hillen off guard and sent the defender sprawling into the boards awkwardly. Hillen left the game with an apparent shoulder injury and did not return.

The play that sent Hillen out of the game was not penalized, but Saturday night’s tilt was a penalty-filled evening, with 13 minor penalties spread between the two teams. Washington opened the game with three power plays in the first seven minutes of the first period, but while the Caps only recorded Ward’s lone power play goal on four attempts, plus the goal on a delayed call, the Lightning feasted on the man advantage with three goals on seven power plays.

At one point both teams had a man in the box as Lightning defenseman Sami Salo was called for holding on the same play Alex Ovechkin was nailed for embellishment. Taking advantage of the open ice during the four-on-four session, Wolski scored his first goal in a Capitals uniform thanks to Ribeiro’s first point as a Cap. The play was started by Hamrlik, who spotted a sloppy Lightning breakout attempt from the defensive zone and deflected the attempted clearing pass. Ribeiro swooped on the loose puck, stickhandled between two Tampa Bay defenders, and whipped a high shot that caught Lindback off guard and left a juicy rebound for Wolski to pounce on in the slot with less than two minutes to play in the second period.

In battling for the loose puck Wolski outmuscled diminutive Lightning forward Martin St. Louis, but the veteran would have his revenge early in the third fame when he one-timed a bump pass from Steven Stamkos over Holtby’s shoulder on a five-on-three advantage. St. Louis was one of six Lightning players, along with Brewer, Lecavalier, Stamkos, Teddy Purcell, and rookie Cory Conacher, to record a multi-point game.

Conacher, a former AHL MVP, put the stops to any Washington hopes for a comeback when his first career NHL goal made the score 5-3 with seven minutes to play in the game. Poti was caught pinching in the neutral zone in an attempt to generate offense and Conacher finished a slick pass from Purcell on the ensuing 3-on-1 with Alzner as the lone defender back.

With the disappointing loss at the forefront of their minds, the Capitals will now have to wait until Tuesday evening and their home opener against the Winnipeg Jets to purge Saturday night from their memories. The shortened 48-game seasons means every game and every point is at a premium, and if the Caps want to sniff the postseason they will have to put forth a much stronger effort on a regular basis.

CAPS: Viewing Party for Game One

tampa_bay_lightning_alternate_logo_2011

Join fellow Caps fans at an official viewing party on Saturday, January 19 when the Washington Capitals face Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00 p.m. in GAME ONE OF THE SEASON! #BeatTheBolts

Hard Times Cafe in Manassas at 7753 Sudley Road.

Bring the kids to meet Caps mascot Slapshot, get autographs and enter to win LOTS of prizes. Prizes include game tickets, VIP passes, and Caps memorabilia.

TV: Live on CSN-DC
Radio: Live on Caps Radio 1500 AM

LET’S GO CAPS!


CAPS: 2012-13 Southeast Division Preview

With the lockout-shortened season upon us, there have been a few additions and subtractions to a Washington Capitals roster that finished second place in the Southeast Division a season ago. Similarly, there are a few new faces elsewhere in the division, and new expectations for each team. District Sports Page provides a primer for the remainder of the Southeast Division and offers its predictions for how things will pan out.

Carolina Hurricanes
Last season: 33-33-16, 82 pts, 5th Southeast Division, 12th Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Kirk Muller
Key Additions: Alexander Semin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Joe Corvo
Key Losses: Brandon Sutter, Bryan Allen

Last year, a slow start doomed the employment of then-Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice and were never able to recover, finishing last place in the Southeast Division, 12 points out of the division lead.

Nonetheless, under new head coach Kirk Muller the ‘Canes played inspired hockey. Captain Eric Staal (24 goals, 46 assists, 70 points) overcame a horrendous +/- to lead the team in goals, assists, and points. The veteran Staal had as many assists as the next highest scorer, Jussi Jokinen, had total points.

For many years, Staal has been a one-man show in Raleigh. The development of young phenom Jeff Skinner has improved things, and this season GM Jeff Rutherford has added a pair of offensive studs: Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. Washington Capitals fans are well acquainted with Semin, who plied his trade in D.C. for seven seasons before signing a one-year, $7 million deal in Carolina. In recent years Semin has disappointed, but Rutherford is hoping to get the 40-goal scorer of 2009-10, not the 21-goal scorer of 2011-12.

Jordan Staal, formerly of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is also a familiar face in Washington. Due a huge contract, Staal was dealt over the offseason to the Hurricanes, who inked him to an extension for 10 seasons and $60 million. Both Staal and Semin are top six forwards, adding legitimate scoring options to a roster that finished in the bottom half of the NHL in goals and power play percentage last season.

In general, Carolina looks to be a much stronger offensive team in 2012-13, swapping out steady defensive-minded players in Brandon Sutter and Bryan Allen in favor of Semin, Jordan Staal, and defensemen Joe Corvo and Marc-Andre Gragnani. If goaltender Cam Ward plays well the Hurricanes will certainly qualify for a playoff berth, and a return to potential by both Ward and Semin will see the ‘Canes in the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.

Florida Panthers
Last season: 38-26-18, 94 pts, 1st Southeast Division, 3rd Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Kevin Dineen
Key Additions: Filip Kuba, Peter Mueller
Key Losses: Jason Garrison, Wojtek Wolski, Mikael Samuelsson

Chances are few people even in the Panthers organization expected this squad to win a division title in 2011-12. After years of mediocrity GM Dale Tallon completely overhauled the squad, and his ragtag bunch captured the Southeast Division on the strength of the shootout. Florida only won seven games in overtime or the shootout, but the 18 games they lost after the end of regulation provided just enough of a margin to keep them ahead of the Caps when the season closed.

Florida’s biggest revelation on the ice was Tomas Fleischmann, the erstwhile Capital whose four-year, $18 million dollar contract was mocked until he responded with a 27 goal, 34 assist campaign was a career best. More importantly, after missing significant time for blood clots in his legs, Flash played in all 82 games for the first time in his career.

Also surprising on the ice for the Cats was the emergence of perhaps the best offensive defense pairing in Brian Campbell (4 goals, 49 assists) and Jason Garrison (16 goals, 17 assists). Garrison has since departed for a hefty free agent contract in Vancouver, and shootout specialist Wojtek Wolski is now on Washington’s roster.

In free agent signing Peter Mueller, Tallon hopes to strike gold again with a new addition to the roster. After missing all of 2010-11 and 50 games of 2011-12 with a concussion, Mueller likely benefited from the extra recovery time due to the lockout. He scored 22 goals in his rookie season with Phoenix but has only potted 33 goals in 173 games since.

On paper, this squad looks like a marginal playoff team, not a division winner. Then again, the same was true last season. There’s no way they get quite so lucky when it comes to the loser point from extra play in 2012-13, so look for them to be a bubble playoff team come April.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season: 38-38-8, 84 pts, 3rd Southeast Division, 10th Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Guy Boucher
Key Additions: Anders Lindback, Sami Salo, Matt Carle
Key Losses: Dwayne Roloson

Shrewd offseason moves position the Lightning to be a Southeast Division contender in 2012-13. Adding two defensemen and a goalie aren’t particularly flashy pickups, but combined with no losses of note, this is a dangerous roster. Tampa Bay returns its top 12 point scorers from last year, including the best goal scorer in the league, 22-year-old Steven Stamkos (60 goals, 37 assists).

Tampa Bay finished ninth in the NHL and tops in the Southeast in goals, averaging 2.83 goals a game. That was more than offset, however, by allowing a league-worst 3.39 goals/game. In 2010-11, 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson was a revelation in net, backstopping the Lightning to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals. In 2011-12, 42-year-old Roloson (3.66 GAA, .886 Sv%) was a trainwreck, finishing in 45th place, dead last, in Goals Against Average and Save Percentage for goalies who played at least 25 games. By the end of the season he ceded the job to Mathieu Garon, whose 2.85 GAA and .901 Sv% were both outside the top 37 for goalies.

This season Roloson is still an unrestricted free agent and reinforcements have arrived in the form of 24-year-old goalie Anders Lindback, whose massive 6’6” frame was stuck behind workhorse netminder Pekka Rinne in Nashville the past two seasons, as well as defensemen Sami Salo and Matt Carle. At this point in his career Lindback is mostly potential with very little proven, but at the least he represents a new direction for Tampa’s netminding.

Salo, formerly of Vancouver, brings necessary pop to Tampa Bay’s stagnant power play, which was 25th in the league at 15.2% rate. He slots into the Lightning’s second defensive pairing, while Carle, a 28-year-old who was part of Philadelphia’s dominating defense the past four seasons, should form a stifling shutdown pairing that will rival Washington’s Karl Alzner and John Carlson for effectiveness.

Of the three teams stuck in the bottom of the Southeast last year, Tampa Bay is most likely to make the leap to the top of the division. If Lindback or Garon can prove to be serviceable NHL starters, the Lightning will be sitting pretty in the division. If not, it’ll be another wasted season for Stamkos down in Florida.

Winnipeg Jets
Last season: 37-35-10, 84 pts, 4th Southeast Division, 11th Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Claude Noel
Key Additions: Olli Jokinen, Alexei Ponikarovsky
Key Losses: Chris Mason

At one point in the CBA talks, rumor was that the league would swap Winnipeg out of the Southeast Division in favor of Columbus, just for 2013 season, to alleviate travel concerns. Sadly for Ted Leonsis’s pocketbook that never came to pass, so the Caps will be making at least a handful of cross-country flights to play the Jets.

For almost the entire 2011-12 season Winnipeg battled Washington for one of the last spots in the Eastern Conference playoff field, the Jets falling just short while the Caps snuck into the seventh spot. Forward Evander Kane built a reputation as a new Cap-killer, with three goals and one assist, including a game-winning goal, in six games.

The Jets, like the Lightning, made a significant addition without much in the way of subtraction. Olli Jokinen was the top center available from an admittedly weak class at that position, and the Caps are well-acquainted with him from his time with the Panthers. Backup goaltender Chris Mason is gone, putting more pressure on the shoulders of Ondrej Pavelec, who inked a five-year contract extension over the summer prior to becoming a restricted free agent. Last season Pavelec played a career high 68 games, recording a 29-28-0-9 record.

Former Cap Eric Fehr, who had a disappointing two-goal, one-assist season cut short by continued shoulder injuries. Fehr, a Manitoba native, was the type of good-vibes story the Jets were looking for last season in the NHL’s return to Winnipeg. With a year under their belt the team is now just an organization with a five-year playoff drought. The Jets got a little bit stronger this offseason, but so did the rest of the division. Most importantly, the shortened season and therefore the division-only schedule will crush Winnipeg, who will have to fly across the continent for every road game this season. That will be too much to overcome and will see the Jets finish at the bottom of the Southeast, though not in the dregs of the Eastern Conference.

Abram Fox is the Washington Capitals Page Editor for District Sports Page.  He has been covering the Capitals from the press box since the 2007-08 season.

Washington Capitals Game 80 Recap: Lightning Score in Bunches, Caps Blow Lead in 4-2 Loss

With a golden opportunity to all but guarantee a playoff berth with a win over the last non-playoff team in their regular season schedule, the Washington Capitals allowed two goals by NHL leading scorer Steven Stamkos in the final 63 seconds of Monday night’s game to fall to the Tampa Bay Lightning by the score of 4-2.

Alexander Semin opened the scoring at 12:47 of the second period to give Washington a one-goal lead, but a pair of Tampa Bay strikes 25 seconds apart at the tail end of that frame knocked the Caps back on their heels and into panic mode.

A late goal by Jason Chimera to knot things up again with under four minutes remaining in regulation gave Washington brief hope, but Stamkos’s outburst put a stop to that and sent the Caps home disappointed. [Read more...]

Caps in Advance: Week 26

Five months, 25 weeks, 79 games…the Washington Capitals’ entire season boils down to what happens in the last week of the season.

With three games remaining, Washington’s playoff future is still very much up in the air. Depending on how this week shakes out, the Caps could squeak into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed, win the Southeast Division and secure home ice as the 3 seed, or finish 9th in the Eastern Conference and miss the playoffs entirely.

While a large portion of the Caps’ possible playoff spots depends on the results earned by other teams, Washington controls its own destiny in terms of just getting into the postseason.

Any combination of four points won by Washington or lost by the Buffalo Sabres will clinch a playoff berth for the Caps. That means that the Caps could make it in without a win, if Buffalo chokes away two of its last three games, but there’s no doubt Dale Hunter’s squad would far prefer to win at least two of its final three to guarantee the playoffs on its own terms. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Game 67 Re-cap: Ovechkin overtime winner caps comeback over Lightning

“He said just quit trying to use your skill, and use your will a little bit more.” Brooks Laich, on what Dale Hunter told the team at second intermission.

It’s a tough way to win, but the Washington Capitals will take every two points they can right now. After one of their worse periods of hockey this season, they played one of their best. They tied the game with just under four minutes remaining, then got the winner from their captain with just 51 seconds left in overtime, sending the Tampa Bay Lightning home losers 3-2.

With Florida’s loss to Philadelphia, the Caps are just two points out of first place in the Southeast Division.

The Caps took the first lead, when a shot from the point by Karl Alzner hit Keith Aucoin’s stick and redirected past Tampa goalie Dustin Tokarski, making his first NHL start. Alzner’s shot would not have gone on net, and Aucoin had his back to the play, being spun around by Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. [Read more...]

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