Burakovsky's two goals lift Capitals to Game 4 win


Burakovsky's two goals lift Capitals to Game 4 win

Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 2-1 win over the New York Rangers Wednesday night at Verizon Center in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifnals:

How it happened: One night after Barry Trotz described him as having “boy strength,” 20-year-old rookie Andre Burakovsky flexed his biceps in a big way, scoring the first two playoff goals of his career to provide the Caps with all the offense they needed. Braden Holtby stopped 28 of 29 shots, including a penalty shot by Carl Hagelin with 11:59 remaining in regulation.  

What it means: The Capitals have taken a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, which heads back to MadisonSquareGarden on Friday night for Game 5. If the Caps can close out the series in New York, they will face the winner of the Tampa Bay Lightning-Montreal Canadiens series. The Lightning hold a 3-0 lead in that series.

The Caps have never reached the Eastern Conference Finals since the arrival of Alex Ovechkin.

How the Rangers scored: New York scored first for the sixth time in nine playoff games when Derick Brassard netted his team-high fifth of the season on an odd-man rush with 6:12 gone in the second period. Brassard got a step in front of Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, took a pass from Marty St. Louis and beat Braden Holtby high over his left shoulder. The goal was the Rangers’ first in five periods against Holtby, who saw his shutout streak end at 100 minutes, 5 seconds, dating back to Game 2.

How the Caps scored: With 3:31 remaining in the second period, Burakovsky found space in the high slot and despite right winger Troy Brouwer calling for a shot on his left, Burakovsky elected to shoot and beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with a tracer over his right shoulder. It was Burakovsky’s first career playoff goal and it came on his third shot of the game and 11th of the playoffs.


On his first shift of the third period Burakovsky struck again just 24 seconds into the period. This time, Brouwer blocked a shot by New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh at the Rangers’ offensive blue line, allowing Burakovsky to beak in alone on Lundqvist. Burakovsky shielded the back-checking McDonagh and beat Lundqvist past his glove with a backhander.

Save of the game: The game’s most pivotal moment came with just under 12 minutes remaining in regulation when Holtby stoned Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin on a penalty shot. Hagelin was awarded the shot after Caps defenseman Mike Green hooked him from behind and took away a scoring chance on a clean breakaway. With a chance to tie the game, Hagelin weaved in on Holtby and went forehand to backhand. But Holtby stayed with him and snatched Hagelin’s backhander with his catching glove.

Hit of the game: In the first period, Tom Wilson plastered his old junior teammate, J.T. Miller into the glass, then had a few choice words for his good friend.

Fight night: Caps defenseman Tim Gleason had his left eye bloodied in a third-period fight with Tanner Glass, just a coupel seconds after Gleason was checked into the Caps’ goal post by James Sheppard.

They don’t know Jack: Despite his role in the Capitals’ turnaround this season, coach Barry Trotz was passed over in Jack Adams award voting for NHL Coach of the Year voting. His replacement in Nashville, Peter Laviolette, is a finalist, along with Rangers coach Alain Vigneault and Flames coach Bob Hartley.  Members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association vote for the Jack Adams.

What’s next: The Caps and Rangers will go back at it Friday night at 7:30 in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. 

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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