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5 reasons the Caps beat the Ducks

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USA TODAY Sports

5 reasons the Caps beat the Ducks

This game was not going the Caps' way through two periods. Everything changed in the final frame, however, as the Capitals rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime. Alex Ovechkin did the rest in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally for the win.

Braden Holtby  holding the goal line late in the second (about 4:10 left)

Washington trailed 2-0 in the second and the Ducks were looking for more late. A shot from Derek Grant on the left went wide and hit off the backboards right to Dennis Rasmussen who tried to stuff the puck on Holtby's right. Holtby dove to cover the goal line. Critically, his goal stick stuck out past the post and neither Rasmussen nor Logan Shaw could get the puck past the stick to get the puck to the front and stuff it in. Once the puck finally did squirt free into the crease, Hotlby gloved it. A 3-0 deficit may have been lights out for Washington.

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Nicklas Backstrom's early third period goal

Trying to overcome a two-goal deficit in one period is a daunting task. Every second that ticks by makes your comeback bid harder. The fact that Nicklas Backstrom was able to strike just over three minutes into the third period was absolutely critical. Backstrom was able to net a rebound off of an Alex Ovechkin shot just over three minutes into the third period. The Caps went from a two-goal deficit to trailing by one with 17 minutes remaining. Suddenly, that mountain they had to climb did not seem so high.

A lucky tip or a veteran call?

If you've been yelling for Evgeny Kuznetsov to shoot the puck more, you were probably pleased with his third period goal to tie the game at two. With Tom Wilson open on the backdoor, Kuznetsov chose to call his own number and fired a shot past Gibson. Or did he? Was Kuznetsov trying to pass that puck? Take a look at the replay.

Just at the last second, Andrew Cogliano hits either the puck or the stick of Kuznetsov. Whether he meant to pass and it was a lucky break or he was thinking shot the whole way, it worked out for the Caps.

WATCH: ALEX OVECHKIN'S OVERTIME WINNER OVER ANAHEIM

Braden Holtby's two early saves on Rickard Rakell in overtime

Rakell wanted the Ducks to win this game. Less than a minute into overtime, he had a lane to shoot on Holtby. Holtby made the initial save, but the rebound bounced to the faceoff circle. Both of the trailing players in red skated past. Holtby took a step forward to try to clear the puck from danger, but then saw Rakell had a step on him to collect his own rebound. He stopped, then kicked out the pad to make an incredible save to deny Rakell again about 10 feet out of the crease.

Alex Ovechkin's bullet

Sometimes when you play against a player like Ovechkin, there's nothing you can do. At the end of his shift, Ovechkin elected to carry the puck into the offensive zone rather than passing it off to change up. He was forced to the boards by Brandon Montour and decided just to tee-up the mini slap shot. When you're the greatest goal scorer of a generation, however, even a shot from the top of the faceoff circle near the boards is a dangerous shot. 

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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Devils

4 reasons the Caps lost to the Devils

The Capitals returned from the bye week and battled back from a 3-1 deficit to earn a well-deserved point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils. Here are the reasons why Washington finished the game on the losing end.

Getting behind the defense

Three of New Jersey's four goals came on breakaways. Marcus Johansson launched Drew Stafford on a break after a bad pass from Devante Smith-Pelly was misplayed by Dmitry Orlov at the blue line. Sami Vatanen took the puck off a Devils' faceoff win and saw Miles Wood had a step on the defense. Vatanen flipped the puck over everyone's heads into open space creating a footrace that he knew Wood would win for the breakaway. The game very fittingly ended on another breakaway in overtime. The Caps lost not one, but two board battles as Vatanen tipped the puck past Dmitry Orlov on the boards up to Hall who then tipped the puck past Evgeny Kuznetsov to set himself up for the break. More on that later.

Holding their fire

Not getting enough shots has been a problem for the Caps. They rank dead last in the NHL in shots on goal per game. It's something we have talked about before. So how did they look out of the break? Just as bad. This game lasted 60:34 with 60 regulation minutes and 34 seconds in overtime. In that time, Washington managed just 19 shots on goal. New Jersey had 32. That's just not good enough. If you go one step farther and look at total shot attempts, the Caps were still outshot badly 56-44.

Power play

The power play was an absolute mess in this game. Tom Wilson drew three penalties and Washington had five total power plays and they were unable to score on any of them. They looked completely out of sync, especially on zone entries. Yes, the Capitals are returning from a bye week. They were scheduled to practice on Wednesday in New Jersey, but travel delays forced them to cancel. A certain amount of rust is to be expected. But they are too good to be a middle of the pack power play team and they are way, way too good to play as badly as they played Thursday.

Two failed board battles

We have already touched on the overtime winner that was set up by two tips off the boards. You can watch the play here.

Vatanen originally tipped the puck past Orlov who took a weird angle in his approach. It looked like he could have beaten Vatanen to the puck, but seemed to pull back. Perhaps he thought the puck was moving faster and would get to him before Vatanen could get there. Once the puck was past him, it was a race between Kuznetsov and Hall. Hall was going full speed, but similarly to Orlov, Kuznetsov seemed to pull back a bit allowing Hall to beat him to it. Either Orlov or Kuznetsov should have been able to slow the play at the very least by challenging the puck. For whatever reason, they misjudged the play and it resulted in the loss.

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3 stars of the game: Caps fight back to earn a point, but fall in overtime

3 stars of the game: Caps fight back to earn a point, but fall in overtime

The Caps' return from the bye did not go quite according to plan as Washington fell 4-3 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils.

Both teams battled to a 1-1 tie through 20 minutes, but New Jersey took a two-goal lead in the second period. Dmitry Orlov pulled the Caps within one late in the second just 14 seconds after the Devils took the 3-1 lead. Brett Connolly then tied the game with under four minutes remaining in the third with his second goal of the night thus guaranteeing a point for both teams. Ultimately, the Caps would be handed the defeat in overtime as Taylor Hall scored just 34 seconds into the extra session.

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Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Brett Connolly: He did it again. Just before the bye it was Connolly who tied the game against the Carolina Hurricanes late in the third before Jay Beagle won on the buzzer-beater. This time, Connolly tied the game in New Jersey with less than four minutes remaining. He found a soft spot in the defense in the high-slot and Evgeny Kuznetsov was able to find him from behind the goal line.

Connolly may have whiffed on the shot as it stayed on the ice, but it got the job done, sliding through Keith Kinkaid and into the net. It was Connolly's second goal of the night as he also had Washington's first goal. This is the second two-goal game of Connolly's career.

2. Sami Vatanen: The Devils took control in the second period with two goals and Vatanen assisted on both of them. He first created a turnover in the defensive zone and the resulting rush ended with a goal for Andy Greene. Later in the period, the puck came to Vatanen on a faceoff. He saw Miles Wood could split the defense so he flipped the puck up in the air over the head of the defense creating a foot race. Wood won that race and scored on the breakaway.

Vatanen earned a third assist in overtime as he tipped the puck past Dmitry Orlov on the wall up to Hall who tipped the puck past Evgeny Kuznetsov and took it all the way for the game-winner.

3.  Tom Wilson: The Caps had five power plays on the night and Wilson drew three of them. First he was sent flying when Damon Severson stuck out his leg to prevent the streaking Wilson from getting by him in the defensive zone and chasing the puck. Later in the second period, Wilson delivered a thunderous, but legal hit to Brian Gibbons and Brian Boyle took issue with it. Wilson was all too happy to drop the gloves in response, but Boyle received the extra two minutes for instigating.

Finally in the third, Travis Zajac interfered with Wilson as he knocked him into the New Jersey net with enough force to send the net off its moorings. Wilson ended up seeing time on the top line in the third period.

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