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5 reasons why the Caps beat the Oilers

5 reasons why the Caps beat the Oilers

Things did not start well on Saturday, but the Capitals escaped Edmonton with a 5-2 win. Here's why.

1. The Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Smith-Pelly line

Were you confused when you saw Devante Smith-Pelly would be playing alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov? It’s okay to admit it. With injuries throughout the lineup and in the midst of a slump, Barry Trotz had to shake up his lines and Smith-Pelly found himself on the top line. He may well have saved the game with his first goal as a Cap. Down 2-0, Smith-Pelly got Washington on the board with just 17 seconds left in the first period. That goal was the first of five unanswered scored by the Caps. It wasn't just Smith-Pelly, however, as the whole line seemed to have instant chemistry. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored two incredible goals in the third period to put the Caps in control. Ovechkin, meanwhile, recorded three assists for the first time since Nov. 2, 2014.

RELATED: CAPS' TOP LINE DAZZLES IN EDMONTON

2. Eller had his best game of the season

Lars Eller came to play on Saturday. He was flying all over the ice and he was finally rewarded with his first goal of the season, a one-timer with so much power behind it that the shot actually sent Eller airborne.

That goal tied the game at two. Washington would not trail again.

3. Holtby’s third period

Braden Holtby always rebounds after a tough performance and he did again on Saturday. After getting pulled in Thursday’s game against Vancouver, Holtby returned to the crease in Edmonton and turned aside 38 of the 40 shots he faced. Early in the third period with the Caps protecting a one-goal lead, John Carlson was just a bit too casual retrieving a puck behind the goal line and it was stolen away by Connor McDavid and fed to Jussi Jokinen for the one-timer. Holtby stopped the initial shot and two more on the resulting scrum to keep the Caps ahead. Those were three critical saves to bail the team out after a sloppy turnover.

MORE CAPITALS: CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST: HOW DEVANTE SMITH-PELLY SAVED THE GAME

4. Backstrom shutting down McDavid

McDavid had one assist on the night but he was largely a non-factor in the game thanks to the efforts of Nicklas Backstrom. In his return from an illness, Backstrom spent much of the night battling McDavid and the Oilers’ top line. If Backstrom was going to campaign for the Selke Trophy, this would game would feature prominently in the highlight reel.

5. A shutdown effort by the penalty kill

Washington had allowed six power play goals in its last three games. They faced four power plays on Saturday, but this time walked away unscathed. Both of Eller’s delay of game penalties came at critical times. Had Edmonton scored on either of them, it could have swung the momentum back in their favor and the Caps could easily have been handed the loss.

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Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

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USA TODAY Sports

Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

It's always scary when you see a player get hit in the head with a puck. It's even scarier when you're a fan of the Caps and that player is Alex Ovechkin.

But there's is one thing you should always remember before you worry about the Great 8: He is not built like a normal human being.

Ovechkin was struck in the face by a puck in the second period of Saturday's game against the Minnesota Wild. It was a scary moment made scarier by the pool of blood he left behind on the ice as he made his way to the locker room.

RELATED: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS BEAT THE WILD

"Anybody who takes a puck to the face, you hope that they're not hurt badly," Barry Trotz said after the game. "Anytime you get hit to the face there's usually pretty good leakage. I saw, I knew he got hit in the face and in the mouth area and there was pretty good leakage around our bench and he went off and we were just hoping that it's not too serious."

Remarkably, it wasn't serious. Ovechkin missed the remainder of the second period, but returned for the third. After the game, there were a few stitches in his lip, but otherwise there appeared to be no serious damage.

Ovechkin said that after he had been hit he "Just tried to feel my tooth and it was fine. Just moving a little bit, but it's fine. It's hockey."

The fact that no serious damage was done turned what was a scary moment into one both players and coach could laugh at afterward.

MORE CAPITALS: WHO WERE THE 3 STARS OF THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA?

"He's a big strong man and he's got a few zippers so he's a lot better looking now that they fixed him up and all that," Trotz said. "It's when you get stitched up, that's the great thing about medicine, they can make you look great."

"It can be much worser," Ovechkin said when asked if he was scared in the moment. "I could lose my teeth."

Nicklas Backstrom had the same thought many of you are probably asking yourself right now: "Does he have any more teeth?"

It was just another reminder that Ovechkin is truly a machine. You know what they say, "Russian Machine...never gets broken."

I think that's how the saying goes.

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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Wild

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Caps beat the Wild

The Capitals snapped an ugly two-game losing streak as they returned home to defeat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Saturday.

Here's how they won.

A better start

It did not take long in Washington's loss to Nashville or Colorado for you to know the Caps were in trouble. Nashville hit the post in the first minute of the game, while the Avalanche scored 17 seconds in. Washington left both periods down 2-0. That was not the case on Saturday. The Caps showed a lot more energy right from the drop of the puck against Minnesota. This time instead of chasing the game, Washington took control and earned a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Holtby’s impossible save

Protecting a 2-1 lead in the second period, Holtby kept the Caps ahead with an impossible save. After stopping a shot from Joel Eriksson that looked like it caught him in the collarbone, there was a battle for the rebound. Brooks Orpik tried to muscle Eriksson out, but Eriksson knocked into Holtby. Pinned by Orpik, Eriksson could not get away which left Holtby pinned against the right post. A trailing Kyle Quincey ended up with the puck and had half the net to shoot on so he smartly tried to tuck the shot just inside the left post. Somehow, some way, Holtby managed to stretch the glove out to get in front of the puck and keep Washington ahead.

Jason Zucker shut down

Minnesota forward Jason Zucker came into Saturday's contest with a five-game goal streak in which he has scored eight goals. That streak ended on Saturday as Zucker got a heavy dose of Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the blue line and the forward combo of Chandler Stephenson, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. They held the Minnesota forward to just two shots on goal.

Just enough from the penalty kill

No one will mistake the Caps' penalty kill as a shutdown unit and they again allowed a power play goal on Saturday, the fourth they have allowed in three games. But the PK unit always seems to be at its best when the game is on the line. After giving up a goal on Minnesota's first opportunity, the Caps clamped down and killed off Minnesota's three other power play opportunities. In what was a tight game from start to finish, a goal in any of those three chances would have changed the course of the game dramatically.