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After scuffling through February, Capitals finally rise to the occasion on the big stage

After scuffling through February, Capitals finally rise to the occasion on the big stage

After a month in which nothing seemed to go right for Washington, everything seemed to go their way under the bright lights in Annapolis.

WIth the eyes of the hockey world on the Stadium Series, the Capitals raised their game for the occasion in a dominant 5-2 win.

For several weeks, the only constant the team could rely on was the steady production of Alex Ovechkin. Even Braden Holtby, usually the face of consistency in net, scuffled through the worst stretch of his career with six straight losses. But Saturday proved to be a "get right" game for the Caps in just about every aspect of their game.


Not enough production from the team's top stars? Nicklas Backstrom recorded three points in the first period as Washington jumped out to a 3-1 lead. Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson also registered three points on the night and Ovechkin scored his 40th goal of the season.

"The leaders of team we rely on them the most," Carlson said. "And when they come out hot like that, I think everyone else kind of follows suit."

Scuffling goalie? Holtby turned aside 27 of the 29 shots he faced against one of the league's most potent offenses for his first win since Feb. 9.

"I thought Holts really responded well," Barry Trotz said. "The first time you go through things, Holts hasn't lost a lot of games in a row since I've been here anyways.  And it's difficult because you're going into unchartered waters and you're wondering if it's you, if it's the team. You're looking for answers and sometimes the answers are just right there. You've got to just dial yourself in, don't doubt yourself and also just go out and almost steal one."

Invisible fourth line? The fourth line was one of the team's best on the night, drawing an early penalty that allowed the Capitals to take the early lead.

"The fourth line, probably one of their best games," Tom Wilson said. "They draw a penalty early, gets our power play on the ice and allows us to have a good start. [Jay Beagle] was a man possessed tonight, he was winning battles."

Jakub Vrana goalless streak? Vrana scored his first goal in 2018 snapping a drought of 25 games.

"I said you got the monkey off your back," Trotz said. "He had the biggest smile. He looked up and I know he's been playing real good hockey for us, just hasn't gotten the results."

Just about the only thing the Caps didn't get was a goal from T.J. Oshie, but he had several scoring opportunities on the night in what was an encouraging performance.

There was not much for Caps fans to be happy about in February. Even the team's wins seemed lackluster as they came against weaker opponents. Saturday's game was Washington's first win over a team in playoff position since Feb. 15 when they beat the Minnesota Wild.

The biggest question facing this team when the calendar turned to March and with the playoffs looming is who are the real Capitals? Are they the team that led their highly competitive division for much of the season or the team that couldn't get out of its own way in February?

Just as every loss began to feel more damning, Saturday showed both the fans and the players that the dominant Capitals haven't gone anywhere.

MORE CAPS: Caps have nothing but praise for their Stadium Series hosts​

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Alex Ovechkin further cemented his place in NHL history, John Carlson stayed hot and Braden Holtby was good when called upon as the Caps downed the Stars, 4-3, at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.

The victory was Washington’s fifth in the past six games. It also marked the Caps’ first win over Dallas in D.C. since 2006.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season and the 602nd of his career in the second period to give the Caps a short-lived 3-2 edge in the second period.

The goal put Ovi back atop the league as he seeks a seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. It also pushed him past Jari Karri and into sole possession of 19th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Ovechkin has now victimized Kari Lehtonen 22 times, which is tied for the most goals he’s scored against a single netminder. (Henrik Lundqvist has also given up 22 goals to No. 8). Ovi also had a couple of secondary helpers.

2-John Carlson, Capitals

Carlson scored the game-winner 4:59 with left to play, blasting a one-timer past Lehtonen to put the Caps ahead 4-3.

Carlson also notched an assist, which allowed him to stay even with Dallas’ John Klingberg. Klingberg had two assists. Both players ended the game with 61 points—tied for the most among all NHL defensemen.    

3-Alexander Radulov, Stars

From his first shift, it was apparent that Radulov was determined to leave his mark on the game. And he did just that, recording a goal, an assist and boarding minor that bloodied Caps defenseman Michal Kempny. Radulov’s goal—a redirection of a John Klingberg shot—was his 26th and it evened the score, 2-2, in the second period.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.