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Caps' big guns hand Devils their first loss

Caps' big guns hand Devils their first loss

You would think the Devils would own Friday the 13th, but it was the Capitals who walked away victorious with the 5-2 win in New Jersey.

How it happened

The Caps' big guns all came to play on Friday as Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin all had big games. A steal by Backstrom at the blue line set up Oshie for the first period goal. Ovechkin and Taylor Hall traded power play goals in the second, but Jakub Vrana's first goal of the season gave Washington the two-goal lead heading into the third period.

Kyle Palmieri pulled New Jersey within one just 53 seconds into the final frame, but Oshie and Backstrom each padded the Caps' lead with two more power play goals.

What it means

The Capitals snapped a hot start for the Devils who were 3-0-0 heading into this game. It also snapped a two-game slide for Washington.

A pregame scare

Caps fans got a scare before the game. Just a few minutes before the puck dropped, news broke that Nicklas Backstrom was a late scratch. That turned out to be a mistake with the game sheet, however, as Backstrom did play. It's a good thing he did as he ended up having a huge game with one goal and three assists.

Wilson’s return

Tom Wilson returned to the lineup after serving a four-game suspension to start the season. He looked like the old Wilson as he drew an interference call from Dalton Prout in the first period. He also dropped the gloves with Blake Coleman in the third period in a fight that could only be described as "one-sided."

A hot start

With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has nine in five games to start the season. In 2007-08, when he set his career-high of 65 goals, Ovechkin had only three tallies through the first five games.

A costly injury

Matt Niskanen left the game in the second period after taking a slash from Devils defenseman Jimmy Hayes. The team announced he would not return labeling the issue as "upper body."

There's a first time for everything

Andre Burakovsky took issue with a hit from Coleman on Dmitry Orlov that sent the Caps' defenseman feet first hard into the boards. Burakovsky decided to take matters into his own hands and dropped the gloves for his first career NHL fight. The last time Burakovsky fought in a hockey game was March 2014 in the OHL.

What’s ahead

It’s a quick turnaround for the Caps as they head to Philadelphia for a Saturday night matchup with the Flyers. Then it’s back to Washington as they will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

A Capitals team that struggles after lengthy breaks is now indeed struggling after its return from the bye week. Since returning on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, the Caps have lost three straight games including two at home with only two points to show for their efforts.

Heading into the bye, Washington looked like one of the top teams in the NHL with 14 wins in 19 games. Now, they have taken a step back and are working at returning to the level they were playing just a week ago.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oh, and to make matters worse, the Caps do not play again until Thursday and then are off for the All-Star break.

It's Jan. 22 and Washington has only two more games this month. Even if they do figure things out on Thursday against the Florida Panthers, they will have to figure it out all over again when they return from the All-Star break on Jan. 31 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

So where do the Caps rank after their recent slide and how far could they fall if they do not right the ship? Find out here in this week's NHL Power Rankings!

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.

RELATED: HERE'S WHY THE CAPS LOST TO PHILADELPHIA

Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.

Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.

"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."

Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-FLYERS

But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.

If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.