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NHL Power Rankings: A tale of two teams

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: A tale of two teams

If it seems like the Caps have been inconsistent of late, you’re half right.

In their last 10 games, the Caps have gone 6-4-0 with 25 goals for and 27 goals against. They dominated Pittsburgh and ended Minnesota’s win streak, but also suffered an ugly two-game road trip in Nashville and Colorado. They lost to Buffalo, but just barely managed wins over Edmonton and Arizona.

All of this makes it hard to figure out just what sort of team the Caps are.

There is one pattern, however.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

In those same 10 games, Washington is 5-0-0 at home with 15 goals for and eight against. On the road, they are 1-4-0 with 10 goals for and 19 against.

Washington has enjoyed a lot of success in recent years in the friendly confines of what is now called Capital One Arena. Even with the roster turnover this team saw over the offseason, the Caps are still getting a boost on home ice.

What makes them play so differently at home vs. on the road? Besides rules meant to favor the home team such as last change, energy may also play a big factor.

In Nashville and Colorado, the Caps struggled in the first period. Washington really seemed to wait for their opponents to come to them. They played a reactive game, not a proactive one and they paid the price for it. In both games, they found themselves down 2-0 after 20 minutes. Back at home on Saturday, there was a different energy at the start of the game. The Caps scored first and then responded with a second goal just 44 seconds after Minnesota tied the game.

How much of that energy at the start of the game had to do with the home crowd? It's a question with no quantifiable answer, but clear difference between the team's success at home vs. the road seems to suggest the crowd has at least some effect.

Here’s another stat to show you how important energy is for this team: in back to back games this season, the Caps are 0-4-0. In all four games, they gave up the first goal and never lead in the first period.

If Washington wants to improve its record, a major key to that will be getting better starts. If they feed off the energy of the home crowd, great, but they need to find something else to boost them on the road.

After their ugly road trip, the Caps took a hit in this week’s NHL Power Rankings. Find out where they land here.

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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.

RELATED: SEE TARIK'S 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-DUCKS

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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Tarik's Three Stars: Alex Ovechkin completes Capitals OT comeback

Tarik's Three Stars: Alex Ovechkin completes Capitals OT comeback

For 40 minutes, Saturday’s showdown vs. the Ducks was The John Gibson Show.

But the Anaheim goaltender could only keep the surging Caps at bay for so long.

Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov rallied the home team in the third period, then Alex Ovechkin scored in overtime to lift Washington to a thrilling 3-2 victory.

The Caps have now won a season-high six in a row at home and three straight overall. Meanwhile, the Ducks’ last four losses have come after regulation.

Tarik’s three stars of the night:

1-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin sealed the come-from-behind win by ripping a shot past Gibson 1:58 into the extra session. No. 8 also had the primary assist on Nicklas Backstrom’s game-tying goal in the third period. The goal was Ovechkin’s 23rd on the season (tied for first) and the 21st of his career in overtime, which is the highest total in NHL history.  

2-Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals

Kuznetsov scored Washington’s second goal...though it looked like he was actually trying to pass the puck. But thanks to a deflection off a Ducks' defender's stick, the puck changed directions and slipped past Gibson to knot the score, 2-2, at 7:27 of the third period. 

Kuzy now has five points in the last three games (1 goal, 4 assists).

3-Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals

For a long time this season, it looked like Backstrom may never score again. Now, he can’t stop scoring. His second goal in two games—and fourth in six contests—cut the Caps’ deficit to 2-1 four minutes before Kuznetsov’s strike. The scoring play began with a giveaway by Anaheim defenseman Josh Manson deep in Anaheim’s end.

Agree? Disagree? Tell us what you think in the comments.