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Ovechkin offered Alzner some advice ahead of Saturday's meeting


Ovechkin offered Alzner some advice ahead of Saturday's meeting

Alex Ovechkin offered Karl Alzner a little advice in a recent text message conversation between the former teammates.

“He said, ‘Don’t block any of my shots,’” Alzner cracked Friday afternoon, moments after Montreal wrapped up its practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “We’ll see.”

Alzner, who signed with the Habs as a free agent this summer after spending nine seasons in Washington, will make his return to D.C. on Saturday at Capital One Arena.

So why were Alzer and Ovechkin texting one another late Thursday night? Alzner initiated the conversation, reaching out to Ovi after No. 8 scored a hat trick to rally the Caps for a 5-4 shootout victory in Ottawa.

Alzner wanted to congratulate him—and rekindle an old joke.


“There was a little inside joke that we all had last year and when I saw that he had a hat trick [in] the first game of the year I texted him that joke and he replied laughing and told me he switched to CCM [sticks] and this and that,” Alzner said with a smile. “So it was brief, but it was just kind of funny. There’s some guys that I’m very close with, and it’s just natural that we’ll keep in touch.”

Alzner’s challenge Saturday night will be twofold: No. 1) he’ll need to keep his emotions in check as he returns to his first NHL home and No. 2) he could see some time marking Ovechkin’s line—something he’s done hundreds of times in practice but never in a game.

“You can’t let him shoot, that’s the main thing,” Alzner said, asked if there’s any secret to shutting Ovechkin down. “You watched yesterday. If you watch his goals, you just give him an inch and he can score. It’s crazy. With guys on him, it doesn’t matter. So that’s the main thing. If you take away his space, it can help. I’ve seen it work in the past, but I’ve also seen him fight through it. So it’s just manage it as best you can. I don’t think there’s one secret to him.”


Asked if he’s ever wondered what it would feel like to catch on Ovechkin one-timer off the shin pad, Alzner said he had thought about it—recently, in fact.

“I’m really happy he plays on the other side so I don’t have those one-timers on the PK and all that stuff,” Alzner joked. “I’ve went through all these things. So, yeah, I’ve thought about it. But when it comes down to it there’s other guys that shoot hard, too, and you still find a way to put yourself in front of it. So if it happens, it happens.”

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.


A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.


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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.