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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Blue Jackets

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Blue Jackets

The Caps finished the two-game sweep of the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 4-2 win at home on Friday. Here's why Washington was able to finish off their divisional foe.

Kuznetsov’s first period buzzer-beater

Late goals are always tough to swallow. The Blue Jackets thought they were going into the locker room in a 1-1 game as the seconds ticked away in the first period, but instead, a late goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov suddenly put the Caps ahead. Kuznetsov came out of the penalty box as a late interference penalty expired and made a beeline for the net. As a centering pass trickled through the crowd, Kuznetsov was there on the far side and he did not hesitate with the blistering one-timer on the open net. How late was the goal? There were just 1.4 seconds left on the clock.

A 1:28 stretch in the second period

When John Carlson put the Caps up 1-1, Columbus responded 1:19 later to tie it up. When Kuznetsov scored with 1.4 seconds left in the first, Columbus responded 27 seconds into the second period. Washington did not take control of this game until a two-goal stretch in the second period when Jay Beagle and Lars Eller scored just 1:28 seconds apart. This time, instead of facing another small deficit that they had already overcome twice, the Blue Jackets suddenly found themselves down by two in less than 90 seconds. It was the turning point of the game and one Columbus was never able to recover from.

A late second period penalty kill

With the Caps still up 4-2, Tom Wilson was whistled for a tripping penalty with just over two minutes remaining in the second period. That allowed the Blue Jackets an opportunity to score a late-period goal of their own. This could have been a very different game had Columbus taken a one-goal deficit into the locker room with all the momentum on their side. Instead, however, Washington was able to kill off the penalty thanks in large part to a mad scramble in front of the net. Braden Holtby was brilliant, but he also got an assist from Matt Niskanen who slid in to make a kick-out save on Nick Foligno behind a sprawled out Holtby.

Instead of a goal and a momentum swing for the Blue Jackets, the kill boosted Washington as they took a two-goal lead into the intermission.

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

NBC Sports Washington

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.