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For the second straight game, Caps' leaky penalty kill delivers in critical moment

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USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight game, Caps' leaky penalty kill delivers in critical moment

In Thursday's win over the New York Islanders, the Capitals penalty kill allowed two goals on just four power plays. While that's not good, Barry Trotz defended his unit for a critical kill in the third period when the score was tied.

“I'm not going to beat up on the PK because the PK, when it mattered most, they got it done,” he said.

You may have dismissed Trotz's comments as overly optimistic considering the penalty kill unit has struggled all season. But, after another critical kill on Saturday against the Boston Bruins, there may be something to that "bend but don't break" mentality.

RELATED: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS BEAT THE BRUINS

Washington entered the third period in Boston with a 3-1 lead, but Brooks Orpik took a double-minor for high sticking David Pastrnak less than a minute in. WIth four full minutes of power play time in front of them, it was the perfect opportunity for the Bruins to retake momentum and push to tie up the game.

Yet, the penalty killers buckled down and managed to kill off both ends of the double minor in impressive fashion. Over the four minutes, the Bruins managed just three shot attempts and two shots on goal. A suddenly very aggressive Capitals penalty kill was credited with four shorthanded shot attempts and three shots on goal including a Tom Wilson breakaway. Lars Eller also had a breakaway just as the penalty expired.

In four minutes, the Capitals actually had the better offensive chances than the Bruins despite being down a man.

"Our penalty kill was huge tonight," Barry Trotz told reporters after the game. "I think actually the special teams had a big impact on the game."

MORE CAPITALS: TOM WILSON'S BIG NIGHT ON OFFENSE FUELS CAPS TO THE WIN IN BOSTON

Boston's top offensive players were on the ice for an extended amount of time as they pushed to even up the score, but the Caps were able to maintain their two-goal lead. That meant that even after the power play, Boston still needed big minutes from those same players to continue to push offensively. Those minutes can really start to add up in the latter stages of the game.

"You don't know how big that was until the end of the game because I know they had that power play and that big unit out there for a long extended time," Trotz said. "... They were out there for awhile and then they had to come back again so that can be real taxing. That might have been a real key for us."

Washington was not able to escape the game with a perfect night on the PK as Pastrnak scored on the power play with less than three minutes remaining to pull Boston within one. The big takeaway, however, was that the Caps were again able to shut down an opponent when it mattered most. Though Washington's penalty kill ranks only 28th in the NHL at 74.6-percent, it may well have won the game on Saturday and that's what ultimately counts.

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Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

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The Hershey Bears

Capitals are shaking up the coaching staff in Hershey

The contracts of Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann and Bears assistant coach Ryan Murphy will not be renewed for next season, the Capitals announced Wednesday. Hershey finished in last place in the Atlantic Division and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

“Troy is a dedicated and hard-working coach and we appreciate all he has done for the Hershey Bears,” said Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan. “At this point, we feel a fresh approach and a change in leadership is needed in order for us to continue to develop our young players towards the next level and for success at the AHL level. We also want to thank Ryan for his contributions to the Hershey Bears and wish him all the best.”

Just two seasons ago, the Bears under Mann were playing the Calder Cup Finals where they lost in four games to the Lake Erie Monsters. Mann served as an assistant coach for Hershey from 2009-2013 and was hired as the head coach in 2014. He led the Bears to a record of 162-102-22-18 during his tenure, good for sixth all-time among Hershey coaches in wins.

Mann coached several current Capitals players in Hershey including Travis Boyd, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Philipp Grubauer, among others. Hershey also currently boasts several of the Caps' biggest prospects such as Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs, Riley Barber and Jonas Siegenthaler.

Murphy was with the Bears for all four years of Mann's tenure. He started in video development in Mann's first season and was promoted to assistant coach the following year.

“We’d like to thank Troy Mann and Ryan Murphy for their contributions to the Hershey Bears organization,” said Hershey vice president of hockey operations, Bryan Helmer. “While we are looking to move our hockey club forward, today is certainly an emotional day. I had the pleasure of working with both Troy and Ryan behind the bench for two seasons, and consider them to be great people. We wish both all the best in future endeavors.”

Coaching in the AHL is a tough job as coaches are expected to bring the team success while also developing their NHL club's prospects. There are times when the two goals do not necessarily line up which can make it a difficult balance.

Considering how important it is to develop talent from within, AHL coaches are very significant parts of an organization. Getting the right guy in charge of Hershey won't just boost the AHL team, but will help the Caps down the line with developed players.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

We all knew this was coming, right?

The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the 11th time in franchise history. Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once in their previous 10 series. This season gives them the opportunity to get over the second round and Pittsburgh hump once and for all.

Will this year be different? Will the Caps finally take down their arch nemesis? Will they finally advance to the conference final?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps-Penguins matchup in the Capitals Faceoff Podcast.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page