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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps beat the NHL-leading Bolts, 3-1

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps beat the NHL-leading Bolts, 3-1

If Friday’s game against the NHL-leading Lightning was the barometer many considered it to be, the Caps’ 3-1 victory certainly proved this much: Despite an uneven recent stretch, Alex Ovechkin and Co. are still capable of beating any team in the league on any given night.

Washington has won two games in a row, three of the last four overall and seven of the last eight on home ice. The Caps now head to Toronto for a Saturday showdown with the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1- Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

The Caps’ captain had some good chances early but passed them up. Then, late in the first period, he called his own number. On an odd-man rush, Nicklas Backstrom moved the puck to Tom Wilson on the right wing, and Wilson fired a perfectly-placed setup to Ovechkin, who drilled a one-timer past Andrei Vasilevskiy. The goal was Ovechkin’s second in two games and moved him into a tie with Mike Bossy for 21st on the all-time goals list (573). Next up is Mark Recchi at 577 and Jari Kurri at 601.

2-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

After a rough start—he allowed a power play goal just 82 seconds into the game—the Caps’ backup rebounded and had an excellent night, finishing with 25 saves. A bunch of big stops in the second period, highlighted by a point blank save on Ondrej Palat, likely was the difference for the home team. The victory was Grubauer’s first in seven starts this season. Grubauer, who turns 26 on Saturday, is now 4-0-1 all-time against the Bolts.

3-Jay Beagle, Capitals

The fourth line center finished with a goal, a primary assist and a dominant percentage in the faceoff circle. Beagle’s goal was scored, backhanded, into an empty net late to clinch the win. The assist came on a shot that kicked off of Vasilevskiy’s pads right out to Devante Smith Pelly, who buried the rebound for a 2-1 lead. Beagle also won 13 of his 17 draws (82-percent) against a team that thrives on puck possession. With a pair of points, Beagle now has 101 career points.  

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

The Caps battled through the rust on Thursday to earn a point in New Jersey. On Friday, rust cost them yet again as they fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Here's why they lost.

4 shots on goal in the first period

Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi has had his struggles this season. Yes, he has played better since getting claimed off waivers by Montreal, but getting to play against Niemi instead of Carey Price wass a golden opportunity for the Caps to generate some offense. Washington, however, had very little offense to speak at the end of the night. How did they respond with Niemi in net? By getting only four shots in the first period. Four. They finished with 26 shots on goal for the game, but had they come out swinging in the first and put pressure up early on Niemi, they could have gotten a much different result.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-HABS

Bad passing

After the game, Lars Eller said "It was one of the sloppiest games we've played if not the sloppiest. I don't think we've given up so any odd-man rushes or chances in one game." In no aspect were the Caps more sloppy than with their passing. Here are just a few examples.

A cross-ice backhand pass in the defensive zone? Really? You are not going to be successful trying to make those type of plays and it cost the Caps. They could not maintain possession of the puck or breakout of their zone and it led to several odd-man rushes for Montreal.

Rust

It's not an excuse. The Caps should have played better on Friday regardless, but there's no arguing the fact that rust was a factor. It was abundantly clear that the Caps were out of sync. That will happen when you are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back with no practice time.

Saturday's practice will be absolutely critical since Washington faces a matinee game on Sunday, their third contest in four days.

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3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

The first time the Caps hosted the Montreal Canadiens this season, Alex Ovechkin tallied four goals as the Caps dominated in a 6-1 thrashing.

Friday's game featured considerably less offense as Montreal just managed to squeak by Washington 3-2.

Philipp Grubuaer got the start and did everything he could to keep Washington in it, but the Caps struggled to find much offense.

Alex Ovechkin did manage to register assist No. 499 as he set up John Carlson on the power play and Lars Eller scored late, but it would not be enough for the Caps to come back.

Here are the three stars of the game.

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1. Max Pacioretty: The Canadiens struggled to get anything past Grubauer in this one, but Pacioretty finally did in the second period on the power play. It was simple enough, he found the puck at his feet, turned and shot.

When goalies start to frustrate teams, we see a lot of players respond by looking for the perfect play and give up good opportunities for more difficult passes. Pacioretty was smart, he just shot. He also added an assist on Paul Byron's goal as the puck bounced off the board and off Pacioretty's skate right to Byron.

He ultimately put the exclamation point on the win with an empty-net goal as well to complete a three-point night.

2. Philipp Grubauer: Grubauer certainly didn't look like a backup goalie in this one. He was strong in net all night long, but his best save came in the first period. Pacioretty hit the side of the net to Grubauer's left on a pretty passing play, but the puck bounced out to the slot and Charles Hudon passed it over to Paul Byron on Grubauer's right. Grubauer dove with his arm outstretched and managed to corral the puck into his body to keep it out of the net.

He would finish the game with several more fantastic saves, 23 in all despite the loss.

3. Andre Burakovsky: It would be hard to draw up a better return to the lineup for Burakovsky.

He started on the fourth line, but he wasn't there for long. He had four shot attempts in a first period in which the Caps struggled to get anything going offensively at all. He also had a breakaway opportunity in the third period as he came out of the penalty box. He had Antti Niemi beat, but hit the post.

It was the second time Burakovsky struck iron in the game. Hedid just about everything right, but just couldn't light the lamp.