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Nats-Braves LIVE game thread - 7:35 p.m.

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Nats-Braves LIVE game thread - 7:35 p.m.

GO TO THE LIVE GAME THREAD ON NATSINSIDER.COM

In his seemingly never-ending quest to find a competent left fielder -- not to mention a competent leadoff man -- Davey Johnson's roulette wheel has stopped on Steve Lombardozzi. The rookie infielder has made a strong case for himself, both at the plate (he's hitting .317 with a .385 on-base percentage) and in the field (he's made a couple of nice plays while learning the outfield on the fly).

So tonight, in the opener of perhaps their biggest series of the season to date, the Nationals will have Lombardozzi in left field and leading off for the third time in four games. It worked twice in Philadelphia; might as well give it a shot in Atlanta.

It'll take a strong offensive performance from the Nats' lineup, top to bottom, to beat Tim Hudson (owner of a 13-3 record and 2.09 ERA in his career against them). And it'll take a strong start from Ross Detwiler (who has allowed 10 earned runs over his last 10 innings).

Unfortunately, I'm not in Atlanta for this weekend showdown, but I will be in Miami starting Monday for the Nationals' first series at Marlins Park. Until then, enjoy the big game and the conversation...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ATLANTA BRAVES
Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Partly cloudy, 86 degrees, Wind 1 mph in from RF

NATIONALS (26-18)
LF Steve Lombardozzi
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
LHP Ross Detwiler

BRAVES (26-20)
CF Michael Bourn
3B Martin Prado
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dan Uggla
LF Matt Diaz
RF Jason Heyward
C David Ross
SS Jack Wilson
RHP Tim Hudson

UMPIRES
TBA

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

he win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

COLUMBUS — Alex Ovechkin confidently predicted earlier this week that the Caps were going to win twice at Nationwide Arena and take their first round series back to Washington knotted, two games apiece.

And, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what Ovechkin made sure his team did.

No. 8, who was playing in his franchise-record 101st playoff game, scored his third goal of the playoffs early in the final frame and the Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Game 4.

Tarik’s Three Stars of Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4

1. Tom Wilson, Capitals

After a slow (and penalty plagued) start to this series, Wilson has become a force. Yes, he took another minor.

But the good is far outweighing the bad these days. Big Willy recorded a goal, an assist and a team-high seven shots.  

2. Braden Holtby, Capitals

Holtby had his best game in, well, a long time. He stopped 23 shots, including all eight he saw in a contentious second period.

The goal he surrendered was a nearly unstoppable tip-in by Boone Jenner.

3. T.J. Oshie, Capitals

Osh just plays the game so dang hard.

So it should come as no surprise that he delivered in his team’s biggest game of the season to this point. Oshie, of course, scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the second period. It was No. 77’s second tally of the series.

Agree? Disagree?

Let us know what you think in the comments.