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3 key observations from Game 1: Pittsburgh capitalizes

3 key observations from Game 1: Pittsburgh capitalizes

The Pittsburgh Penguins seized the early series lead with a 3-2 victory in Game 1 on Thursday. Here are three key observations from the game.

1. Sidney Crosby is already having a better series than last year

Despite losing to the Penguins in last year’s series, the Caps actually played Crosby very tough, allowing him only two assists and no goal in six games. After Game 1, he already has two goals. That’s a bad sign. While limiting Pittsburgh’s secondary scoring will be key, Washington also cannot allow Pittsburgh’s top player to run wild on them. He will make them pay for every mistake they make.

RELATED: Jill Sorenson has a message for the pessimistic Caps fans

2. Braden Holtby is still not at his best

After a shaky start to the Toronto series, Holtby rebounded with two strong performances in Games 5 and 6 to help lead the Caps to the series win. Thursday was a step back. You cannot blame him for the first goal. What is a goalie supposed to do on a 2-on-1 against Crosby? The second goal, however, Holtby got his glove on the initial shot by Olli Maatta, but was unable to catch it. The resulting rebound was tipped to Crosby for the goal. Make no mistake, these are the best two teams left in the playoffs. It will take a superhuman effort to win. Allowing three goals on 21 shots isn’t it. I still do not think it is time to even consider putting in Philipp Grubauer, however. Holtby is not the reason why the Caps are losing, he is just not playing at a level in which he will be able to steal a game for Washington anytime soon.

3. Pittsburgh forwards play incredibly high

All year Trotz has stressed to his forward the importance of getting back on defense and not getting caught too far up the ice. Pittsburgh‘s forwards do the exact opposite. When back on defense, the Penguins’ forwards play very high in the defensive zone. There were even times when a forward was skating at mid-ice when Washington was still attacking. Pittsburgh is a fast team that likes to push the rush. By playing so aggressive, they are able to get the puck out of the zone and push the attack faster. But this comes at a price as they leave themselves more vulnerable in the defensive zone. The Caps need to be aware of how quickly Pittsburgh can push the counter, but they also need to take advantage of their vulnerability defensively.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' locker room 'somber' after Game 1 loss

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Alex Ovechkin further cemented his place in NHL history, John Carlson stayed hot and Braden Holtby was good when called upon as the Caps downed the Stars, 4-3, at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.

The victory was Washington’s fifth in the past six games. It also marked the Caps’ first win over Dallas in D.C. since 2006.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season and the 602nd of his career in the second period to give the Caps a short-lived 3-2 edge in the second period.

The goal put Ovi back atop the league as he seeks a seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. It also pushed him past Jari Karri and into sole possession of 19th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Ovechkin has now victimized Kari Lehtonen 22 times, which is tied for the most goals he’s scored against a single netminder. (Henrik Lundqvist has also given up 22 goals to No. 8). Ovi also had a couple of secondary helpers.

2-John Carlson, Capitals

Carlson scored the game-winner 4:59 with left to play, blasting a one-timer past Lehtonen to put the Caps ahead 4-3.

Carlson also notched an assist, which allowed him to stay even with Dallas’ John Klingberg. Klingberg had two assists. Both players ended the game with 61 points—tied for the most among all NHL defensemen.    

3-Alexander Radulov, Stars

From his first shift, it was apparent that Radulov was determined to leave his mark on the game. And he did just that, recording a goal, an assist and boarding minor that bloodied Caps defenseman Michal Kempny. Radulov’s goal—a redirection of a John Klingberg shot—was his 26th and it evened the score, 2-2, in the second period.

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