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Alex Ovechkin: 'If you win, you keep fighting'

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Alex Ovechkin: 'If you win, you keep fighting'

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has played in seven Game Sevens in his nine-year career with the Capitals and has been on the losing side of the handshake line five times.

In those decisive games, the 29-year-old left wing has recorded two goals, two assists, 27 shots and is a minus-2.

Tonight at VerizonCenter against the New York Islanders [6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN] Ovechkin once again finds himself in the spotlight of a Game 7.

“If you lose, you go home,” he said. “If you win, you keep fighting for the Stanley Cup. “It’s not about motivation right now. We’re motivated already.”

In his last three Game Sevens – two against the Rangers and one against the Bruins, Ovechkin has been held without a goal while generating a total of just five shots.

And who can forget the time Ovechkin and the Caps faced Jaro Halak and the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 five years ago? Ovechkin threw 10 shots at Halak that night but was denied every time in a 2-1 upset loss to the Canadiens.

Is there anything Ovechkin and the Caps can learn from all of those experiences?

“I hope,” Ovechkin said. “I hope everything is going t help. Right now we’re in the same position as the Islanders, so we just have to do our thing.”

Jason Chimera, the oldest member of the Caps at 35, agrees:

“You can lean on moments in the past and use it to your advantage,” Chimera said. “I think it helps us be a little more calm going in, for sure.”

The Capitals and Islanders know each other as well as the know their own families and Capitals coach Barry Trotz said there’s no use pulling out a white board to go over Xs and Os now. But if you ask the Capitals how they can win Game 7, they will tell you it begins with getting in on the Islanders’ inexperienced defensemen and forcing them into turnovers.

“I think we have to be more physical than we were in Game 6,” Ovechkin said.

With three defensemen injured, the Islanders are expected to use rookies Scott Mayfield and Matt Donovan again tonight and even Caps rookie Andre Burakovsky pointed out the need to expose them.

“We just want to go out there and play like we did in Game 5 and just go through them,” Burakovsky said. “If we just forecheck hard and put pucks behind them they can’t handle us down there. I think we’re too skilled of a team.”

While everyone will tell you that the best players need to be the best players in a Game 7, history tells you that’s not always the case.

In the Caps’ seven Game 7s during the Ovechkin era, the game-winning goals have been scored by Arron Asham [Rangers], Joel Ward [Capitals], Michael Del Zotto [Rangers], Dominic Moore [Canadiens], Sergei Fedorov [Capitals], Bill Guerin [Penguins] and Joffrey Lupul [Flyers].

“I think every game unfolds differently,” said Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik, who is 2-2 in four career Game Sevens. “Great players are great players for a reason and you hope they do stuff well. [John] Tavares obviously did that for his team last game.

“But you never know. I think everybody’s got to be ready. Obviously, they’re doing a good job of trying to isolate on certain guys on our team and that’s just an opportunity for other guys to step up. Everybody’s got to be at their best and push the pace.”

Chimera said drumming up the Caps’ unfortunate history in Game Sevens is something for media members to discuss, not players.

“You want to make your own history tonight,” said Chimera, who has one goal and three assists in four career Game Sevens. “Each time you’re in a Game 7 you want to prove yourself.

“I think guys are a lot more mature this year and we’re a lot better off handling it than we ever have been.”

RELATED: [Barry Trotz leaning on veterans for Game 7]

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

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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.