If the Capitals can stop the Penguins’ five-game win streak tonight in Pittsburgh (6 p.m., NBCSN), they will clinch their first Eastern Conference title since 2011 and their first-ever Metropolitan Division title.
The fact the Caps (51-14-5, 107 points) are in a position to clinch a conference title and secure home ice throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs in their 71st game of the season is a testament to just how dominant a season this has been.
The Caps finished second in the Metro last season and fifth in 2013-14. When they played in the Southeast Division from 1998-2013 they won seven division titles in 14 seasons.
Here’s why the Caps can clinch a conference title:
The Florida Panthers (89 points) are the closest to the Caps in points, but have just 10 games remaining, meaning they can finish with no more than 109 points. But even if the Panthers won every game in regulation or overtime, they would finish with 43 ROW victories, four fewer than the Caps have now. Thus, the Caps can clinch the conference title with any kind of a win tonight.
The New York Islanders (85 points, 12 games remaining) would finish with 109 points if they ran the table with 12 regulation or overtime victories. Theoretically, that would tie them with the Capitals with 109 points if the Caps won tonight.
However, the Isles cannot catch the Caps in ROW victories (the Caps have 47, the Isles have 34) and that is the first tie-breaker. Thus, the Caps can clinch their first Metro title with any kind of a win tonight.
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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.
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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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Alex Ovechkin further cemented his place in NHL history, John Carlson stayed hot and Braden Holtby was good when called upon as the Caps down 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
Ovi 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 also had a goal and an assist. 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.
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