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Capitals impressed by Auston Matthews' 'spectacular', 'amazing' and 'incredible' NHL debut

Capitals impressed by Auston Matthews' 'spectacular', 'amazing' and 'incredible' NHL debut

PITTSBURGH — Like most people in the hockey world, the Capitals were awestruck by Auston Matthews’ four-goal NHL debut on Wednesday night.

“It was pretty amazing,” captain Alex Ovechkin said of the No. 1 overall pick’s big night. “Those kids [are] unbelievable. …It’s pretty special. He’s a great kid and he’s going to have a great future.”

Defenseman Matt Niskanen was wowed, in particular, by Matthews’ highlight-reel second goal.

“Pretty incredible,” Niskanen said. “That sounds like a boring adjective. But he set a record, obviously. That second goal, I think, was the most impressive. Just the confidence and strength and skill combined to hang onto that puck, make something happen in the neutral zone and strip a Norris Trophy-type defenseman, and then put it five-hole from a sharp angle. It was pretty impressive. I’m sure he had the adrenaline going because it was his first game. He showed his skill, for sure.”

Goaltender Braden Holtby liked what he saw, as well. But he also likes the fact that Matthews’ arrival in Toronto could help spark the dormant Maple Leafs, who are one of the league’s flagship franchises.

“It’s pretty spectacular in his first game,” Holtby said. “Everything kind of went in for him, it looked like. It’s good to see, though. Being a Western Canadian boy, you’re not really cheering for the Leafs. But it’s good to see because [Toronto] is such a big part of our league. It helps us all if they have a good team with some excitement. And it looks like he can do that. “

Coach Barry Trotz, meanwhile, took a step back to appreciate the big picture.

“That was pretty incredible,” he said. “What a start for one of the new faces in the league. You look at the last couple of years, [adding] a Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, our game is in pretty good shape. The torch looks like it’s going to get handed to those guys in the near future.”

Asked why he thinks younger players are having a bigger impact these days, Trotz said: “It’s evolution. Players are bigger, faster, stronger. They’re more prepared. They have better training methods. All that being said, that’s why the younger guys are having more impact than they did maybe 15-20 years ago. …What he did last night was pretty incredible. And it wasn’t that he was doing it against weak players or a weak team. He was against Norris Trophy candidates and winners and top players from the other team. So it was pretty impressive.” 

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby and 'Tre Kronor' set to face Penguins in opener

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Lightning game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).


The Capitals (34-18-7) take on the Lightning (39-17-3) Tuesday, February 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Washington.


The Capitals-Lightning game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Lightning game:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Taylor Chorney


The Capitals-Lightning game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.


A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.