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Capitals keep rolling with win over Canucks

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Capitals keep rolling with win over Canucks

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night at Verizon Center:

How it happened: Center Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a beautiful goal off the rush, assisted on Tom Wilson’s goal with a crafty pass from behind the net and found an empty net with 0.6 seconds remaining. Braden Holtby turned aside 29 of 30 shots, leading the Caps to their 14th win in their last 16 games. Defenseman Karl Alzner also scored for the Capitals, who improved to 12-0-2 against Canadian teams this season.

What it means: The Caps (33-7-3) improved their league-leading point total to 69, seven more than the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars. The Caps have won five straight and are now 14-1-1 in their last 16 games. They are also 23-3-3 since losing Brooks Orpik to a lower body injury on Nov. 10.

Holt-beast: Holtby (28-4-2) lost his shutout bid with 8:51 remaining when back-to-back penalties to Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich led to Radim Vrbata’s power-play goal with 1 second remaining on the Canucks’ 5-on-3 advantage. Holtby is now alone in second place on the Caps’ all-time wins list by a goaltender with 129, one more than Don Beaupre. He’s also 20-0-2 in his last 22 decisions, the longest points streak by an NHL goalie since Jose Theodore went 20-0-3 with the 2009-10 Caps. Theodore finished with a 30-7-7 record that season.  

Hard coconut: Caps right wing Justin Williams left the game with under a minute to play in the first period when he was struck in the back of the helmet by an Andre Burakovsky shot. Williams returned for the second period and assisted on Karl Azner’s third goal of the season.

Russian magic: Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov already has four more goals (15) and four more points (41) than he had last season. He’s now tied with Nicklas Backstrom on the Caps with 41 points in 43 games. With 6:12 gone in the second period Kuznetsov made a beautiful forehand-to-backhand move on Ryan Miller to beat him far post. Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov broke up a rush by Alexander Edler out of the penalty box and turned the puck up the right side of the ice before dishing to Kuznetsov streaking toward the net.

Alzner from Niskanen? Caps defenseman Karl Alzner’s third goal of the season 12:03 into the second period leaves him two shy of the career-high of five he scored last season. He was left all alone at the left point, thanks to a big hit defense partner Matt Niskanen put on Canucks forward Sven Baertschi along the right wall. Bo Horvat immediately went after Niskanen, leaving Alzner with the time and space to  crank a slap shot past Miller, who slammed his stick on the ice, complaining a penalty should have been called on Niskanen.

Wilson vs. Canada: All four of Tom Wilson’s goals this season have come against Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver). After going the first 22 games of the season with no goals, five assists and a minis-1 rating, Wilson has four goals, six assists and is a plus-7 in his last 21 games.

Look ahead: The Caps have scheduled an 11:30 a.m. practice at Kettler on Friday, followed by a flight to Buffalo, where they’ll face Jack Eichel and the Sabres Saturday night. They return home for a 5 p.m. game against the Rangers on Sunday.

RELATED: Caps honor Ovechkin with pregame red carpet ceremony

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

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.