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Capitals' season ends with heartbreaking OT loss to Pens in Game 6

Capitals' season ends with heartbreaking OT loss to Pens in Game 6

The Caps have made a habit this season of slow starts and furious comebacks, but spotting the Pittsburgh Penguins three wins in the series and three goals in Game 6 was one hole that was too deep to climb out of. After a furious comeback in an absolutely crazy game, Washington saw its season come to a close in heart-breaking fashion on Tuesday with a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6. Here’s the instant analysis:

How it happened: The Penguins took a 3-0 lead after scoring on both ends of a double-minor, but the Caps were able to battle back thanks in large part to back-to-back-to-back delay of game calls against Pittsburgh in the third period. It wasn’t enough, however, as Nick Bonino tapped in a rebound goal in overtime to finish the Caps off 4-3.

A not-so-happy return: In his return from suspension, Brooks Orpik took a double-minor in the second period for high-sticking Carl Hagelin. The Penguins scored on each power play to take a 3-0 lead and it looked like it was all over but the crying.

Triple threat: After the Caps cut the deficit down to 3-2, they had ample opportunity to tie it up in the third period as Pittsburgh was called for not one, not two, but three delay of game penalties. The penalties came at 10:32, 11:38 and 12:34. For those of you doing the math at home, that means the Caps not only had three power plays, they had two 5-on-3 opportunities. Carlson finally struck on the second two-man advantage to tie the game at 3.

Ouch for Alzner: With the return of Orpik for the Caps and Olli Maatta for Pittsburgh, both teams boasted their full lineups to start the game. It didn’t stay that way for long, however. Karl Alzner took a slash from Sidney Crosby in the first period that appeared to hit him in the right hand/wrist and left foot. Alzner went to the locker room afterwards and, though he returned for the second period, he was clearly hurting and played only two shifts before leaving the game for good.

Killing the penalty killers: Heading into Game 6, the Caps had allowed only one power play goal to the Penguins in the series. Pittsburgh scored two critical power play goals in the second period alone on Tuesday. With Orpik in the penalty box and Alzner ailing, the penalty killers looked out of sync and the Penguins took advantage.

Pesky Penguins: The loss now drops the Caps’ all-time series record against Pittsburgh to 1-8. Washington’s only win over the Penguins came in 1994 when the Caps won in six games. Alex Ovechkin is now 0-2 against rival Sidney Crosby in the playoffs.

What it means: After a season filled with so much promise, one in which the Caps established themselves as the team to beat in the NHL with a monster lead in the standings, the Caps saw their season end where it always seems to: in the second round. It is another disappointing finish for a team that, on paper, has the talent to compete for a Stanley Cup. The Penguins won the series 4-2 and will now move on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference finals.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

USA Today Sports

Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

USA Today Sports

Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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