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Capitals showing a real killer instinct under Trotz


Capitals showing a real killer instinct under Trotz

NEW YORK -- When Barry Trotz was hired to coach the Capitals two summers ago, one of the things he kept harping on was his players remaining calm when chaos surrounded them.

A season-and-a-half later, the Capitals are an amazing 21-0-1 when leading after two periods and have outscored opponents 48-31 in third periods.

“I think that’s where we’ve grown as a team the last year and a half,” Trotz said. “We’ve managed the puck a little better.

“We understand the situations, the moments where you need the commitment and the moments where you can’t cheat. I think that’s where our game has grown a lot in the last 18 months.”

As a result of that decision-making and some timely saves by goaltender Braden Holtby, the Caps now sit atop the NHL standings with a 30-7-3 record. It is the fastest the Caps have gotten to 30 wins in their 42-year history.

Against the Islanders, the Caps jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on goals by Jason Chimera and Alex Ovechkin and received big penalty kill blocks from Brooks Laich, Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner midway through the second period, setting the stage for Nate Schmidt to put the nail in the coffin with a goal that made it 3-1 heading into the third period.

“Those big blocks are huge,” said Chimera, who now has 12 goals. “And we score shortly after that. Schmitty’s goal is a killer for their team.” 

Ovechkin’s goal was his 497th and although Alzner picked up the first assist, Ovechkin said equipment manager Brock Myles deserves a second assist. Seconds before his goal, Ovechkin broke his stick in front of the Capitals bench and was given a new one by Myles without missing stride. 

“Good job by Brock giving me a stick right away and I was on the rush,” Ovechkin said.

The Caps allowed just 11 shots in the final period and only a few tested Holtby, who improved to 18-0-2 in his last 20 decisions.

“We’re just playing simple, with the system we need,” Ovechkin said. “We know if we get the lead we don’t have to rush. We just have to play a simple game. We had a bad experience (last weekend against Columbus) and when we do that kind of stuff it cost a game.”    

In addition to Holtby’s 34 saves he received 19 blocked shots, including six by Niskanen and five by Dmitry Orlov, who also drew a penalty late in the second period. Holtby is now 26-4-2 and on pace for 53 wins, five more than the NHL record held by future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur.

“One game at a time is the only way you’re going to progress your game at all,” Holtby said. “Our goal is to finish as high as we can in the standings to give us the best opportunity in the playoffs and go from there. Streaks and anything like that really makes zero difference in the end.”

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals, Islanders react to Johansson's hit on Hickey

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.


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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.


Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.