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Capitals wake up in time to beat Maple Leafs, 3-2

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Capitals wake up in time to beat Maple Leafs, 3-2

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’  3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night at Verizon Center:

How it happened: The Capitals followed their coach’s orders by scoring twice in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead on goals by Taylor Chorney and Alex Ovechkin, but took a nap for the next 30 minutes, allowing the hapless Maple Leafs to tie it on goals by Nikita Soshnikov and Colin Greening. That had the sellout crowd fidgeting in their seats until Matt Niskanen snapped a power-play wrist shot past goaltender James Riemer with 9:31 gone in the third. Niskanen’s goal looked very similar to the one he thought he scored the night before against the Penguins. That power-play game-winner went to T.J. Oshie, who tipped Niskanen’s point shot past Penguins goalie Matt Murray for the winner.   

What it means: The Caps have won two in a row and now have an incredible 98 points with 19 games to play.

Worth noting: Maple Leafs rookie Nikita Soshnikov played on the edge all night, interfering with Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer and tussling with Matt Niskanen in the second period, then taking a boarding penalty on Karl Alzner that led to Niskanen’s power-play goal.  

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Osh-trick: T.J. Oshie played a role in all three Capitals goals. After Kuznetsov forced Toronto defenseman Martin Marincin into a giveaway, he dropped the puck to Chorney for the game’s first goal late in the first period. He won a puck battle to help set up Ovechkin’s goal 27 seconds later. And he got the puck to Backstrom and provided a screen for Matt Niskanen’s game-winner in the third. 

Thanks, Dad: Taylor Chorney gave his newborn son, Hunter, a nice little gift, scoring his first goal since Feb. 15, 2011 in the first period.  

Ovechkin’s assault: Alex Ovechkin scored his 41st goal of the season in the first period, giving him 516 in his career. That’s 36th on the NHL’s all-time list, two behind Dale Hawerchuk and six behind Pat Verbeek.  

No Schmitty: Nate Schmidt sat out his first game since Oct. 28. 

What’s next: In the midst of four games in five days the Capitals will be given the day off on Thursday and return to action Friday night against the New York Rangers (7 p.m., CSN). The Caps then hit the road for games against the Bruins on Saturday the Ducks on Monday, the Kings on Wednesday and the Sharks on Saturday, March 12.    

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.