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Capitals winning in every possible way

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Capitals winning in every possible way

If there is one thing that defines a championship-caliber team, it’s having the ability to win a variety of ways.

The Capitals have been that team this season. After the top two forward lines fueled a pair of incredible comebacks over the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers on Friday and Sunday, the Caps relied on their backup goaltender and foot soldiers to pull out a gutsy 2-1 win Monday night in Raleigh.

Fourth-line center Michael Latta and third-line left wing Jason Chimera each scored goals in the Caps’ 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, while Philipp Grubauer turned back 31 shots and Matt Niskanen blocked eight shots.

“It can’t be the power play and the top six guys every game,” said third-line center Jay Beagle, who won 14 of 18 faceoffs, including a draw that led to Chimera’s goal, and blocked three shots, including a big one in the final minute while the Caps were killing a 6-on-4.

“Latts gets us going with a big goal and we get one off the draw. It’s nice when we’re chipping it. To be successful down the road we’ve got to have the third and fourth lines chipping.”

That Caps are now 13-0-1 this season when a member of the third or fourth line scores a goal.

“We need to get goals from everybody, all lines,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “Latts got us going and Chimmer with a timely goal. And we showed a big commitment. Osh (T.J. Oshie) was very questionable for today and he had some big blocks.”

In the closing minutes, Niskanen, Oshie and Beagle sacrificed their bodies as the Caps finished with 27 blocks from eight different players.

“It’s huge when guys block shots,” said Grubauer, who earned his second straight victory after relieving Braden Holtby in Friday night’s comeback win over Tampa. “Osh at the end takes one in the belly. Beags jumped face first into shot. It’s helping us out.”

The Caps were scrambling because they took a too-many-men penalty on a line change, prompting the Canes to pull goalie Cam Ward for the final 2 minutes.  

“I disagreed on that and even the league said it wasn’t a great call by the linesman,” Trotz said. “But the guys were willing to put themselves at risk. They showed high commitment and they got it done.”

When the Caps were not blocking shots, they were trying to move the Hurricanes out of the Grubauer’s sight lines.

“Grubs was really sharp,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “There were a lot of quick plays through traffic and he was really active. He allowed us to get our feet under us.”

With three games in four nights in the rear view mirror, several Capitals admitted they lacked the same energy on Monday that they had on Friday, when they rallied from a 3-0 deficit, and Sunday, when they came back from a 3-1 score.

“The last two games we had to come back from big deficits and those games are emotionally draining,” Trotz said.  “You have to be mentally really strong. I thought in the second period we did a better job than the first. And in the third we spent too much time in our end. We got away from our forecheck.”

And now the Caps can breathe a big sigh of relief. They have won six in a row and are tied with the Dallas Stars for the NHL lead with 52 points as they enjoy a four-day break in the schedule.

“Coming from behind in those game was huge for our confidence,” Beagle said. “That’s almost a turning point for a team. Not to say we weren’t playing good, but when we won that game (against Tampa) the confidence was up and the fun level was up. We’re rolling here and now we get a nice break.” 

RELATED: Capitals reduce their roster by one defenseman

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."

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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, 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.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

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

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

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.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE