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Caps begin final week with teams fans love to hate


Caps begin final week with teams fans love to hate

With four games and six days remaining in the NHL’s regular season, the Caps may not know which team they’ll face in the first round of the playoffs until Sunday night.

Will it be the Flyers, who currently hold the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings but just lost defenseman Andy MacDonald? Will it be the seventh-seeded Islanders, who just lost defenseman Travis Hamonic and are likely to start the playoffs without starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak?

Will it be the Bruins or Red Wings, who have traded places in the Atlantic Division and will face each other in a pivotal battle on Thursday night?

“It could be four different teams, right?” pondered Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom. “You never know what’s going to happen. It’s going to be until the last game, I think. It’s interesting. That’s what makes it fun, too.”

After a pair of games against non-playoff games, the Capitals expect the intensity to ramp up when they close out their regular season with games against the Islanders, Penguins, Blues and Ducks, four teams currently holding playoff spots. The Caps got a good taste of what the playoffs might be like when they visited the Flyers last week and fell 2-1 in a shootout.

“I think those type of games are really good for us right now,” Capos right wing T.J. Oshie said. “It’s hard not to look at the standings and see you already have first place and take a step back. But when we play these teams that are desperate and fighting for their lives I think it really brings out the best in us.”

That was certainly the case last Wednesday night, when the Caps and Flyers combined for 64 hits.


“I’m sure tomorrow would be the same thing,” Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “They’re coming off a pretty good beating on Saturday (a 5-0 loss to the Penguins), so I’m sure they’re trying to respond. All these games this week will be a challenge for us. At some point in the playoffs we might face Pittsburgh as well. Psychologically, it’s a good opportunity to leave a mark on certain teams.”

The Islanders have been an unpredictable team lately. After losing six of seven games in early March, they won four out of five before getting blown out at home by the Penguins, who are currently without goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The Isles lead the Flyers by two points with a game in hand. They face the Lightning tonight at home, followed by visits to Washington and New York and home games against the Sabres and Flyers. It’s possible that last makeup game of the season between the Isles and Flyers on Sunday night will determine which team faces the Caps in Round 1.

“Obviously, the Islanders are playing for position and Pitt is probably playing the best of any team in the league right now,” Capital coach Barry Trotz said. “(The Penguins) are feeling it. They’re probably the team coming into the playoffs, as of today, probably feeling the best about themselves.”

With their No. 1 playoff seeding clinched, Trotz said it’s hard to replicate during the final week of the regular season the desperation we’ll all see in the playoffs.

“You don’t practice running into a burning house like firemen, but that’s what it is,” Trotz said. “All of a sudden the playoffs start and you’re running into a burning house and it’s chaotic. Things are happening quicker and it’s intense. You just don’t practice that all the time.”

Oshie said that no matter who the Capitals face in Round 1, they’ll need to play at a higher level than they have the past few games.

“Personally, I don’t look ahead,” he said. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in playoffs, everyone’s got a shot. Everyone’s playing good hockey. You can’t overlook anyone. Obviously, if someone’s dinged up, especially a key player, it gives you a slight advantage. But a lot of the teams that are in the playoffs are really deep.”

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Alex Ovechkin further cemented his place in NHL history, John Carlson stayed hot and Braden Holtby was good when called upon as the Caps downed the Stars, 4-3, at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.

The victory was Washington’s fifth in the past six games. It also marked the Caps’ first win over Dallas in D.C. since 2006.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season and the 602nd of his career in the second period to give the Caps a short-lived 3-2 edge in the second period.

The goal put Ovi back atop the league as he seeks a seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. It also pushed him past Jari Karri and into sole possession of 19th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Ovechkin has now victimized Kari Lehtonen 22 times, which is tied for the most goals he’s scored against a single netminder. (Henrik Lundqvist has also given up 22 goals to No. 8). Ovi also had a couple of secondary helpers.

2-John Carlson, Capitals

Carlson scored the game-winner 4:59 with left to play, blasting a one-timer past Lehtonen to put the Caps ahead 4-3.

Carlson also notched an assist, which allowed him to stay even with Dallas’ John Klingberg. Klingberg had two assists. Both players ended the game with 61 points—tied for the most among all NHL defensemen.    

3-Alexander Radulov, Stars

From his first shift, it was apparent that Radulov was determined to leave his mark on the game. And he did just that, recording a goal, an assist and boarding minor that bloodied Caps defenseman Michal Kempny. Radulov’s goal—a redirection of a John Klingberg shot—was his 26th and it evened the score, 2-2, in the second period.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.