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Caps-Flyers could be a first-round playoff preview

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Caps-Flyers could be a first-round playoff preview

 PHILADELPHIA -- If the season ended today, even if it ended tomorrow, the top-seeded Capitals would play the eighth-seeded Flyers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I think the probability for us playing them is 48 percent. We were told that (Tuesday),” Capitals forward Jay Beagle said as the Caps prepared to face the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center (8 p.m., NBCSN). “So, it’s going to be a hard-fought playoff game. All year we talk about sending a message to our opponents and give them nothing.”

The Caps (54-16-5, 113 points) have won two of their three meetings against the Flyers (37-25-13, 87 points), who are tied with the ninth-seeded Detroit Red Wings in points but hold two games in hand. The Flyers are 11-3-2 in their last 16 games but they admit the Caps will be quite a test.

“It’s not one of the best teams in the league,” Flyers forward Jakub Voracek said of the Capitals, “it is the best team.  Everybody knows that. They play like it. We beat them on the road. There’s no reason we cannot beat them tonight. We’ve just got to make sure we do our things and focus on ourselves. We can beat any team.”

While not everyone agrees that a message can be sent by either team in tonight’s game, they all agree it should be an emotional and physical game. The Flyers rank sixth in the NHL in hits; the Caps rank 11th.

“I think if you go in there and leave a mark psychologically it could have a carryover if we started against them,” Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

Capitals center Mike Richards has been on the other side of a playoff series between the Caps and Flyers. He was a top-line center on the Flyers’ team that ousted the Caps in the first round of the 2008 playoffs on Joffrey Lupul’s overtime goal in Game 7.

“It’s a unique situation with us already having clinched and them battling, so you obviously want to throw your best effort out there and play the way you can,” Richards said. “You don’t want to be limping into the payoffs. You want to hit your stride.”
This will mark Richards’ first game in Philadelphia as a Capital and he says it carries no special meaning to him considering he was traded from Philadelphia five years ago in the deal that sent Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn to the Flyers.

“It will probably be a standard game,” he said. “We’re starting to play a little better and putting more focus on defensive hockey, which is what you need to win in the playoffs. I think everybody is excited to get that started, but we have to use the games we have left to our advantage.”

Alex Ovechkin, who has just two goals in his last 12 games, said he’s always enjoyed playing in Philadelphia. In 40 career games against the Flyers he has 30 goals and 17 assists.

“Tough building to play, obviously,” Ovechkin said. “Fans always support them. It’s a fun building. They’re in a tough situation, fighting for a playoff spot , and it’s good for us. It’s going to be a type pf playoff game.”

With Michael Neuvirth sidelined with a lower body injury, Flyers goaltender Steve Mason is expected to see make his 12th start in 13 games. He’s gone 7-2-2 in his last 11. The Flyers also signed goaltender Ray Emery to a professional tryout contract and could eventually give him a start instead of putting rookie Anthony Stolarz into his first NHL action in the midst of a playoff push.

“It’s a huge game for them,” Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “They’re playing for their playoff lives and that’s a good situation for us to help us get battle ready and get into that mode as well.”

RELATED: Lineup changes possible for Caps vs. Flyers 

  

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Game 61: Capitals at Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 61: Capitals at Panthers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Panthers game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals (34-19-7) take on the Panthers (26-25-6) Tuesday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Florida.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Panthers game 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 Panthers
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Panthers game:

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

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

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, 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.

CAPITALS-PANTHERS 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.

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Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

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Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

GANGNEUNG, South Korea  -- The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey -- finally -- is over.

Even though they needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it.

Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998 at Nagano, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored in the sixth round of the shootout to start the Americans piling over the boards, throwing gloves in the air before huddling and hugging on the ice.

Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel also scored in the shootout. Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied it up with a breakaway with 6:21 left in regulation.

Hilary Knight also had a goal.

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Maddie Rooney made 29 saves for the win against their archrival. The 20-year-old goalie stopped the last two Canadian shooters in the shootout in Brianne Jenner and then Meghan Agosta on her second attempt.

It was sweet redemption for the 10 Americans who watched the Canadians snatch gold from their hands in 2014 at Sochi after tying it up with 54.6 seconds left in regulation and winning 3-2 in overtime.

Not only did the Americans snap the Canadians' stranglehold on Olympic gold, they ended a skid of five straight against their rival coming into this game, including a 2-1 loss to wrap up pool play a week ago.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Haley Irwin each scored goals for Canada. Agosta and Melodie Daoust scored in the shootout.

The Americans had been dominating in non-Olympic years, winning the last four and eight of the last 10 world championships, including a 3-2 overtime victory over Canada last spring.

Their domination on the world stage only made the lack of gold at the Olympics all the more noticeable, and Canada has been in their way since losing the inaugural gold in Nagano. Canada had won 24 straight Olympic games to go along with four consecutive gold medals. It's a streak of success in a women's team sport second only to the United States' basketball team's current streak of six straight gold.

This was the eighth time these North American rivals met in the Olympics and the fifth with gold on the line. None of the previous seven were decided by more than two goals.

U.S. coach Robb Stauber went with the 20-year-old Rooney in net for the biggest game of her career, but she was the goalie for each of the three games the Americans beat Canada last fall during their pre-Olympic exhibition tour, including Four Nations Cup title in November.

Canada had Shannon Szabados, 31, in goal for her third Olympic gold medal game, and her teammates made her job very easy by keeping the puck in front of Rooney for most of the first period by dictating play. The Americans couldn't use their speed or get organized even with two power plays until Sarah Nurse went in the box for interference late in the period.

Knight gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead with 25.4 seconds left in the first, redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin through Szabados' pads giving the Americans a jolt of energy.

That lasted only 2 minutes into the second when Irwin tipped a pass from Blayre Turnbull over Rooney's left leg for Canada. When Morin lost the puck, Melodie Daoust grabbed it and passed to Meghan Agosta who hit Poulin for the wrister into the left side of the net at 6:55 for a 2-1 lead.