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Caps lose an OT heartbreaker in Game 4

Caps lose an OT heartbreaker in Game 4

PITTSBURGH – Veteran defenseman Mike Weber was inserted into the Capitals lineup Wednesday night for his defensive prowess and physicality. But with the game on the line and the puck in his skates, Weber inadvertently shoved the puck to Patric Hornqvist at the most inopportune time.

Hornqvist fired the puck past Caps goaltender Braden Holtby just 2:34 into overtime, giving the Penguins a dramatic 3-2 win and a commanding 3-1 series lead on the Capitals.

Game 5 will be played Saturday night at Verizon Cernter. 

How it happened: The Capitals got on the board first just 2:58 into the game when Tom Wilson dumped the puck into the offensive zone and Jay Beagle grabbed it and roofed a backhander over Matt Murray for his third goal of the playoffs.  The Caps entered the game with an all-time record of 27-2-5 when Beagle scores (2-0 in the playoffs) and were 18-0-1 when Wilson recorded a point in the regular season. But that didn’t stop the Penguins from taking a 2-1 lead on goals by Trevor Daley and Matt Cullen. Daley scored his first goal of the playoffs 9:16 into the opening period when his shot bounced off Karl Alzner and under Braden Holtby. Penguins center Matt Cullen opened the second period by stripping Nicklas Backstrom on a faceoff and beating him down the ice, sliding the puck between the pads of Holtby for a go-ahead breakaway goal at the 3:07 mark. The Penguins failed on three power-play opportunities and the Caps whiffed on two of their own in the opening 40 minutes before John Carlson scored his fourth goal of the playoffs on a hard-working play by Justin Williams, who stripped defenseman Derrick Pouliot and fed Carlson for a roof shot over Murray with 3:41 to play in the second period.


Change in strategy: After seeing Alex Ovechkin rip off 18 shot attempts and deliver nine hits against the Sidney Crosby line in Game 3, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went a different route, using the Penguins’ bottom two lines against the line of Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Ovechkin. Matt Cullen’s line with wingers Tom Kuhnhackl and Oskar Sundqvist drew most of the assignments on the Ovechkin line and the 39-year-old Cullen did a masterful job, scoring his third goal of the playoffs to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead early in the second period.

Slash on Crosby: Seven years to the day since their dueling hat tricks in the 2009 playoffs, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin went at it again, only with a more physical edge this time. Crosby left the game in a fit of frustration early in the third period after taking a slash to the hand from Ovechkin, slamming his stick on a wall down the tunnel, but returned a few minutes later.  

Lineup changes: Caps defenseman Mike Weber returned to the lineup and played on a third pairing with Taylor Chorney. That meant a promotion for Dmitry Orlov, who played on a second unit with John Carlson.

For the Pens, defenseman Justin Schultz went into the lineup for the suspended Kris Letang and played on a third defense pairing with Ian Cole. Brian Domoulin took Letang’s spot on a top pairing with Trevor Daley, while Ben Lovejoy moved from the third D pairing to the second alongside Derrick Pouliot. Up front, Eric Fehr (undisclosed injury) missed his first game of the playoffs and was replaced by Oskar Sundqvist, who played on a fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnhackl. Bryan Rust played in Game 4 for the Penguins despite walking with a severe limp at the morning skate, lining up alongside Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz. That meant enforcer Tom Sestito remained a healthy scratch.

Look ahead: With two day off before they play again on Saturday night at 7:15, the Capitals and Penguins are scheduled to take Thursday off as a recovery day, then resume practice on Friday. Brooks Orpik has one more game remaining on his three-game suspension.


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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.