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Caps rediscover scoring touch on the power play in Game 5 win

Caps rediscover scoring touch on the power play in Game 5 win

With their backs against the wall, the Washington Capitals finally fought back in a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. They did it in large part by reviving a power play that had been kept largely in check for much of the series.

The Caps finished the regular season with the fifth best power play in the league with a success rate of 21.9 percent. It also played a major factor in their first round victory over the Philadelphia Flyers as Washington struck eight times in the first three games with the man advantage, helping the Caps take a 3-0 series lead.

But the power play was largely absent against the Penguins with only one goal heading into Game 5. Then early in the first period on Saturday, it re-emerged.

"We were able to do some things against them and getting the power play goals gives a little bit of confidence in that," Trotz said.

The Caps managed two power play tallies on that night and both proved critical as it allowed the team both to open the scoring and then retake the lead. The difference seemed to be anticipating what the Penguins' penalty killers were going to do rather than just running the power play as usual.

"I thought for the most part we kept the puck out of their pressure and when you do that eventually someone's going to get open," T.J. Oshie said.


The first goal was a vintage Alex Ovechkin one-timer.

Off the face off, Carlson fired a slapshot that was blocked by Ian Cole. Three Penguins collapsed to the middle after the loose puck, but Oshie was able to tip it Nicklas Backstrom along the wall.

"[The Penguins] do a good job collapsing, shrinking and getting on loose pucks," Carlson said and the Caps used that to their advantage.

The extra room gave Backstrom a chance to set up Ovechkin with a cross-ice pass for a blistering one-timer. Penguins goalie Matt Murray, who has looked phenomenal throughout the series, was made to look helpless by the shot, feebly reaching with the glove as the puck hit the roof of the net.

"That first goal," Trotz said, "Lucky there's boards and glass because that thing was moving."

With the score tied at one in the second period, the Caps again struck on the power play set up by another Ovechkin one-timer. This time Murray was ready and he slid over to make the intial save. He was unable to control the rebound, however, and it bounced right to T.J. Oshie who was able to whack it out of the air and into the net.

The two tallies seemed to flip the script on the series. A Caps team that had managed only one power play goal suddenly had two on the night. Ovechkin, who had been held largely in check with only three points in the series, had two points in the game.

And a Caps team that could not afford to have a bad start and allow doubt to creep into their minds found themselves with an early 1-0 lead, all because the team got its scoring touch back on the power play.

"It just gives you a spark," Oshie said. "It gives you a spark to start the game and whatever mentally that does for the other team, it's beneficial for us."

Perhaps most importantly, it gave truth to what Trotz has preached ever since the team returned from Pittsburgh down 3-1: That despite the score in the series, the Caps have played well, that the bounces will start to go their way and they will be able to turn the series around if they just continue sticking to the gameplan.

Said Trotz, "You keep telling guys to do the same thing, you're doing the right things and all you want is to get rewarded."

On Saturday, the Caps finally were.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings