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Caps take Game 1 behind T.J. Oshie's hat trick, OT game-winner

Caps take Game 1 behind T.J. Oshie's hat trick, OT game-winner

Before Thursday night T.J. Oshie never had the chance to savor a playoff goal. That’s because his teams were a combined 0-5 when he scored in the post-season.

But not on Thursday night. Oshie scored the game-tying goal with 7:50 remaining in the second period, the go-ahead goal 3:23 into the third and the game-winner 9:33 into overtime to give the Capitals a pulsating and wildly entertaining 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

How it happened: The Penguins buzzed Braden Holtby for the first 5 minutes of the game but the Caps opened the scoring midway through the first period on Andre Burakovsky’s first goal of the postseason. Burakovsky fed Jason Chimera in the slot and followed up Chimera’s rebound, lifting the puck over Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray. It stayed 1-0 until the Penguins answered with goals from Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin just 57 seconds apart midway through the second period. Lovejoy put a Nick Bonino rebound past Braden Holtby for his first goal of the playoffs and Malkin gave the Pens a 2-1 lead when he roofed a backhander over Holtby and under the crossbar.

Oshie answered with his first of two goals, hustling to a loose puck and beating Murray gloveside for his first goal of the game and second of the series, sending the two teams into the second intermission locked in a 2-2 tie. Oshie gave the Caps the lead 3:23 into the third period when he grabbed an Alex Ovechkin blocked shot and backhanded a shot past Murray for a 3-2 lead.  The Penguins came right back to tie when Nick Bonino took a centering pass from Carl Hagelin and snapped a shot that seemed to change direction at least once, if not twice, on Holtby. Burakovsky appeared to get a piece of Bonino’s stick from behind and the shot appeared to glance off Nate Schmidt’s right skate.  

Oshie won it when he pushed a wraparound attempt off the outstretched right pad of Murray just over the goal line. A video replay showed the puck just made it over the goal line before Murray pulled it back. Hats littered the ice as Oshie was mobbed by his teammates following his first post-season hat trick.

What it means: All eight teams that won their series openers in Round 1 went on to win their respective series.  

Let’s rumble: Caps coach Barry Trotz seemed to want his fourth line of center Jay Beagle and wingers Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson to play against the Penguins’ forward line of center Evgeni Malkin and wingers Chris Kunitz and Eric Fehr and the matchup turned into a holy war, with Wilson drilling Malkin at every opportunity. The Beagle line dominated several shifts with tenacious forechecks.

Hockey hilarity: Jay Beagle was involved with two of the night’s most humorous moments. Late in the second period Ian Cole’s stick somehow got lodged between Beagle’s chin strap and his visor and Beagle spent half of his shift looking like he’d been shot by an arrow. Early in the third period, Beagle got tripped by Phil Kessel and couldn’t pry Kessel’s stick out of the blade of his skate. 

No Selke for Backy: Despite nine months of campaigning by Caps coach Barry Trotz, Nicklas Backstrom was not among the Selke finalists announced by the NHL Thursday night. 

Anze Kopitar of the Kings, Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins and Ryan Kesler of the Ducks are the finalists for the award, given annually to the NHL’s top defensive forward.

Asked on Thursday morning for his candidate, Trotz responded, “No. 19, for sure. Absolutely I’m a big fan of that. People are starting to notice how good he is at both ends of the ice. There are some great players in the league -- guys like Kesler and Bergeron and guys like that. But Backy’s on everybody’s radar too and I think he deserves (consideration).”

What’s ahead: With Justin Bieber occupying Verizon Center on Friday the Caps and Penguins will both practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington.


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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.