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Controversial goal proves the difference as Caps fall to Chicago

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Controversial goal proves the difference as Caps fall to Chicago

The Caps were locked in a tight one with the Chicago, but ultimately fell to the Blackhawks 3-2. Here is the postgame analysis:

How it happened: The Caps led for only 31 seconds in the first period before Chicago took over. The Blackhawks took the 2-1 lead in the second period thanks to a power play goal from Jonathan Toews while Dennis Rasmussen added a controversial insurance tally in the third (more on that later). The Caps rallied to make it 3-2 on a two-man advantage, but could climb no closer.

What it means: The Caps and Blackhawks have split their season series with each team winning once at home. Chicago, however, was without some of its new additions with Christian Ehrhoff and Dale Wiese not in the lineup. Andrew Ladd, who was acquired by the Blackhawks on Thursday in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets, had one assist. The Caps may not do anything at the trade deadline, but if general manager Brian MacLellan was looking for a reason to make another move, this loss to one of the major Cup contenders in the West could be it.

A controversial finish: Rasmussen's game-winning goal came in controversial fashion as the Caps believed the play should have been whistled dead for icing. Nate Schmidt appeared to beat Richard Panik to the faceoff circle and to the red line, but the linesman did not agree, allowing the play to continue. Expecting a whistle, the Capitals players stopped. Panik then took advantage, kicking the puck to a wide-open Rasmussen in front of the net. The goal would prove to be the game-winner.

Strong start: Marcus Johansson's power play tally in the first period snapped a seven-game streak in which the Caps have yielded the game's first goal. The lead was short-lived, however, as Patrick Kane scored just 31 seconds later to tie the game at one.

A headache for Johansson: Johansson took an elbow to the head from Toews in the third period. The play looked inadvertent as Toews was battling for position, but Johansson had to be looked at by the trainer. He did return later in the period, however.

Scoring race: With his goal, Kane pulled one closer to Alex Ovechkin in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy. Ovechkin came into Sunday's game with a five-goal over the second-place Kane (40 to 35).

What's next: The Caps return home for a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. While Sunday's game looked like a Finals preview, Tuesday's game could prove to be another playoff preview with Pittsburgh currently sitting in the last wildcard spot which would mean a first round matchup with Washington.

RELATED: Despite his uncertain role, Weber excited to be in Washington

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.