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Holtby stands tall as Caps top Blackhawks 4-1


Holtby stands tall as Caps top Blackhawks 4-1

How it happened: T.J. Oshie scored his first goal in a Capitals uniform on a power-play snap shot in the first period, John Carlson netted his first of the season on a second-period spin-and-shoot and Matt Niskanen gave the Caps a three-goal lead early in the period. But it was the work of Braden Holtby that stood out in the Caps’ second win of the season. He made 22 of his 26 saves in the opening 40 minutes, including four by Teuvo Teravainen, to earn the victory. Alex Ovechkin finished off the Hawks on a beautiful give-and-give-and-go with Evgeny Kuznetsov.   

What it means: The Caps bounced back nicely from their 5-0 loss to San Jose on Tuesday, playing a much simpler game of chip and chase. They closed within one point of the second-place Flyers in the Metro.

Crashing the net: Barry Trotz asked the Capitals to simplify their game and funnel pucks to the net and they did just that against the Blackhawks. Marcus Johansson took it to another level, funneling himself to the net to provide screens on goals by Oshie and Carlson. Johansson also picked up an assist on Niskanen’s third-period goal.

Free Willy: Tom Wilson set the tone in a hard-hitting first period when he lowered his shoulder on Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. Alex Ovechkin followed with an open-ice hit on Artem Anisimov and Chicago center Andrew Shaw got into the act by dropping Caps defenseman Taylor Chorney behind the Caps net.

Kuzy’s 100th: Evgeny Kuznetsov played in his 100th game for the Caps.

Fourth line: Chandler Stephenson made his NHL debut on a fourth line with left wing Brooks laich and right wing Stan Galiev, who picked up his first NHL assist on Carlson’s goal.

What’s next: The Caps are expected to practice at 11:30 on Friday at Kettler. They close out their four-game homestand against the 0-3-0 Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday at 7 p.m.

[RELATED: Trotz sends urgent message with lineup changes]

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

USA Today Sports

NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.

The Caps still hold a narrow lead in the standings, but where do they stand in the rankings? See this week's updated NHL Power Rankings here.

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3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia


3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia

Playing three games in four days takes a toll on even the fittest athletes, and it was their sluggish start that doomed the Capitals in a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

After being noncomittal about his starting goalie all weekend, Coach Barry Trotz put Philipp Grubauer in net. Grubauer ended up making 29 saves on 34 shots. Offensively, the Caps got goals from Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, and John Carlson. Carlson's third period goal cut the Flyers' lead to two with a little over three minutes to go, but a Jakub Voracek empty-netter a few moments later was the nail in the coffin. 

Here are your three stars from the game: 

1. Travis Boyd had the play of the game for the Capitals. Boyd carried the puck into the Flyer's zone, cut through multiple defenders and fired a slick shot to a streaking Ovechkin, who burried the puck in the back of the net. Check it out: 

Not only was the play nice on its own, but it was Boyd's first NHL point. Not a bad way to get it. 

2. Shayne Gostisbehere​ got the Flyers going with his goal in the first period. The defenseman had one goal on five shots along with being an intimidating force in the defensive zone. After going six weeks without scoring, today's goal was Gostisbehere's second goal in three games. 

3. Wayne Simmonds was the best offensive player on the ice on Sunday, scoring twice - both in the final period. It was the 22nd and 23rd goals of the season for the 29-year-old winger. It was also the first multi-goal game for Simmonds since Opening Night, when he had two against San Jose. 

The Caps hit the ice next on Tuesday, when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Capital One Center.