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How 'Stick' netted trick in Caps' big win over Rangers

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How 'Stick' netted trick in Caps' big win over Rangers

The Capitals would never tell you they signed Justin Williams as a free agent for the sole purpose of beating the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup playoffs, even though they were eliminated by them in seven games in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

They’d probably tell you his perfect 7-0 career record in Game 7s was a bigger reason, along with his leadership, tenacity and ability to make the right play at precisely the right time.

But after seeing him record his second career hat trick in Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Rangers at Verizon Center, let’s just say it: Mr. Game 7 is also Mr. Ranger-killer.

In four games against the Rangers this season – the last three of them victories – Williams has six goals and three assists, bringing his career totals to 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points in 31 games against the Rangers.

“Things have just kind of worked out that way,” Williams said. “I love playing at MSG. I think it’s one of the best arenas in the league and I always get jacked up when I play there.

“We’re a very proud team and we’re not used to losing and we don’t like it. We’re playing a rival. You throw a stinker in there (a 4-1 loss in Buffalo Saturday night) and you want to redeem yourself and luckily for us we were able to do it the next night.”

The Caps’ win over the Rangers extended their home winning streak to 12 games (18-3-1 overall at Verizon Center) and extended their lead over the Rangers to 18 points in the Metro Division standings.

More importantly, it erased the bitter taste of Saturday night’s 4-1 loss in Buffalo and improved their record following losses to 10-0-1.

MORE CAPITALS: A BACKUP YOU CAN RELY ON

“We were engaged; we were heavier,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “We weren’t playing shinny. We were playing for keeps.”

Trotz said a lot of that will to win comes from Williams, who has the distinction of having a better points per game average in the playoffs (0.68) than he does in the regular season (0.63).

“He is a gamer,” Trotz said. “I mean, I get it. It’s hard to explain to everybody else, but he engages a team on the bench, in the dressing room. As a coach, it brings a smile to your face because he gets people involved and makes them think hockey and think in the moment when they don’t even realize it.

“I see why he’s won everywhere he’s gone and I’m seeing that in Mike Richards, too. Those are huge elements and other guys notice it, too. They’re leading by example.”  

Maybe that’s why Caps defenseman Taylor Chorney said he was willing to give up what would have been his first NHL goal in nearly five years to Williams, who got his stick on Chorney’s point shot for his first goal of the night.

“For sure,” Chorney said. “Especially for a guy like ‘Stick.’”

So how did Williams get the nickname “Stick?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “We came up with something because there’s already a Willy (Tom Wilson) here and I didn’t want to take it. It’s slowly become ‘Stick’ and it’s slowly sticking, no pun intended.”

Actually, Williams acknowledged he was first given the nickname of “Stick” in Los Angeles because the Kings’ Willie Mitchell had a real first name for his nickname. (Some expert Twitter work from Kings reporters Lisa Dillman and Rich Hammond confirmed Dustin Brown gave Williams the nickname “Stick.”)     

Whether you call him “Stick,” “Willy,” “Mr. Game 7” or “Mr. Range-killer,” Williams credited linemates Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov, each with two assists, for his big night.

“It’s pretty easy with linemates like that,” he said. “Sometimes you just go to the net with your stick on the ice and somehow they find you.”

Or your stick.

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

RELATED: TRADE DEADLINE STORY TIME WITH ALAN MAY

Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

MORE CAPITALS: IS IT TIME FOR GRUBAUER TO START IN PLACE OF HOLTBY?

For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Brett Connolly - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Chandler Stephenson - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Michal Kempny

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.