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Instant Analysis: Capitals take Game 1 with 2-0 win over Flyers


Instant Analysis: Capitals take Game 1 with 2-0 win over Flyers

The Caps took Game 1 in their series with the Philadelphia Flyers with a 2-0 win in a penalty-filled affair. Here are the details:

How it happened: John Carlson drew first blood in the second period as his slap shot from the blue line was deflected off the stick of Chris Vandevelde and the bouncing puck beat Steve Mason. Braden Holtby did the rest with 19 saves and Jay Beagle put the finishing touch with a late goal in the third.

What it means: After clinching the Presidents' Trophy in March, the Caps have been playing essentially meaningless games for the past two weeks of the season. A lot of the talk surrounding the Caps heading into the postseason was whether they would be able to "flip the switch" in the postseason against a team that has been fighting for its playoff life for much of the season. Those questions were answered Thursday as the Caps came out ready to play and now hold a 1-0 series lead.

Not swallowing the whistles: We usually see fewere penalties in the playoffs, but that as not the case on Thursday as the Caps and Flyers combined for 36 PIMs for the game.

Killer instinct: The Capitals took three penalties in the first period, two by Brooks Orpik, but were able to kill all three to keep the game scoreless. For the game, the Caps were able to kill all four power plays they faced. While everyone knows just how dangerous Washington is on the power play, it can be easy to overlook the penalty kill. The Caps finished the regular season with the second best penalty kill in he NHL with a kill rate of 85.2 percent.


Double trouble: The Caps had their own power play issues when the calls finally stared to go their way. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Sam Gagner was given a double minor on a high-sticking penalty to Brooks Orpik. The Caps were unable to extend their lead despite the four minutes of power play time. For the game, the Caps went only 1 for 6 on the power play.

Holtbeast: Holtby entered the game with the best save percentage in playoff history (.936) and he was as good as advertised with Thursday with 19 saves for the shutout.

Injury scare for Philly: Playoff series can take their toll and it may already have for the Flyers. Philadelphia forward Sean Couturier took a heavy hit from Alex Ovechkin along the boards in the second period and came up favoring his left arm/shoulder. He immediately went to the locker room and did not return. According to the Flyers, he will be re-evaluated tomorrow for an "upper-body injury."

What's next: The Caps will look to extend their lead to two games and maintain home-ice advantage on Saturday as the two teams return to Verizon Center for Game 2. The puck drops at 7 p.m.

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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.


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.