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Niskanen gives Caps third straight win


Niskanen gives Caps third straight win

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at Verizon Center:

How it happened: Matt Niskanen morphed into Bobby Orr, going ended to end and weaving through four Flyers en route to beating goaltender Steve Mason and a tie score 5:54 into the third period. Niskanen entered the game with just two goals on 91 shots. The Caps fell behind early on a goal by Michael Del Zotto but grabbed a 2-1 lead on goals by Alex Ovechkin, his 30th, and Dmitry Orlov, his fifth. The Flyers pulled even at 2-2 just 51 seconds into the third period when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare beat T.J. Oshie cleanly on a faceoff and defenseman Nick  Schultz hammered a shot past a screened Braden Holtby.

What it means: The Caps increased their Metro Division lead over the Rangers to 17 points and have won three straight following a two-game losing streak.  The Flyers remained four points out of a playoff spot and fell to 1-2-0 against the Caps this season. The Caps also improved to 16-8-2 on Super Bowl Sundays, 16-7-1 at home. 

Chasing history: Alex Ovechkin’s second-period goal, which came on a net-front deflection of a Karl Alzner point shot, gave him 30 goals for the 11th time in his NHL career. Only two other NHL players have begun their careers with 11 straight seasons of 30 or more goals. Mike Gartner did it 15 straight seasons with four different teams. Wayne Gretzky did it in his first 13 NHL seasons. Ovechkin also moved within two goals of Chicago’s Patrick Kane in pursuit of his sixth Rocket Richard trophy.

Chasing Marty: Caps goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 33 shots to improve his NHL-best record to 33-5-3. He also improved to 3-0-0 on the back end of back-to-back games, allowing two goals in each of those three victories. Holtby is three wins ahead of the pace Marty Brodeur was on when he broke Bernie Parent’s NHL record with 48 wins in 2006-07. Holtby is 25-1-3 in his last 29 decisions and is on pace for 52 wins.    

Chasing 100: Karl Alzner and Evgeny Kuznetsov each picked up their 99th career point with assists. Alzner’s came in his 478th career game. Kuznetsov’s came in his 148th game. So who would get to keep the puck if one passes to the other for their 100th NHL points?

Power outage: The Caps went 0-for-2 on the power play and are now in an 0-for-17 funk over their past five games. The last time they went six games without a power-play goal was in the second round of last year’s playoff loss to the Rangers.  

Injury update: Brooks Orpik (lower body) missed his 37th straight game and Marcus Johansson missed his fourth straight. Both are expected to join the Caps on their three-game road trip next week. Jay Beagle is hoping to return to practice when the Caps return to Kettler on Feb. 15.  

What’s next: The Caps will use Monday as a travel day to Nashville, where they’ll begin a three-game road trip Tuesday night against the Predators. They’ll follow with a practice in Minnesota on Wednesday, a game against the Wild on Thursday and a visit to Dallas on Saturday. They return home to face the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 16.      

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby: 'The only stat I care about is wins'

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

NBC Sports Washington

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.