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Ovechkin to the rescue as Caps beat Isles

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Ovechkin to the rescue as Caps beat Isles

He’s probably never tried it, but Alex Ovechkin could probably score goals from a phone booth. That’s about how much space the Capitals’ captain had when Nicklas Backstrom found him in the high slot for his game-winning goal with 2:40 remaining in the Caps’ 3-2 win over the visiting New York Islanders.

“He’s a goal scorer and that’s what we need him to do,” Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said after stopping 24 of 26 shots for his league-leading 31st victory.

“He came through at the right time. That’s the way our team is. Every guy has a role and everyone seems to be doing it. That’s Ovi’s role and he did it tonight.”

Ovechkin rifled a one-timer past Jaroslav Halak before the Islanders goaltender caught sight of it, sending the Verizon Center crowd into a joyous welcome back celebration. It was Ovechkin’s first game back after serving a one-game suspension for sitting out Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game.

“He’s had to be the clutch guy – him and Backy – since he got here,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s not foreign to him and it’s a big weapon for us.”

It’s a weapon that, seconds before, nearly left Oshie on a stretcher.

“He should have scored right before that,” Oshie said. “I got in the way of his shot and it hit me in the leg and that’s why I’ve got to go get ice right now. That’s why I don’t play D.”

Thanks to Ovechkin’s late heroics, the Caps pulled out a victory that seemed to be very much in doubt after they blew a 2-1 lead and allowed the Islanders to tie the score 5:38 into the third period.

“When we’ve been down we go a little harder instead of getting down on ourselves,” said Oshie, who picked up a goal and an assist. “That’s going to be very important going into the post-season, being able to shake off those goals and come back.”

The game was an entertaining one, filled with emotion and big hits (48 of them) and was decided in the final minutes when, 20 seconds after Ovechkin’s go-ahead goal, the Caps were forced to kill a delay-of-game penalty on John Carlson, the final 73 seconds of which was a 6-on-4 disadvantage with Islanders goaltender Jaro Halak pulled for an extra attacker.

The Caps blocked at least three shots on that kill, with Oshie, Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen absorbing three of the Caps’ 33 blocked shots on the night.

“They move the puck pretty well and they got us running around a little bit, me especially,” said Oshie, who finished with four blocks. “Usually, if you’re blocking shots you’re out of positon, but we’ve got guys in this locker room willing to go down and sacrifice the body, which is good.”

When pucks got through, Holtby was able to turn them aside, stopping 11 of 12 shots in the final period.

“I struggled with it in the first period and got lucky,” Holtby said. “But I got better and in the end I thought I was seeing it through traffic. Guys were getting in lanes. Six-on-four is a hard kill and we did a great job, especially up high.”

With the win the Caps remain the only team in the NHL that has not lost back-to-back games in regulation all season. They are 11-1-1 following their 13 losses this season.

“It’s our mentality,” Ovechkin said. “We lose one, we have to bounce back. We’re playing against teams right now that are fighting for the playoffs and they’re going to battle us because if you beat the best team you feel pretty good.”

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."

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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, 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.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

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

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

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS 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.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE