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Spare defenseman Taylor Chorney pushes the Caps past the Senators

Spare defenseman Taylor Chorney pushes the Caps past the Senators

As the Capitals’ spare defenseman, Taylor Chorney doesn’t get to play very often. In fact, Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Senators was just his seventh appearance of the season.

Which is exactly what made his third period goal—the game winner—so sweet for Chorney, his teammates and the coaching staff.

“Guys were cheering,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We were all happy for him. There’s certain things guys do very well—scoring for Taylor is probably not one of them. So when he does get one, it’s special for everybody.”

Indeed, the goal was Chorney’s first since March 2, 2016, his second in 62 games as a member of the Caps and just his third in 130 career contests. Of those three goals, two are game winners.  

And Chorney couldn’t have picked a better time to deliver another one.

RELATED: Defense comes up big on both ends in win over Senators

Locked in a 1-1 battle, he took a pass from defensive partner Brooks Orpik less than three minutes into the final frame and fired the puck past Ottawa goalie Mike Condon to give the Caps a lead they would not relinquish.

Afterward, fellow defenseman Karl Alzner, who scored the Caps’ first goal, revealed that Chorney had called his own shot as the team returned to the ice for the start of the third period.  

“I was just joking,” Corney said of telling his teammates that he felt a game-winner coming. “I wasn’t expecting to score, but I did. When we walked out, I said, ‘It would be nice to get the first of the year on a game-winner.’ It just worked out.”

Like everyone else in the dressing room, Alzner was excited to see the puck go in for team and, just as important, for Chorney.

“More than happy,” Alzner said. “Chore is unique. It’s a super-hard position to be in. He doesn’t get to play a whole lot. Every single game he’s played he’s been not just good, he’s been great. And he still comes out of the lineup just because of the way the team is built. He always has a smile and he’s always working hard. It’s nice to see him get rewarded.”

Chorney said the play that led to the goal is something the Caps have been working on in practice lately.

“We’ve been working on getting into that look where we get it up at the top and go D-to-D and get into a flank look,” he said. “Brooksie put it in a good spot and I just shot it. There was a bunch of traffic and it went in.”

Trotz doesn’t often change a winning lineup. But he opted to insert Chorney over Nate Schmidt, despite the Caps’ 6-2 win in New Jersey on Saturday.

Why?

“Every day he comes to work,” Trotz said. Trotz also knows that he needs to keep Chorney sharp, just in case injuries strike.

“That’s how we think about our team—everybody is an important piece,” the coach added. “Even Chore, who’s not always in the lineup, he comes in as a true pro, works his butt off every day, doesn’t complain, gets in the lineup and contributes. That’s what you look for. And that’s why the guys love him. That’s why a guy like Taylor Chorney is so valuable to your hockey team. He comes in a does a real good job, and he’s done it all year.”

The goals by Chorney and Alzner marked the sixth and seventh by the Caps’ defensive corps over the past 11 games. While that’s still behind last year’s pace, the group is steadily closing the gap.

And for a Caps’ team that still isn’t scoring as much as it should, getting contributions from the backend is a welcome sign.   

“It’s huge,” Trotz said. “Tonight, two guys that don’t score a lot of goals were the difference.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz discusses Vrana's demotion, bringin in a 13th forward

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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.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

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.