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Sunday showdown: Caps, Jackets clash with a lot on the line

Sunday showdown: Caps, Jackets clash with a lot on the line

On Sunday evening, the Caps will face the Blue Jackets in the most important game of the season for both teams.

Washington owns a four-point lead on Columbus in the race for the Metropolitan Division title.

With a win in regulation, Alex Ovechkin and Co. can gain some welcome separation with four games left to play. A Blue Jackets’ triumph in regulation, on the other hand, could make things much more interesting by cutting the Caps’ edge in half. Columbus will also have four games remaining after Sunday’s showdown at Nationwide Arena.

Finishing atop the Metro figures to ensure a more favorable path forward when the playoffs begin later this month.

If the playoffs began Sunday, the Capitals would open the first round on F Street against the Bruins, who are surging but have collected 20 fewer points. Columbus’ path, meanwhile, would begin against Sidney Crosby and the defending champion Penguins. A Blue Jackets-Penguins matchup would also send one of the Eastern Conference’s top three teams home after just one round.

“You should be happy you’re playing big games this time of year,” veteran winger Justin Williams said. “And Columbus is a big one.”

For the Caps, the trip to Columbus also represents a chance to rebound following one of their more disappointing performances of the season, a 6-3 loss to the Coyotes in the desert late Friday night.  

Making that defeat sting even more was the fact that the Caps missed out on a major opportunity. Prior to losing to the NHL’s 29th place team, the Blue Jackets had fallen to the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks in Chicago.

“What’s more disappointing,” winger Daniel Winnik said, “is you do some scoreboard watching and you see [the Blue Jackets] lose to Chicago. So it really would have put us in a better position going into Sunday’s game.”

Coach Barry Trotz added:  “We’ve been working all year to try to get some separation, and we had an opportunity and we let it slip away.”

The Caps took Saturday off as they made their way to Columbus for the fourth leg of a five-game road trip.

So far, Washington is 2-1-0 on the trip, having earned victories in Minnesota (in overtime) and Colorado before losing to the Coyotes. In those three games, the normally stingy Caps have allowed a total of 13 goals.  

Overall, they are 7-1-1 in their last nine games. After Columbus, the schedule wraps up with games at the Maple Leafs, vs. the Rangers, at the Bruins and vs. the Panthers.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are 2-2-2 in their last six contests and are in the midst of an offensive downturn. They’ve scored just nine goals during that six-game span and haven’t registered a power play goal in nine games. Columbus’ season concludes with games at Pittsburgh, vs. Winnipeg, at Philadelphia and at Toronto.

Sunday represents the fifth and final meeting between the Caps and Jackets. Washington is 2-1-1 in the four prior meetings, including a 2-1 shootout win in the teams’ most recent meeting on March 23.

“It’s just a big game,” Winnik said of the pivotal matchup. “Probably the most important one of the year.”  

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Tarik's 3 Stars: Wilson and Backstrom shine in Caps 3rd straight win

Tarik's 3 Stars: Wilson and Backstrom shine in Caps 3rd straight win

Tom Wilson scored twice, Nicklas Backstrom recorded four helpers and the assistant coaches chipped in with a big assist in Montreal, where the Caps earned a 6-4 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday night.

The win was Washington’s third in a row and seventh in eight games as they close in on another Metro Division title. Caps Coach Barry Trotz, meantime, claimed victory No. 200 in Washington; his next win will equal Bruce Boudreau for second all-time in franchise history.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Tom Wilson, Capitals

Wilson’s all-around game continues to blossom…and the Caps’ big winger continues to fill up the scoresheet. At Bell Centre, he scored back-to-back goals less than four minutes apart in the first period to put the Caps in command. Wilson also missed an empty net in the closing seconds by just a few inches. The soon-to-be 24-year-old now has 13 goals—six more than his previous career high.  

2-Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals

Backstrom notched four assists and, as usual, he did it quietly. And they weren’t cheapies—three of the four helpers were of the primary variety. Backstrom, who has four goals and 12 assists in his last 12 games, has now notched four or more points 20 times in his career. It was also his 11th-career four assist game.

3-Leonhardt and Ohashi, Capitals

That’s right, I’m giving the third star to assistant coaches Brett ‘Stretch’ Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi. They quickly spotted that the Habs were offside on their second goal. And, after a coach’s challenge, the refs agreed. Instead of 2-0, it remained 1-0 and the Caps took full advantage of their second chance, scoring the game’s next four goals.

Agree? Disagree? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

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


The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.


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

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


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.