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Sweden survives late scare from Alexander Ovechkin at the World Cup of Hockey

Sweden survives late scare from Alexander Ovechkin at the World Cup of Hockey

TORONTO—Alex Ovechkin was a frustrated man for the first 59 minutes of Sunday’s World Cup opener against Sweden.

Russia’s captain had been to the penalty box twice. Open ice had been hard to find. Quality scoring chances were equally as scarce.

Then, in the span of a few seconds, the Capitals’ sniper almost singlehandedly willed Russia to overtime.

With 33 seconds remaining and the goalie pulled, Ovechkin scored a goal Nicklas Backstrom called a “typical Ovechkin goal” to pull Russia to withing one tally. Twenty-six seconds after that, Ovechkin was celebrating what he believed to be the game-tying goal.

Just one problem: the puck he gloved down at the side of the net did not touch his stick on its way past goalie Jacob Markstrom, and Sweden escaped with a 2-1 win on a afternoon they had controlled for long stretches.

The ruling on the ice had been no goal and video review supported the call.

“We saw from the bench that it touched his hand, so we weren’t too nervous,” Backstrom said. “At the same tim,e I feel like those kind of scenarios happen all the time when you’re down a goal.”

Ovechkin remained unconvinced.    

“I thought I touched it,” he said. “To be honest with you I didn’t see the replay. But I feel the touch. I don’t know if it was the puck or the stick. But I definitely feel the touch on my hand [and] on my stick. It doesn’t matter right now. It’s over, so we have to forget about it and move forward.” 

Indeed, with Team North America looming Monday night, Ovechkin and his teammates do not have any time to dwell on Russia’s first loss to Sweden since the 2004 World Championship. But they do have much to fix after Tre Kronor showed the other seven teams how to beat them.

“Obviously I think they don’t give us any room in the first two periods and we played their way,” Ovechkin said. “We just don’t have speed through the neutral zone. Or if we have speed, we don’t have support. So we’re trying to be one-on-one and we see it’s not going to work. I think [the] situation is going to be changing. You can see how we play in the third period. Obviously, we score only one goal in the last minute. But I think the chances was there.”

Asked about Sweden’s defensive structure, Ovechkin added: “They play this way. Sometimes you just have to fight through it and don’t go around—you have to go through it. It’s a learning process. The tournament is just beginning.”

Backstrom, meantime, was pleased by Sweden’s response to Sunday’s lopsided loss to Team Europe in the final pre-tournament game.

“As a team we played better defensively and kind of kept them on the outside, I felt like,” he said. “Even if they’re a talented team, I thought we kept them on the outside and we didn’t allow them too many scoring chances.”

Indeed, it proved to be the perfect game plan for containing Ovechkin and Russia’s skilled forwards, who mustered just a handful of quality chances against Markstrom, who started in place of an ill Henrik Lundqvist. Marsktrom stopped 27 shots.

“Marky was ready to step up, and he had a great game,” Backstrom said.

After an intense but scoreless first period, Sweden seized control midway through the second period on markers from Gabriel Landeskog and Victor Hedman, who were scored just 2:11 apart.

For the four Capitals in the game—Ovechkin, Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov—Sunday proved to be a mixed bag.

The good: Ovechkin’s determination in the final minute and Backstrom’s secondary assist on Landeskog’s power play goal. Orlov also had an active night, accumulating four shots on net, three blocked shots and two hits in 19:43.

The bad: Ovechkin’s penalties for embellishment and slashing, Backstrom’s hooking infraction and Orlov’s penalty for flipping the puck over the glass. Backstrom also had a rough day in the faceoff dot, winning only seven of 21 draws. Kuznetsov failed to register a shot on goal in 13:43.

One of Ovechkin’s four hits is also worth a mention. In the first period, he took a run at Backstrom along the end boards. Backstrom ducked the brunt of the hit, but Ovechkin also sent his Washington teammate into the net with a cross check after they tangled along the boards.

But it was Backtrom who got the last laugh.

“It’s alright,” he said. “I was just happy we won. It’s a maybe little bit different than normal. We all know he’s a big guy, too. He’s playing physical. But, yeah, it feels a lot better to win than lose.”

Backstrom added: “It’s a huge win, especially against a good team like Russia. The start is the key in small tournaments like this. We’re happy about it.”

MORE CAPITALS: T.J. Oshie responds to sharp criticism

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Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 73 Capitals vs. Stars Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Dallas Stars

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Stars will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

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


The Capitals (41-24-7) take on the Stars (38-27-8) Tuesday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.


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

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Stars
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Islanders game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny - Jakub Jerabek

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Brooks Orpik (lower body injury)


The Capitals-Flyers game, 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.


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.

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Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?


Can Pittsburgh's past be a goalie rotation blueprint?

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”