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Updates on Schmidt, Winnik's debut and third-period dominance

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Updates on Schmidt, Winnik's debut and third-period dominance

News, notes and quotes as the Capitals catch their collective breath with a day off, followed by Friday night’s home game against the New York Rangers and Saturday night’s visit to Boston:

Schmidt update: Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt sat out Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs after blocking a shot the previous night against the Penguins. The injury is not considered serious, but coach Barry Trotz said he’ll provide an update on Friday. “I’m sure if it was something very permanent I would know that,” Trotz said, “and I don’t know anything right now.”

Comeback kids: The Capitals blew an early 2-0 lead to the Leafs and were outshot 22-12 through two periods, but they awoke in the third period, outshooting Toronto 11-7 and scoring the game-winning goal on a power-play goal by Matt Niskanen.

The Caps have won two straight, three of their last four and are 12-3-0 in their last 15.

“We’ve been winning,” said T.J. Oshie, who assisted on all three goals Wednesday night, “but it really does feel like we’ve been in a little bit of a lull. So we’re fortunate when we’re playing like that we’re able to steal some points from some teams. Hopefully, we can grab this ourselves and not have to lose a couple games to really put our foot back on the gas and get to where we want to be.”

Trotz said it’s hard for him to get too upset with his players because they are finding ways to win games. The Caps have outscored opponents in the third period 83-50 this season. That plus-33 goal differential is tops in the NHL.

“When the game’s on the line guys dig in at the right moment,” Trotz said. “I give the players a lot of credit there. I might get frustrated back there sometimes and the fans can get frustrated, but when the game’s on the line they kicked it up.

“We needed a goal there on the power play and they kicked it up.  When we needed some commitment towards the end we did that. We managed the puck when we had the lead. The one thing that has been common is when it’s on the line guys pay the price and that’s a credit to them.”

RELATED: Trotz says it's 'awkward' passing Ron Wilson

Backy: Nicklas Backstrom’s soft-handed assist on Alex Ovechkin’s 41st goal extended his assist streak to four games (6 assists). He has 28 points in his last 27 games (7 goals, 21 assists). He also won 15 of 18 faceoffs against the Leafs.

Puck Daddy: Taylor Chorney said he will give his 3-day-old son Turner the puck from his first goal as a Capital. It was also his first NHL goal since Feb. 15, 2011.

Grubi dooby doo: Philipp Grubauer stopped 27 of 29 shots to earn his seventh win of the season. He has posted a 1.72 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage in his last eight appearances.

Win-nick: Overshadowed by Brooks Laich’s emotional return to Washington, Daniel Winnik logged 13:09 of ice time in his Capitals debut, including 2:07 on the penalty kill, where he worked alongside forward Jay Beagle. Winnik was credited with one shot, three hits and one takeaway.

“It was a little easier playing Toronto because I know how they play and used my hockey sense,” Winnik said. “I thought we (he and Beagle) did a good job. They had a couple shots, but nothing serious and no damage.”

Trotz said he liked his fourth line of Winnik alongside Mike Richards (14:11) and Beagle (13:52).

“The great thing about that line is it gives you a sense of comfort,” Trotz said. “You come out of a power play and you can put them out there. They’ve all been in those situations. You can put them on a top line and say, ‘You’re checking them all night.’”

Ovi watch: Alex Ovechkin scored a goal and has earned 16 points in his last 13 games (12 goals, 4 assists). He has 20 goals in his last 23 games.

Kuz-tastic: Evgeny Kuznetsov has recorded a point in nine of his last 10 games (5 goals, 7 assists) and has earned 29 points in his last 22 games (7 goals, 22 assists).

Mojo: Marcus Johansson played in his 400th game in the NHL, all for the Capitals. He has 222 points (76 goals, 146 assists). Drafted by the Capitals in the first round (24th overall) in the 2009 NHL draft, he ranks fifth in that draft class in points and assists and is tied for seventh in goals.

Back-to-back: The Capitals are now 18-3-1 in back-to-back games this season, outscoring opponents 77-49. They have four more remaining, including a set on Friday against the Rangers (Braden Holtby) and Saturday in Boston (Grubauer).

Assuming Grubauer gets a minimum of four starts the rest of the way, Holtby would get a maximum of 15 chances to get the nine wins needed to break Marty Brodeur’s NHL single-season record of 48 wins.  

Unleash the fury:  The Capitals are 20-2-1 record in their last 23 games at Verizon Center and have outscored their opponents 83-50 during that span. In addition, the Caps are 26-5-2 at home this season.

MORE CAPITALS: Laich says thank you to Caps and their fans

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby. Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1. It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps

The Caps looked like they had the win as they led 2-1 late in the third period, but things went off the rails in the final four minutes of the game in a 3-2 loss for Washington.

Here's how the Caps lost.

An emotional start for Robert Luongo

Before the game, Roberto Luongo took the mic during an emotional tribute to the victims of the tragic Stoneman Douglas school shooting. As a writer, it was hard to get into the game after that. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Luongo to focus after that. But he did. He started off the game very well, making several strong saves. Washington scored late in the first period after an offensive cycle of over a minute that completely wore out the Panthers' skaters. Otherwise, Luongo was brilliant turning aside 13 of the 14 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.

Another shaky start for Braden Holtby

This was the best game we have seen from Braden Holtby in a while as he made a number of phenomenal saves in the second and third period. In the first, however, he continued to struggle. Maxim Mamin scored his first career NHL goal and point as a puck trickled through Holtby and Mamin was able to slam it home. Holtby was dealing with a screen, but reacted late to the initial shot and late to Mamin.

Aleksander Barkov splitting Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson

With a 2-1 lead, the Caps looked like they had control. But with less than four minutes remaining, Aleksander Barkov was able to split Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson to set up Nick Bjugstad for the game-tying goal. Ovechkin was backchecking and Carlson stepped up on him and then...nothing. It looked as if both players thought the other would take Barkov and Ovechkin let up at the same time Carlson skated past giving Barkov a lane to the net.

A late penalty to Lars Eller

With the game tied late, the Caps were exerting their will in the offensive zone with the cycle that had been dominant all game long...and then Lars Eller tried to set a pick on Bjugstad, knocking him to the ice. It was an obvious interference call with just 42 seconds remaining in the game. Florida would score 22 seconds later to deny Washington not only the win, but even a point.