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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Blue Jackets

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USA TODAY Sports

4 reasons why the Caps beat the Blue Jackets

Despite building a 2-0 lead early in the first, the Caps found themselves in a tight game with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Washington ultimately held on for the 4-3 lead. Here's how.

A fast start

The Caps lost Thursday’s game against the Kings because of a nine-second span in the second period. They won Saturday’s game because of the first 2:06. That is how long it took for Washington to take a 2-0 lead on Columbus and one of the top netminders in the world in Sergei Bobrovsky. Brett Connolly scored just 1:03 into the game after Lars Eller found him wide-open in the middle. Alex Chiasson responded just 1:03 later when a centering pass from Matt Niskanen deflected off a defender right to a trailing Alex Chiasson to bang home.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM THE CAPS' 4-3 WIN OVER COLUMBUS

Alex Ovechkin's second-period response

After building a 2-0 lead, Columbus battled back to tie the game at 2 in the second period. The game could easily have gone south from there, but a power play goal from Ovechkin proved critical.  Just 2:44 after the Jackets tied the game, Boone Jenner took a holding penalty. Coming into the game, Columbus boasted the third-best penalty kill in the NHL with a kill rate of 84.8-percent. But the Caps needed a goal and Ovechkin delivered from the office, per usual.

Braden Holtby

Saturday's game was billed as a duel between two of the top netminders in the NHL. Holtby certainly looked the part in a spectacular performance. He turned aside 32 shots, many of which were high-quality saves including denying a 2-on-0 in the first period and a clutch glove save on Cam Atkinson late in the third.

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN GIVES THE CAPS BACK THE LEAD WITH POWER PLAY GOAL

A stick lift by Jay Beagle and an early celebration

Despite how good Holtby was, Columbus came within inches of tying the game at 4. A shot from Pierre-Luc Dubois just managed to squirt past Holtby, but incredibly the puck came to a stop just in front of the goal line. Artemi Panarin was behind Holtby and had a chance to tap the puck in for the easy goal, but just as he was skating by, Beagle lifted his stick. From the replay, Panarin can also be seen lifting his stick in celebration. Even if he thought the puck was going in, if his stick had stayed on the ice chances are he would have tapped it in for good measure. Whether he would have raised his stick anyway or just did it because Beagle was already lifting it for him, we'll never know, so you have to give credit to Beagle for the lift and the quick clear of the puck once Panarin skated past the net.

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Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

The NHL released the salary cap range for the 2018-19 season on Thursday. That sound you hear is the general managers frantically typing numbers into adding machines to figure out which of their players they can afford and which they are going to have to let walk.

The cap ceiling will rise from last year's $75 million all the way up to $79.5 million with the cap floor set at $58.8 million.

So what does this mean for the Capitals?

Here's a look at the team's pending free agents:

Unrestricted free agents: Jay Beagle, John Carlson, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Wayne Simpson

Restricted free agents: Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Adam Carlson, Philipp Grubauer, Tim McGauley, Liam O'Brien, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson

We will not know exactly who will make the roster, so to project how much money the Caps will have to work with, let's assume Nathan Walker makes the team and Shane Gersich goes to the AHL. That will give the Caps a little less than $14.8 million with which to work.

Considering the team will need to use about half of that number if not more to re-sign Carlson, that's not a whole lot to work with.

Is $7 million enough to re-sign Beagle, Kempny, Bowey, Smith-Pelly and Wilson? Probably not and that does not even account for prospects who will try to compete for the NHL roster such as Barber and Boyd.

Here's what the cap ceiling tells us:

  • The team's entire offseason will depend on if the team can re-sign Carlson and for how much.
  • Carlson's cap hit last season was just under $4 million. A $4.5 million increase in the salary cap ceiling doesn't mean much when Carlson is going to get a raise of $3 million or more.
  • Grubauer will almost certainly be traded because he is an asset and because there won't be enough money for the team to commit $1.5 million or more to the backup goalie like they did last season.
  • If Carlson returns, fan favorite Beagle has almost certainly played his last game as a Cap. Everyone wants him back, but he would have to take a severe discount for the Caps to fit him and even then, he would be taking away a roster spot from a young prospect ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Free agency opens July 1.

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