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5 reasons the Capitals beat the Rangers in overtime

5 reasons the Capitals beat the Rangers in overtime

The Caps gave up a 2-1 and 3-2 lead, but ultimately came away victorious on Wednesday in a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers thanks to an overtime goal from Matt Niskanen.

Here are five reasons why the Caps won.

1. Djoos saves a goal

With the Caps already trailing 1-0 in the first period, they were about an inch away from going down by two. Luckily, Christian Djoos was there to make the save.

Yes, Djoos, not Braden Holtby.

A diving Jesper Fast got to a loose puck before any of the Caps defenders and beat Holtby with the shot. Djoos, however, was there to sweep the puck off the goal line and out, saving a goal.

That play turned out to be a two-goal swing as less than two minutes later, the Caps scored to tie the game at 1.

2. Carlson off the faceoff

The Caps emphasized the importance of the faceoff this week and worked on it specifically in practice on Tuesday. That practice turned out to be very prescient as Washington’s first goal of the night came right off the faceoff.

Nicklas Backstrom beat Ryan Spooner on the draw cleanly in the offensive zone, feeding the puck back to John Carlson. With the players all bunched up off the draw, Carlson benefitted from Brady Skjei standing right in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Carlson teed up the slap shot and beat Lundqvist who never saw the puck.

Of the five combined goals scored in the game, three were directly set up off a faceoff.

3. Hand-eye coordination

With the Caps on the power play, Fast tipped a pass meant for Carlson that looked like it was headed out of the offensive zone. Carlson reacted to the puck then stretched the stick and somehow managed to control the bouncing puck and keep it in the zone.

Fast charged Carlson at the blue line so he chipped the puck to Ovechkin in the office. Ovechkin managed to hit the puck just as it hit the ice and somehow beat Lundqvist with the shot.

Ovechkin was by the boards at the very edge of the circle. It was an amazing shot and it was set up by the great hustle play from Carlson. Both showed tremendous hand-eye coordination to control that puck.

4. Braden Holtby

Lundqvist entered this game with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage, but he was outplayed by his counterpart from Washington.

Holtby had himself a night. He was particularly strong down low with the pads as he made a number of key pad saves throughout the game, particularly in the second period when he recorded 17 saves including a shorthanded breakaway save on Kevin Hayes as time expired.

Of the three goals Holtby allowed, the first he made a great save on Chris Kreider who looked like he had an empty net to shoot at. Mike Zibanejad would score on the rebound. The second goal came as a shot deflected off Devante Smith-Pelly and went right to Jimmy Vesey for an easy tap-in. The third was a deflection goal from Kreider to redirect a shot that was going wide.

Can’t blame Holtby for those.

5. Working from the office

The Caps had three power play opportunities on the night. They scored on two of them and those two goals looked pretty darn similar.

There was the one described above in which a hustle play by Carlson at the point kept the puck alive and he fed to Ovechkin in the office. The second goal came with Carlson on the point feeding Ovechkin in the office.

Those two goals give Ovechkin 232 power play goals for his career, tying him with Dino Ciccarelli for ninth on the NHL’s all-time list.

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Remembering the last time the Caps won in Los Angeles…in 2005

Remembering the last time the Caps won in Los Angeles…in 2005

The city of Los Angeles has not been kind to the Capitals in recent years where they have lost eight straight games. You have to go all the way back to Dec. 14, 2005, to find the last time they beat the Kings on their home ice.

That game came in Alex Ovechkin’s rookie season, meaning he is the only player still with Washington who played that game. But he wasn’t the star. The star that night was, of course, defenseman Jamie Heward.

Los Angeles boasted a roster with Luc Robitaille and Jeremy Roenick. Future Caps Eric Belanger, Joe Corvo, and Tim Gleason also suited up for the Kings.

Heward opened the scoring in the first period with a power-play goal. Belanger and Sean Avery scored to give Los Angeles the 2-1 lead, but Brian Sutherby tied the game midway through the third and Heward scored his second goal of the night, also on the power play, with just 63 seconds remaining. Washington would hold on for the 3-2 win.

Olie Kolzig was in net for the Caps and had a strong night with 24 saves on 26 shots.

Ovechkin recorded an assist on both of Heward’s goals. Heward scored 11 goals in his 123 career games with Washington and two of them came that night.

The Caps have not won in Los Angeles since. They will look to snap that streak on Monday (10:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

Game notes

Copley in

Pheonix Copley is expected to start after Braden Holtby got the nod Sunday in Anaheim. Ironically, Copley’s last start came on Feb. 11 against…the Kings.

When last we met

Los Angeles visited Washington one week ago and the Caps earned the 6-4 victory to finish off their season-long six-game homestand. Evgeny Kuznetsov had a four-point night with two goals and two assists. Ovechkin also had three points (one goal, two assists).

About last night….

The last time the Caps played a back-to-back, they were obliterated 3-0 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The game started off their current six-game road trip. Washington looked completely out of gas for that game. They will need much more energy for Monday's game in Los Angeles to come away with the win.

Oshie status unclear

T.J. Oshie left Sunday's game in the second period due to an upper-body injury. After the game, Todd Reirden said Oshie needed to be reevaluated. With no morning skate Monday, Oshie's status for Monday's game remains unclear for now.

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps look consistently inconsistent

NHL Power Rankings: The Caps look consistently inconsistent

It’s getting hard to figure out just who the Capitals are.

After a seven-game losing streak, Washington returned from the All-Star break and rebounded nicely. In a six-game homestand, Washington went 4-1-1 to get back on track. Then they started a six-game road swing with an absolutely horrendous 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They followed that up with a blowout win over one of the top teams in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks. Rather than build on that momentum, however, the Caps fell apart in Anaheim and allowed five goals to a bad Ducks team in a 5-2 loss.

About the only thing we know for sure about this team at this point in the season is that they are inconsistent.

The timing for Washington’s continued inconsistencies is not ideal. The trade deadline is just one week away and now is the time when a general manager needs to know exactly who his team is so he can assess what areas he needs to improve before the deadline.

And let’s not forget Washington is also in a tight playoff race with Columbus, Pittsburgh and Carolina all hot on the Caps’ heels.

So just who are the Caps? Are they the team that started 24-10-3 or the one that lost seven straight? Are they the team that blew out the Sharks in San Jose or the one that laid an egg against the Ducks?

Washington certainly has not made Brian MacLellan’s job of evaluating the team before the deadline very easy.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps have taken the second-most minor penalties in the league. The leader? Tampa Bay. So why are the penalties such a story line for Washington and not the Lightning? Because Tampa Bay has the second-best penalty kill in the NHL. Taking that many penalties is not good, but the issue is compounded by the fact that the Caps’ penalty kill is killing off only 78.1-percent of the penalties they face.

  • The neutral zone is one of the keys to the Caps’ success. That was evident in the game against San Jose and one of the biggest reasons for their success in the playoffs. When they control the neutral zone and don’t let opposing offenses have clean breakouts, they are a tough team to beat. When they don’t control the neutral zone then teams like Anaheim, the worst offensive team in the NHL, manages 39 shots on goal and five goals.

  • What is going on with the defensive breakdowns? Anaheim’s second goal on Sunday was one of the worst defensive breakdowns you will see in the NHL. That shouldn’t happen. A lot of them are coming from bad line changes. These are fixable mistakes, but ones you do not expect to see in February.

  • On a happier note, Jakub Vrana looks like he has turned a corner. He has been phenomenal of late and is someone Caps fans should be very excited about. Not only is he talented, but he seems to have the right attitude and really takes it on himself to improve his game.

The Caps are 1-2-0 to start their six-game road trip and have some work to do to make sure the road swing is a successful one. They also have some work to do in the NHL Power Rankings. Check out this week’s rankings here.

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