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After scuffling through February, Capitals finally rise to the occasion on the big stage

After scuffling through February, Capitals finally rise to the occasion on the big stage

After a month in which nothing seemed to go right for Washington, everything seemed to go their way under the bright lights in Annapolis.

WIth the eyes of the hockey world on the Stadium Series, the Capitals raised their game for the occasion in a dominant 5-2 win.

For several weeks, the only constant the team could rely on was the steady production of Alex Ovechkin. Even Braden Holtby, usually the face of consistency in net, scuffled through the worst stretch of his career with six straight losses. But Saturday proved to be a "get right" game for the Caps in just about every aspect of their game.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE STADIUM SERIES

Not enough production from the team's top stars? Nicklas Backstrom recorded three points in the first period as Washington jumped out to a 3-1 lead. Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson also registered three points on the night and Ovechkin scored his 40th goal of the season.

"The leaders of team we rely on them the most," Carlson said. "And when they come out hot like that, I think everyone else kind of follows suit."

Scuffling goalie? Holtby turned aside 27 of the 29 shots he faced against one of the league's most potent offenses for his first win since Feb. 9.

"I thought Holts really responded well," Barry Trotz said. "The first time you go through things, Holts hasn't lost a lot of games in a row since I've been here anyways.  And it's difficult because you're going into unchartered waters and you're wondering if it's you, if it's the team. You're looking for answers and sometimes the answers are just right there. You've got to just dial yourself in, don't doubt yourself and also just go out and almost steal one."

Invisible fourth line? The fourth line was one of the team's best on the night, drawing an early penalty that allowed the Capitals to take the early lead.

"The fourth line, probably one of their best games," Tom Wilson said. "They draw a penalty early, gets our power play on the ice and allows us to have a good start. [Jay Beagle] was a man possessed tonight, he was winning battles."

Jakub Vrana goalless streak? Vrana scored his first goal in 2018 snapping a drought of 25 games.

"I said you got the monkey off your back," Trotz said. "He had the biggest smile. He looked up and I know he's been playing real good hockey for us, just hasn't gotten the results."

Just about the only thing the Caps didn't get was a goal from T.J. Oshie, but he had several scoring opportunities on the night in what was an encouraging performance.

There was not much for Caps fans to be happy about in February. Even the team's wins seemed lackluster as they came against weaker opponents. Saturday's game was Washington's first win over a team in playoff position since Feb. 15 when they beat the Minnesota Wild.

The biggest question facing this team when the calendar turned to March and with the playoffs looming is who are the real Capitals? Are they the team that led their highly competitive division for much of the season or the team that couldn't get out of its own way in February?

Just as every loss began to feel more damning, Saturday showed both the fans and the players that the dominant Capitals haven't gone anywhere.

MORE CAPS: Caps have nothing but praise for their Stadium Series hosts​

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Capitals vs. Blues preseason Game 5: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Capitals vs. Blues preseason Game 5: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

The Washington Capitals' preseason continues Tuesday night as they head to St. Louis to take on the Blues.

The Caps first preseason game vs. the Boston Bruins ended in a 1-2 shootout, followed by losses against the Bruins, Canadiens and Hurricanes respectively. 

The Stanley Cup champions will face the Blues once again on Sunday, September 30 at Capital One Arena before preparing to raise their championship banner during the season opener on Wednesday, October 3. 

Ahead of Tuesday's matchup, here's everything you need to know to watch.

CAPITALS-BLUES PRESEASON GAME 5: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. St. Louis Blues

Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis, Missouri

When: Tuesday, September, 25, 8:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Blues preseason game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

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

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

CAPITALS-BLUES PRESEASON TV SCHEDULE: 

8:00 PM: NHL Preseason: Capitals @ St. Louis Blues (LIVE)
10:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live (LIVE)

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The Flyers' new mascot, Gritty, is here to haunt your dreams

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The Flyers' new mascot, Gritty, is here to haunt your dreams

On Monday morning, just a week shy of the official start to the 2018-19 NHL season, the Philadelphia Flyers triumphantly announced their new mascot and, full disclosure, it’s terrifying.

Meet Gritty.

The furry orange abomination is a cross between fabled Canadiens' (and Expos) mascot Youppi, The Muppet Show’s Animal, and something that would probably murder you in your sleep.

He’s named Gritty, because, according to the Flyers’ official webpage, is supposed to reflect the strength, tenacity, and raw passion of the team and their fanbase.

His portly figure and bouncy, gyrating hips are not the problem. In fact, watching him move is kind of delightful.

No, the real problem here is his eyes. Those oddly realistic googly eyes,  following his every movement and hip circle ike a car accident you just can’t look away from. His mouth, always agape, is the icing on the nightmare fuel cake..

Hockey fans online went into a tizzy after the reveal. Monday's primary activity was to lay into the Flyers' new mascot with heavy heat.

Despite their divisional rivalry, the Caps’ own loveable eagle Slapshot welcomed Gritty to the family in a very diplomatic manner. 

Other teams in the Metropolitan division, namely the Pittsburgh Penguins however, were not so kind.

According to his official bio, “recent construction at the Wells Fargo Center disturbed [Gritty’s] secret hideout forcing him to show his face publicly for the first time.” We think this is supposed to be charming and mysterious in the same way that everyone describes Bigfoot, but it mostly works at convincing us to head for the hills. 

You can also book him for event appearances. We’d recommend him as a supportive presence at divorce hearings, or as the featured guest at your horrible cousin’s wedding.

It’s worth noting that other Metropolitan teams are not without mascot sins. In 2011, the Columbus Blue Jackets had a NSFW cannon named Boomer, who barely survived half a season before being retired. 

Thankfully, Caps fans only have to handle Slapshot's themed costumes for special events this season.

Philly, we’re happy for you, but you can keep Gritty within city limits.

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