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Best comebacks of 2019-20 bracket: A Long Island miracle vs. beating the Bolts

Best comebacks of 2019-20 bracket: A Long Island miracle vs. beating the Bolts

With the NHL hitting pause on the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the highlights from the first 69 games of the regular season. The Comeback Caps dug many holes and climbed back out of a large number of them, so we created a bracket to identify the best comeback of the season. 

Round 1: Ovi’s hat trick leads Caps 5-goal 3rd period to beat Isles (Ryan Billie) vs. Orlov’s OT winner completes comeback vs Bolts (Mark Zaner) 

The Set-up 

 

RB: The final game before the All-Star break can get lost quickly as the promise of a week off following 60 minutes of hockey looms large. Washington’s final game before the break, taking on the New York Islanders on the road, started out well enough with Alex Ovechkin seemingly destined to continue his torrid pace, scoring the game’s first goal just a little over halfway through the first period on a beautiful send-in from Nicklas Backstrom. But from there, everything went wrong.  

Sloppy play in their own zone led to two goals for the Islanders late in the first, with Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas capitalizing and giving the hosts the lead after one. The second period wasn’t much better, with Jordan Eberle picking up a power play goal on a pass that deflected in off Braden Holtby. But the critical moment came with 2:35 left in the second. Devon Toews capped a nice passing play with his first goal of the game and then followed it up by mocking Evgeny Kuznetsov’s bird celebration. That would prove to be a regrettable decision.

MZ: The day after Thanksgiving featured the first matchup of the season between two heavy-hitters in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals looked like they had a little too much tryptophan in their system early. The Lightning struck three times in the first two periods and completely tilted the ice in their favor. Defending Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov assisted on all three goals. Kuznetsov’s power play goal was the only positive early on. Washington trudged into the second intermission down 3-1. 

The Comeback 

RB: With just one period to go before the All-Star break, instead of folding the tents, the Caps decided to step on the gas. And the Islanders never knew what hit them.  

Carl Hagelin started the third-period onslaught just 2 and half minutes in with a greasy goal in front of Semyon Varlamov, cutting the lead to 2. There was life.   

Just about three minutes later, the Capitals went from having life to having all of the momentum. Ovechkin, off a great feed from John Carlson, flew down the wing, dangled past Scott Mayfield, and knocked the puck in off of Ryan Pulock. It was one of those goals that we’ve come to expect from Ovechkin, the type of goals that leave the opposing defensemen looking up to the scoreboard to wonder “What the hell just happened?” It was at that moment you could sense that this comeback was going to happen.

The Islanders had no answer for the Caps in the third, mustering just seven shots in the period. They were hanging on for dear life, and after a Tom Wilson deflection goal off a Dmitry Orlov slapshot, it appeared they just wanted to leave the building with a point. Jakub Vrana had other ideas…   

T.J. Oshie out-muscled Toews (Irony? Karma?) at the Islander blueline to get the puck into the offensive zone. Josh Bailey’s lazy clearing attempt was swiped by Vrana who then took two strides towards Varlamov and fired off a wicked wrist shot, top shelf, game over.

There was one more piece of business before the final horn. Ovechkin picked up his second straight hat trick with an empty netter to seal the deal. 

MZ: The biggest catalyst in the comeback was Dmitry Orlov. He forced the neutral zone turnover that started Washington towards their second goal. His poke check led to Vrana and Oshie playing give-and-go and Vrana finished the play with a quick shot from inside the right circle. It was so quick, no one saw it go in. It took the refs at least five seconds to figure out where the puck was. Just 3:45 into the third period the Capitals were back within a goal. 


The Caps turned to Old Reliable to tie the game a few minutes later.

Washington was on the man-advantage. Ovechkin. From “the office”. One-timer. Goal.

It was Ovechkin’s 17th of the season and Orlov got the primary assist. 


In overtime, it was Orlov again. He wanted to pass to Wilson who was charging toward the net. The lane never materialized, so Orlov took the wrist shot instead. Andrei Vasilevskiy was cheating toward Wilson and Orlov’s shot surprised him for the game-winner. 

The Importance 

RB: Ovechkin passed Mario Lemieux on the all-time goals list and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth on his climb to 700. This game sent the Caps into the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak and cemented them as the best team in the league with 71 points. Couldn’t ask for much more. 

MZ: The Capitals won less than 24 hours later against Detroit and wrapped up the month of November with a 10-2-2 record. Washington ended the month with the best record in the NHL and was playing some of its best hockey of the season entering December. The Caps also established early in the season that the game was never over until the final buzzer. Four of their ten wins in November were comebacks in one form or another. 

Which comeback gets your vote? 

RB: It’s always good to beat a division foe. Even better to beat a division foe… on the road… after being down four goals… after being mocked by said division foe… and having your captain notch a second straight hat trick. This game literally had it all. 

MZ: No doubt about it, the win against the Islanders was one of the best moments of the season so far. A huge comeback, a hat trick from Ovechkin and comeuppance for a villain like Toews. Orlov coming up with a multi-point game doesn’t quite hold the same cache. 

The only way I can sell the comeback win over Tampa being better is because of the quality of the opponent. The Bolts are currently the second-best team in the Eastern Conference while the Islanders are clinging on to a playoff spot for dear life. These are the games that Tampa usually wins and the Islanders have made a habit of giving away.

You decide! 

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NHL to move to Phase 2 of return to play plan by June 8

NHL to move to Phase 2 of return to play plan by June 8

The NHL will transition to Phase 2 of its return to play plan, the reopening of team facilities for training activities, on June 8, the league announced Thursday.

Since the season was paused on March 12, the league has considered itself to be in Phase 1 of the plan, meaning self-isolation. While the NHL and NHLPA have made progress off the ice towards a return to play negotiating things such as the playoff format, throughout all those talks the league still remained in Phase 1. This is the first concrete step the NHL has taken towards an eventual return to the ice.

"Beginning June 8 – subject to each Club’s satisfaction of all of the requirements set out in the Phase 2 Protocol – Clubs will be permitted to reopen their training facilities in their home city to allow players to participate in individualized training activities (off-ice and on-ice)," a statement released by the NHL said. "Players will be participating on a voluntary basis and will be scheduled to small groups (i.e., a maximum of six Players at any one time, plus a limited number of Club staff). The various measures set out in the Phase 2 Protocol are intended to provide players with a safe and controlled environment in which to resume their conditioning."

As the statement notes, participation in Phase 2 activities are voluntary and will be limited to six players at a time. 

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Phase 3 of the plan is training camp and, despite Thursday's announcement, we remain far off from that point. According to Pierre LeBrun, the earliest the league would start camps is July 10. Phase 4 is then the resumption of the season.

Presumably, Phase 3 will not start without a date set for when Phase 4. It is hard to believe the NHLPA would agree to an indefinite training camp. Phase 2, however, can begin without any formalized dates for Phases 3 and 4.  So while this is certainly a step towards the return of hockey and a sign that things are improving, all the difficult deciions regarding health and safety protocols as well as a timeline for the eventual 2020 postseason are still yet to be decided.

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Pittsburgh Penguins announce unnamed player tested positive for COVID-19

Pittsburgh Penguins announce unnamed player tested positive for COVID-19

An unnamed player on the Pittsburgh Penguins has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, the team announced on Thursday.

"This player is not in Pittsburgh and has been in isolation at home since first experiencing symptoms," the statement said. "He is recovered and feeling well. Those in close contact with the player leading up to the diagnosis have been notified." 

The organization stated that there would be no further updates on the player or situation at this time. 

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The Penguins are one of the 24 teams that will participate in the NHL's new playoff format once the season resumes. As of now, training camp for teams will not begin until July 10 at the earliest and there is still no clear timetable for when games will begin.

This announcement does bring up the question as to what the league will do if a positive diagnosis happens once play starts up again. Though NHL deputy commissioner Billy Daly has stated that he doesn't believe one positive test will halt the entire postseason, a plan will need to be put in place for how to handle a player contracting coronavirus.

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