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Braden Holtby back in net as Capitals continue road trip against the Winnipeg Jets

Braden Holtby back in net as Capitals continue road trip against the Winnipeg Jets

The Capitals continue a four-game road trip with their second game in as many nights when they play the Winnipeg Jets (8 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) on Wednesday night. The two teams came close to meeting in the Stanley Cup Final last season. The Jets lost in the Western Conference Final to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games while the Caps went on to win the title.  

Here are four things to watch:

Power up

The NHL’s two best power plays go at it on Wednesday. The Jets lead the league at 34 percent with second-year pro Patrik Laine playing their version of Alex Ovechkin. Laine has seven power-play goals. The Capitals have cooled some lately and were 0-for-2 against Minnesota on Tuesday night, but remain second in the league at 30.3 percent. Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov each have six power-play goals. Washington’s top unit, which also includes John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, has a combined 45 power-play points in 17 games.  

Holtby’s Back

The Caps rolled the dice and started backup goalie Pheonix Copley in Minnesota to begin the roads trip and he played well with 26 saves in a 5-2 victory against the Wild. That worked out. Now they have saved starter Braden Holtby for Winnipeg, a team many see as the favorite to win the Western Conference. 

Holtby (.900 save percentage, 3.24 goals-against average) is starting to round into form. He stopped 93 of 99 shots in the final three games of last week’s homestand – though Washington lost two of those three in regulation. 

Killing it

The Capitals killed five of six penalties against Minnesota on Tuesday, but they still rank 28th in the NHL (72.7 percent). Adding Tom Wilson to that unit after his 20-game suspension was reduced certainly helped. Wilson played 5:23 short handed against the Wild. But Washington is still without PK mainstay Brooks Orpik (lower body injury), who remains on long-term injured reserve. 

All even 

Good thing the Jets have been so good on the power play because they haven’t done well at even strength. With 26 five-on-five goals, Winnipeg is 29th overall. Look out for center Mark Scheifele, though. He has 12 points (six goals, six assists) at even strength. Scheifele scored twice against the Capitals last Feb. 13 in Winnipeg and assisted on the game-winning goal in overtime of a 4-3 victory. Washington led that game 3-1 with 8:30 to go. Scheifele scored a short-handed goal with 15 seconds left to send the game to overtime.  

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Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson's two-point night including the shorthanded game-winner as the Capitals held on for a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday. The win was Washington's third on their six-game road trip, which concludes Saturday in Buffalo.

Here are four reasons Washington won.

1. Braden Holtby’s first period

After the first period, it looked like we were going to have a goalie duel. Frederik Andersen looked absolutely brilliant to start and the Caps needed Holtby to be equally brilliant to keep Washington in it. He was.

Holtby made 12 of his 40 saves in the opening frame, including an absolute beauty to rob Patrick Marleau. Andersen robbed Michal Kempny and Nicklas Backstrom on one end of the ice and Toronto picked up the puck off the rebound for a quick 2-on-1 counter. Kasperi Kapanen fed Marleau beautifully, but Holtby stretched out to make the spectacular save with the blocker. A few minutes later, Holtby made a quick pad save on a William Nylander backhand, then recovered just in time to deny Connor Brown on the rebound attempt.

Because of Holtby’s efforts, both teams went to the locker room locked in a 0-0 tie.

2. Alex Ovechkin draws a penalty, scores the power play goal

Morgan Rielly does not take many penalties. Heading into Thursday’s game, Rielly had taken only two minor penalties all season, which is pretty remarkable when you think about a top defenseman averaging 22:43 of ice time per game.

In the second period, however, Ovechkin managed to draw a hold on Rielly. When you get a team’s top defenseman in the box, you need to take advantage. The Caps did just that off a quick play off a faceoff.

T.J. Oshie won the draw back to John Carlson. As soon as the draw was taken, Ovechkin backed away towards the top of the opposite faceoff circle. Toronto was slow to setup the defense, so when Carlson fed Ovechkin for the one-timer, he had an open shooting lane on net. Ovechkin delivered a fadeaway one-timer from above the circle and beat Andersen glove side.

3. A key forecheck by Tom Wilson

Brett Connolly made a nice play in front of the net to deke around the stretched pad of Andersen and backhand the puck into the open goal. Wilson made that play happen, however, with a great forecheck.

Jake Gardiner went to recover the puck behind the goal line in the defensive zone, but Wilson came streaking in like a freight train and knocked Gardiner off the puck. Lars Eller pounced on the loose puck and fed Connolly in front of the net. He did the rest.

4. The Tom Wilson shorthanded exclamation point

Washington carried a 2-0 lead into the third period and looked to be the better team, but a goal form Andreas Johnsson put the Maple Leafs right back in it. The ice was definitely tilting in Toronto’s favor and less than 90 seconds after Johnsson scored, John Carlson took a hooking penalty.

With the game on the line, however, the penalty kill delivered.

Holtby made a kick-out save and two Leafs went after the rebound, but Brooks Orpik made a key stick lift on Mitch Marner and Eller beat Johnsson to the puck and had a lane for the breakout. Wilson turned on the jets and hustled out of the zone to try to catch up with Eller for the 2-on-1. He got there just in time and Eller delivered the pass to him just past the blue line. Wilson took aim and fired a wrister past Andersen to end any hopes for a comeback.

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Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

To watch the entire video, click "play" in the video player above.

Capitals fan Greg Christian and his late wife, Dona, made a plan to watch their favorite team at every NHL arena. Greg finally achieved that goal.

Gred attended the Caps' tilt with the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 23, taking with him a picture of Dona sporting a Hockey Fights Cancer jersey.

Greg and his wife were long-time Caps fans, and spent road trips talking about hockey and sports. They were soon inspired to follow the Caps on the road and make it to every possible venue to watch them play.

However, those plans would be interrupted in April 2017, when Dona was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The two made it to 34 NHL venues together before she passed away in November, last taking in a Caps game at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, according to the Washington Post.

The two have now seen Washington play at 36 venues, including two past arenas and three stadiums. And once Seattle gets an NHL franchise, Greg told WUSA9 he plans to be in attendance.

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