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Brett Connolly records 3-point night in Capitals' 5-2 win over Flyers

Brett Connolly records 3-point night in Capitals' 5-2 win over Flyers

Brett Connolly scored twice and added an assist in a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday for Washington's eighth win in nine games.

With the win, the Caps maintained its two-point cushion over the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Here are five reasons Washington won.

The third line

Brett Connolly was easily the player of the game with two goals and an assist. It was his fourth career two-goal game and his third three-point game. He opened the scoring early in the first period and made it 3-1 in the second period off a great individual effort. Connolly stole the puck from Phillippe Myers at the defensive blue line and led the rush back up ice. Once he entered the offensive zone, he was looking for the pass, but with no open options, he elected to keep it and fire it himself and it resulted in his second goal of the game.

Lars Eller also scored in the first period as the third line scored each of Washington’s first three goals. The bottom-six was really the story of the game as the fourth line had a dominant night as well.

The first period

Strong starts for the Caps have been key to their success against Philadelphia and Thursday was no exception. Connolly put Washington up less than three minutes into the game with his first goal. The Caps have now scored in less than six minutes in all three matchups against the Flyers this season. Eller would add a second goal to make it 2-0.

The Caps outscored the Flyers 5-1 in the first period this season.

John Carlson’s hand-eye coordination

Connolly’s first goal does not happen if not for some great hand-eye coordination from Carlson. A shot from Carlson was slowed by a Ryan Hartman block and the puck trickled to Shayne Gostisbehere who tried to clear. Carlson swatted the puck out of mid-air and did so without getting his stick too high to avoid a high-sticking call. The puck went to Michal Kempny who quick delivered it to Connolly who had gotten lost behind the defense along the red line. He fired the puck behind the back of Hart and into the yawning net. It’s a play that never happens without Carlson swatting the puck out of the air.

Tom Wilson’s 20th

In all three games against the Flyers, the Caps have gotten off to a good start. In all three games, they allowed Philadelphia back into the game. On Jan. 8, the Caps took a 4-1 lead and allowed the Flyers to pull within one before finishing the game with an empty netter to make it 5-3. On March 6, Washington was routing the Flyers 5-0, but still allowed Philadelphia back into the game and finished with the 5-3 win.

After the Caps took a 2-0 lead after the first, James van Riemsdyk made it 2-1 early in the second. Connolly’s second goal re-established the two-goal lead, but it was Tom Wilson’s goal that really put the game out of reach.

Dmitry Orlov delivered the puck on a slap pass to Evgeny Kuznetsov on the far side near the goal line. Goalie Carter Hart slid aggressively out to try to defend the Kuznetsov shot and his momentum carried him completely out of the net. Kuznetsov patiently saw Hart out of position and fed it back to the slot for Wilson to shoot on the empty net.

The goal was Wilson’s 20th giving him the first 20-goal season of his career.

The penalty kill

Philadelphia had a chance to climb back into the game in the third period as the Caps gave up three straight power plays. The penalty kill, however, was absolutely brilliant when the team needed it the most.

How great has Carl Hagelin been? He has seemingly transformed the penalty kill and his prowess in that area of the game was very much on display on Thursday. On one shift, Hagelin managed to chase the puck after a clear and beat out the Flyers to it behind the goal line, allowing him to kill off more time as Philadelphia desperately tried to get the puck off his stick. While killing a penalty to Nicklas Backstrom, Hagelin and Eller were on for 1:56 as the Caps could not get the puck deep enough for a line change. Just 35 seconds after killing off the Backstrom penalty, Nick Jensen was called for interference and Hagelin and Eller were called upon again despite just having played almost the entire length of the last penalty.

For the game, the Caps killed off all four power plays they faced.

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Gary Bettman to make announcement on NHL's return to play format for 2019-20 season

Gary Bettman to make announcement on NHL's return to play format for 2019-20 season

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will make an announcement regarding the NHL’s return to play format to complete the 2019-20 season. The announcement will air at 4:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports Network. 

The NHL halted play on March 12 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. That was 75 days ago. Last week the National Hockey League Players’ Association executive board voted 29-2 to approve a 24-team format to restart the season - if and when that becomes official. 

The NHL and NHLPA, however, still had more details to work out on where and when the playoffs would take place, how to keep players, coaches, officials and game staff safe, among a myriad of other logistical issues.
Bettman will make his announcement at 4:30 p.m. and he and deputy commissioner Bill Daly will speak with the media at 6 p.m.

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The Capitals led the Metropolitan Division when play stopped with a 41-20-8 record and 90 standings points. That was third-best in the Eastern Conference with 13 games to go. Under the revised proposed Stanley Cup playoff format, the Capitals are expected to get a bye into the round of 16.   

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How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

Everyone remembers Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-clinching overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018. That goal now overshadows another series-clinching goal Kuznetsov had in 2015. In Game 7 against the New York Islanders, Kuznetsov scored what would prove to be the winning goal to break up a 1-1 tie. Clearly he knows how to get ready for a big game. His secret? Television.

Kuznetsov appeared on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Greatest Hits show on Monday to talk about his 2015 performance and the topic of the locker room came up. Both teams went into that game knowing their season was on the line and Kuznetsov was asked if the feeling was any different in the locker room before the game, a question he did not know exactly how to answer.

"I'm never in the locker room," Kuznetsov said. "I'm always by the TV watching TV shows."

Yes, when Kuznetsov arrives at the arena, he apparently likes to watch TV before the game and said he is not in the locker room until only about 30 minutes before warmups. He enjoys watching soccer, but also likes a good movie.

"It's usually soccer games," Kuznetsov said. "If it's not the soccer game, it's whatever the movie's going."

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He went on to say he was thankful for the team subscribing to whatever channel it was that he watches movies on.

If this seems odd to you, there is a method to the madness.

"Usually it's movie because that way I'm not thinking about hockey," Kuznetsov said. "I like to be loose before games."

Hey, if that's what he was doing before Game 7 in 2015 and before Game 6 in 2018, it's hard to argue against it.

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