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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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'He's a heart-and-soul guy:' Capitals begin to process Oshie injury after Game 4 loss

'He's a heart-and-soul guy:' Capitals begin to process Oshie injury after Game 4 loss

RALEIGH — T.J. Oshie shuffled out of the Capitals locker room, hunched over, half dressed, his face a mask of anguish and pain, his right arm pinned against his body. 

He made it to the X-ray room at PNC Arena on his own, two medical staffers at his side, moaning as he entered to learn his fate. Moments later, his teammates came off the ice at that same spot, 2-1 losers to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of a Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series. 

Players clomped past in various states of frustration and distress. Nicklas Backstrom smashed his stick against a wall and, when it only half broke, finished it off with one last theatrical whack. 

It was a perfect summation of Washington’s visit to Raleigh, where it arrived with a 2-0 series lead and left tied 2-2 with a critical Game 5 back home at Capital One Arena on Saturday. 

Oshie will not be with them. He will be out “for quite some time,” said Capitals coach Todd Reirden. Carolina forward Warren Foegele nudged Oshie from behind as both skated near full speed and he crashed hard into the boards in Washington’s offensive zone. 

Oshie yelled out in pain and lay on the ice for several minutes. He was helped off the ice and Foegele received a two-minute penalty for boarding. That did not sit well with Oshie’s teammates, who failed to score on the power play. They thought the play deserved more – a major penalty, for sure, and supplemental discipline by the NHL Department of Player Safety. They didn’t get the five minutes. They might get a suspension when the league looks at the play.   

“It was a defenseless player that was quite a distance from the boards,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “It’s an extremely dangerous play and (Oshie) will not be with our team for a while.”

Added captain Alex Ovechkin: "Did you see that? What did you think? I was on the ice, I watched the puck, so I didn't see what happened there, but if you think it's not a dirty play, you have to watch it again."

The frustration was understandable. Oshie had 25 goals in 69 games this season. He missed 11 with a concussion in November before returning. On Thursday, he’d moved up to the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and he’s been a staple on the second line much of the season. He is as skilled a player as there is on the Capitals and has a goal and an assist in the series. 

“It’s always tough. He plays the game so hard,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “He’s a heart-and-soul guy. I have no idea what it is or whatever. But the thing with [Oshie] is no matter what he’s going to find a way to have a positive impact on our team - whether in or out. It doesn’t matter. He’s a leader and he’s a guy that guys want to fight for.”

Carolina didn’t agree with the Capitals, of course. Foegele called it “an unfortunate play” where he was just trying to lift Oshie’s stick and he lost an edge and careened into the boards. It doesn’t matter now. With the series now even, Washington will have to build on a much better game than it played Monday night in a 5-0 loss, but without one of its best players. On Friday they can begin figuring that out. On the plane ride home Thursday night they were still trying to process what happened to Oshie. 

“We have all those meetings. GMs make meetings with referees and watch the video and it's two minutes?” Ovechkin said. “We're players and we have to go out there and play, but those guys have to make a decision. They can't be afraid. If the guy hurt, it's a dirty play, it has to be not two minutes. It has to be different call."

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'He barely hit him': Rod Brind'Amour finds a way to downplay T.J. Oshie injury

'He barely hit him': Rod Brind'Amour finds a way to downplay T.J. Oshie injury

The Capitals were incensed by Warren Foegele’s shove to the back of T.J. Oshie in Game 4 on Thursday that sent Oshie dangerously into the boards and knocked him out of the game. Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, however, does not know what all the fuss is about.

“You see a lot of hits that are way, way worse than that,” Brind’Amour told the media after the game.

Oshie entered into the offensive zone with the puck and Foegele came in on the backcheck. Oshie had a good position on the puck, blocking Foegele out with his back. Foegele responded with a cross-check to the back of Oshie that knocked him over face-first awkwardly into the boards. Oshie appeared to strike the boards with his right shoulder and was doubled over in obvious pain as he slowly made his way off the ice.

Ovechkin was so angry that he followed Foegele and continued yelling at him after he went into the penalty box.

But Brind’Amour did not see it as a dirty play.

“I think [Oshie] just went in awkward,” Brind’Amour said. “I don't know the extent of the injury or whatever. Barely hit him I thought, really. He gave him a little shove, but it certainly wasn't what we've been seeing out here.”

In fact, Brind’Amour did not think a penalty was going to be called at all until Oshie stayed on the ice.

“There wasn't a penalty being called and then obviously he crashed into the boards hard and that's when the arm went up because he stayed down,” Brind’Amour said. “You don't like to see that, but I think more than anything he just was not ready for the hit.”

For those of you keeping track at home, Brind’Amour took issue with two consenting players fighting one another, but a cross-check to the back leaves a guy doubled over in pain and, well, he just was not ready for the hit.

Right.

Of course, you can file this away under, “What is he supposed to say?” It’s not as if Brind’Amour would come out and bury his own player for an illegal hit. He is going to defend his guy. Having said that, there were probably better ways to handle the injury of an opposing player rather than diminishing it quite as much as Brind’Amour seemed to.

“We've got way more injuries than they do,” Brind’Amour said. “I don't worry about their team.”

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