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Capitals blow the Sharks out of the water

Capitals blow the Sharks out of the water

The San Jose Sharks jumped out to an early lead, but it was all Capitals after that as Washington cruised to the 5-2 win on Tuesday in their first of three games in California. Garnet Hathaway and Jakub Vrana each scored twice while John Carlson recorded three points to lead the Caps to the dominant win.

Here is how Washington won.

The 4th line

Considering the elite offensive talent on this team, it is easy to forget about the fourth line. The Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway trio, however, was the best unit on the ice by far, especially Hathaway who scored two goals.

Hathaway put the Caps on the board in the first period as he charged to the net and redirected a shot past goalie Martin Jones. he appeared to make contact with Jones' stick as he cut to the front of the net but after deflecting the puck past him. The Sharks ended up not challenging.

The fourth line's forecheck gave San Jose fits all game long, but in the second period, it turned into Hathaway's second goal. Nic Dowd stole the puck away in the offensive zone then centered it to a streaking Hathaway who took off for the net the moment he saw Dowd come up with the puck.

3 goals in 3:01

San Jose opened the scoring when Melker Karlsson beat Braden Holtby less than three minutes into the game. The game turned in the later half of the first period when a flurry of goals found their way into the back of the Sharks' net, giving Washing a 3-1 lead and turning the game on its head.

Hathway tied the game at 1, Jakub Vrana scored his first of two goals 53 seconds later and John Carlson scored 2:08 after that. Carlson also assisted on the Hathaway, Vrana goals giving him three points in the first period.

Defensive lapses

Boy, the Sharks look baffled in this one. The Caps are one of the top offensive teams in the NHL. Considering how much room San Jose was giving Washington to work with in this game, it's no wonder why the Caps were able to put up five goals.

Jakub Vrana was so wide-open in the slot on the first goal that he was able to get off the initial shot and the rebound before any defensemen got close to him.

When Carlson scored later in the first period, he was literally the only player on the right side of the ice when Michal Kempny got him the puck. He had plenty of time to aim the shot before releasing the slapper to beat Jones.

In the second period, Vrana managed to get free again, this time in the high-slot. He had plenty of room to fire a one-timer for his second goal of the game.

Kane's penalty

Washington took a 5-1 lead into the third period. That probably would have been good enough to win, but you never know. Evander Kane made it 5-2, but then effectively finished the game with a dirty hit to the head of Radko Gudas.

There was no denying it, it was a dirty play and it was right to Gudas' head. Kane was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct with 5:01 remaining, thus extinguishing any hope of a miraculous comeback.

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Penguins eliminated in qualifying round but now could win the top-overall draft pick

Penguins eliminated in qualifying round but now could win the top-overall draft pick

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ postseason came to an abrupt end on Friday as they were defeated in just four games by the 12th-seeded Montreal Canadiens.

The Canadiens shut out Pittsburgh in Game 4 to close out the series. Few gave Montreal, a team with a 31-31-9 record in the regular season, much of a chance, but the Canadiens have now authored the biggest upset in the postseason thus far.

The Penguins began faltering down the stretch of the regular season, but with four new additions at the trade deadline and over four months to adjust, no one thought Pittsburgh would not be able to at least make it past the Habs.

And yet here we are.

RELATED: POSSIBLE PLAYOFF OPPONENTS FOR CAPS COMING INTO FOCUS

In four games, Sidney Crosby was limited to three points, Jake Guentzel three, Jason Zucker two and Evgeny Malkin only one. The only chance many gave Montreal was if goalie Carey Price stood on his head, but in fact he was not tested nearly as much as one may have thought in a series as seemingly lopsided on paper as this one.

Pittsburgh has now lost nine of its last 10 playoff games and the future of the team with the current core now is very much in doubt.

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Before you cheer too hard, Capitals fans, the silver-lining for Pittsburgh is that they will now have a 12.5-percent chance of winning the draft lottery and earning the chance to select phenom Alexis Lafreniere with the No. 1 overall pick. As Pittsburgh begins to think about life after Crosby and Malkin, getting the No. 1 overall pick will certainly jumpstart the eventual rebuild.

The loss means that Washington will play either the Carolina Hurricanes or New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. If the Caps win their final round robin game against the Boston Bruins on Sunday, they will face the Islanders. If they lose, they will play the Hurricanes.

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