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Capitals earn an ugly, but critical two points in slugfest with Philadelphia

Capitals earn an ugly, but critical two points in slugfest with Philadelphia

WASHINGTON – It wasn't pretty, but it still counts. The Capitals were largely outplayed Sunday by the Philadelphia Flyers but Braden Holtby led the Caps to the 3-1 win and a critical two points.

Washington's lead atop the Metropolitan Division had been trimmed down to one point after Saturday's action. Had the Caps lost in regulation, they could have finished the day dropping to second place if the New York Islanders win their game later in the day. The victory, however, ensures Washington will keep its spot atop the division in the ever-tightening playoff race.

Here are four reasons the Caps won.

A Wilson hit

Tom Wilson has a bad rap around the league, but his physical play can certainly be an asset to the Caps and that was on display in Washington’s first goal.

Early in the game, the Caps held the puck in the offensive zone. Claude Giroux swept the puck off the stick of Alex Ovechkin and that looked like it would be the end of that offensive opportunity for Washington. As Giroux went to recover the puck behind the goal line, however, he felt the pressure of Wilson who knocked him into the boards and turned the puck over right back. Suddenly the Flyers were on their heels.

Wilson fittingly got to finish off the play he started as he got to the front of the net deflected in a shot from Nick Jensen past goalie Brian Elliott.

Travis Boyd’s timely deflection

Philadelphia began to take control of the game in the second period. The Flyers outshot the Caps 20-7 in the middle frame. Besides two 2-on-1 opportunities, neither of which they converted on, there was little offense to speak of for Washington. As the Flyers began to assert themselves, however, Travis Boyd provided a critical tally.

Sean Couturier turned the puck over on a breakout and the Flyers were caught completely out of position. Boyd had a great scoring opportunity but missed the net. Matt Niskanen cut the puck off at the blue line and threw it back on net. Boyd smartly went to the front of the net after the shot and was there to deflect it in to give Washington a 2-0 lead.

Not only did that goal prove to be the game-winner, but it also kept the Caps ahead when Jakub Voracek finally struck on the power play later in the period.

Braden Holtby

When the Caps were on their heels, Holtby was there to shut the door and keep them ahead. The Caps’ netminder was tested 36 times with 20 of those shots on goal coming in the second period alone.

It was not as if the Flyers weren’t pressuring Holtby either. Philadelphia was in his face all game long trying to knock him off his game with physical play. More than once you could see Holtby give a little hack with his goalie stick to a Flyers player after taking perhaps one too many liberties with the netminder.

Holtby was brilliant in a game in which Washington was largely outplayed. The Caps do not get this critical win without his effort in net.

Vrana’s breakaway

The Caps held a precarious 2-1 lead heading into the third period. Philadelphia was outplaying them badly and carried that momentum into the final 20 minutes. Brooks Orpik’s roughing penalty was the fourth straight power play for the Flyers and it felt like only a matter of time before Philadelphia would finally get the game-tying tally. Washington managed to kill off the penalty, however, and soon after extended their lead to 3-1 as Jakub Vrana snapped the puck through Elliott’s five-hole.

Brett Connolly tried to hit the puck off the wall and out of the defensive zone, but the puck was stopped at the blue line by defenseman Philippe Myers. Myers attempted to sweep the puck deep, but failed and Connolly cut it off and tapped it up to the streaking Vrana who was in behind the defense.

You have to give credit to Philadelphia for not collapsing after Boyd’s goal. After dominating play, going down 2-0 must have been a deflating feeling, but they battled back. Vrana’s goal to restore the two-goal lead, however, was the knockout punch. The Flyers could not battle back after that one.

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Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

Caps leave All-Star Game with plenty of highlights, but no wins

ST. LOUIS -- There was no All-Star championship for the Metropolitan Division All-Stars this year. The Metro was not able to defend its crown in 2020 as it fell 9-5 to the Atlantic Division in the first game of the All-Star Game tournament on Saturday.

Despite the early loss, the Capitals certainly left their mark on the event. Here were the highlights:

An ovation for Oshie

T.J. Oshie began his NHL career in St. Louis and remains a fan favorite there even now in the midst of his fifth season in Washington. That was evident when Oshie was introduced to the crowd to thunderous applause.

“I think it's a pretty cool story,” Oshie said. “It's something that I'm going to enjoy telling the kids and grandkids down the road. But I think the coolest part for me was just the cheers from the fans when my name was called a couple times there. I enjoyed playing here. I love playing in D.C. though, but I had some good experiences here, some heartbreaks, some pretty good teams we played on. Just to get back here, just kind of crazy that my first All-Star Game ended up being in St. Louis. It was a great weekend, it was fun, the fans were awesome as always.”

The starting lineup

Todd Reirden went with what he knew to start the game as Oshie and John Carlson both started the game with Braden Holtby in net. The only non-Cap to start was New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal.

The Barzal, Oshie, Carlson trio seemed to find some chemistry through the game and Oshie had nothing but positive things to say of the speedy forward after the game.

“Obviously his skill level's off the charts, just skating, his stickhandling and vision on the ice,” Oshie said. “Obviously we would've liked to put up some more goals, but it's nice trying to get open and have him find me than chase him around the ice and just try to not get made a fool of. It was awesome. He's a great kid. It was nice kind of getting to know him off the ice here these last couple days.”

While Oshie wished for more production, that line actually acquitted itself nicely. Oshie recorded one goal and one assist, Carlson had one goal and Barzal had two assists.

Carlson scores a milestone

The Atlantic Division jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Carlson scored the first goal of the game for the Metro.

Holtby broke up a scoring chance for the Atlantic as he blocked a centering pass with his stick which sparked the breakout in the other direction. Carlson and Barzal had a 2-on-1 opportunity and Barzal set up Carlson for the shot past a helpless Frederik Anderson. Oshie recorded a secondary assist on the goal.

That was not just the Caps’ first goal of the game, it was the first goal by a Caps defenseman at the All-Star Game in franchise history, according to the team. Quite the milestone.

“That’s great,” Carlson said. “I guess I had no idea.”

Oshie scores in St. Louis

I mean, he had to, right? His first All-Star game coming in St. Louis, there was no way Oshie was going to walk away from this game without scoring.

The Metro Division cycled in the offensive zone and Seth Jones dropped the puck off to Oshie near the blue line. He cut up the middle then fired a shot to the corner to beat Anderson, making him the eighth player in Caps’ franchise history to score at an All-Star Game.

Coach Osh in the house

Oshie’s family has always been the talk of Washington because of how adorable his daughters are and that was on full display again on Saturday. But it was Oshie’s dad who stole the show.

Oshie’s father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. That makes traveling very difficult. After Oshie’s goal, however, the broadcast cut to Oshie waving up to his father who had been able to make the trip to St. Louis.

“It's always great to have Coach Osh around,” Oshie said. “He missed our fathers' trip this year, it's kind of hard for him to travel, but we were able to make it work for him to come to St. Louis where a lot of the people you see working down here behind the scenes probably know him better than they know me, so he got to see some old friends. Just special to have him here to witness my first All-Star Game in person.”

Oshie added, “There's certain milestones that I've made in my career that I want him to be a part of if he's able to make it and this was one of them He came to St. Louis quite a bit when I played and he has a lot of friends here, a lot of people that treat him really good as well. This was something that I didn't want him to miss."

Holtby ends on a high-note

Let’s face it, the All-Star Game does not favor the goalies. A 3-on-3 tournament is meant to promote as much scoring as possible. As a result, it is often a tough night for the netminders and that was true for Holtby who made five saves on nine shots in his single period of play. But Holtby was able to end his night on a high note with one of the top saves of the game.

David Pastrnak set up Shea Weber on the far-side for what looked like a lay-up on Holtby, but Holtby was able to stretch the pad for the fantastic toe save to deny Weber.

“It felt good to make a save,” Holtby said.

“It's difficult, but it's fun too,” Holtby said of the 3-on-3 format. “It's challenging. I think guys are starting to figure it out a little bit more with the cross-ice pass and stuff. But it's fun to be a part of.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Oshie gets warm All-Star welcome on St. Louis return, scores with dad in attendance

Former St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie was welcomed back to Enterprise Arena fondly by the NHL All-Star crowd that included his family.

At the end of Oshie's entrance on to the ice, the camera showed plenty of Blues players cheering for him. In seven seasons with St. Louis, Oshie played 443 games and tallied 310 points (110 G, 200 A) and a +71 plus/minus rating. He even served as an alternate captain for his final two seasons before being traded to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round draft pick. 

That wasn't all for Oshie's All-Star performance -- he scored 5:29 into the first period to give the Metropolitan Division team a 3-2 lead.

Oshie is the eighth Capitals player in franchise history to score in the NHL All-Star Game.

Oshie's family, including his dad, Tim, affectionately known as "Coach Osh," was in attendance to witness his first All-Star appearance, making the moment even more special.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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