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Capitals push Carolina to the brink blowing away Hurricanes in Game 5

Capitals push Carolina to the brink blowing away Hurricanes in Game 5

WASHINGTON – After scoring only one goal in the last two games, the offense erupted for the Capitals on Saturday as the Caps dominated the Carolina Hurricanes 6-0 in Game 5. Washington will have a chance to close out the series on Monday as the series shifts back to Raleigh for Game 6.

The Caps were dominant from start to finish, but held only a 1-0 lead midway through the game. Two goals late in the second gave Washington some breathing room and the game turned into a laugher in the third as the Caps poured on three more goals.

 Here are five reasons Washington won.

The role reversal continues

Alex Ovechkin is one of the best goal scorers to ever play the game and Nicklas Backstrom is a phenomenal set-up man. This series has seen those roles reversed and that continued on Saturday.

Backstrom scored the first two goals of the game and now has five in five games this series. Ovechkin, meanwhile, tallied two assists and now has four for the series.

Ovechkin did not get an assist on the first goal, but he essentially set up the play as he broke up a 2-on-1 by the Hurricanes at the blue line. He tipped the puck into the neutral zone and the Caps countered. John Carlson made a backhand pass to Backstrom, but Petr Mrazek read it beautifully and got over in time to make the save. Backstrom got his own rebound, however, and knocked it through the 5-hole.

Ovechkin also scored a goal in the third assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov and...Backstrom.

The penalty kill

Through the first half of the game, the Caps were dominating in just about every aspect of the game. The score was just 1-0, however, and they were playing with fire especially in the second after taking multiple penalties.

Washington was sent to the penalty box three times in the second, all while nursing a 1-0 lead. The penalty kill had to come up huge and it absolutely did, killing off all three second-period penalties plus another in the first period to keep the lead and the momentum all with the Caps.

Warren Foegele’s pass to no one

After killing off the third penalty of the period, Washington struck to take a 2-0 lead thanks to a huge mistake from Warren Foegele. Foegele had the puck at the Caps’ blue line, but was looking for a line change. Instead of dumping the puck into Washington’s zone, Foegele backhanded a pass to the other side of the ice to…no one. It was a completely unforced error and it cost the Hurricanes.

The only person anywhere close to the puck was Ovechkin. He got ahead of steam, grabbed the puck and, since the Hurricanes were on a line change, suddenly the Caps were in behind the defense. Jaccob Slavin came over to challenge Ovechkin with no help on the other side. Ovechkin delivered a perfect pass to Backstrom who scored his second goal of the game.

A bad mistake by Hamilton

Speaking of unforced errors, Dougie Hamilton sees your turnover and raises you a blown icing.

Less than two minutes after Backstrom’s second goal, he tried to return the favor with a long stretch pass from the defensive zone to Ovechkin. The puck went off of Ovechkin’s stick and down the ice. Hamilton, however, apparently did not know Ovechkin had touched the puck and skated very casually after it. It looked like he was assuming the play would be called dead for icing. It wasn’t.

While Hamilton was taking his time, Ovechkin went hard at the puck, cut in front of Hamilton and won it off the boards. He then fed a streaking Brett Connolly for his first goal of the playoffs.

Braden Holtby

Trailing 1-0 and with three power plays, Carolina had every opportunity to get back into this game. They didn’t and Holtby deserves a lot of credit for that. This was easily Holtby’s best game of the series.

Holtby has been good this series and was certainly not the reason Washington lost Games 3 or 4. But sometimes in the playoffs, you need your goalie to steal a few big saves and Holtby had not done that. He came up huge in Game 5 with a number of huge saves when Carolina was threatening to get back into the game.

Holtby totaled 30 saves on the night in the shutout performance. With the shoutout, he set a franchise record for most playoff shutouts with seven. 

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: How the Matt Niskanen trade sets up the rest of the Caps’ offseason

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: How the Matt Niskanen trade sets up the rest of the Caps’ offseason

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want to be answered the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

There usually is no rush in re-signing restricted free agents since teams own their rights. Having said that, I thought the deal for Jakub Vrana would get done quickly so that Brian MacLellan would know how much money he had to work with under the cap. It would make sense for Vrana too because, with every signing, there is less money for him. Yet, we are still waiting.

This issue may get a little complicated with reports saying the salary cap could actually be lower than initially expected. Still, that probably does not affect Vrana’s final number, it just affects how much money the Caps will have to spend on other players. Whatever moves MacLellan still wants to make, he will have to leave enough room to get Vrana re-signed. I expect this deal to get done soon after the cap is finalized, but long before July 1.

As for Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby, we could see a bit of momentum on the Backstrom front. Moving Niskanen did not just save cap room for this season, but for the following year. Gudas has only one year remaining on his contract while Niskanen had two. There is zero chance Holtby gets extended this summer, however. With the expansion draft looming and goalie Ilya Samsonov as the team’s No. 1 prospect, all decisions regarding the team’s future in net will be on hold until we see how both players perform this season. If Samsonov looks ready to step into the NHL, it may ultimately not make sense to re-sign Holtby at all. That’s just the reality of the business.

Darren L. writes: With the trade of Matt Niskanen for Radko Gudas and the subsequent signing of Carl Hagelin, do you think there is still a chance, however slim, that Brett Connolly can be re-signed?

Benjamin C. writes: Now that we’ve sign Carl Hagelin does that basically end Connolly’s time in Washington?

Before the offseason, I was not sure it would be an either/or scenario between Hagelin and Connolly. When the realities of the salary cap set in, however, it seems pretty clear that re-signing Hagelin means Connolly’s tenure in Washington is over. The one caveat is that I did not expect Hagelin’s cap hit to be under $3 million as I thought there would be a market for him in free agency. He wanted to stay, however and was willing to take less per year for term. Kudos to MacLellan for getting Hagelin’s cap hit down to $2.75 million.

Connolly is coming off a season in which he scored 22 goals in a third-line role and limited power play time. Hockey-Graphs projects him to get a deal worth just over $3.5 million per year. To me, I think he could get more than that. I am of the opinion that there will be teams out there willing to offer Connolly more money and a bigger role than what the Caps can which will make it hard to keep him. If the offers all end up in the $3.5 million range, however, Washington could potentially afford that. So there is a chance, more than I would have thought, of keeping Connolly at $3.5 million per year. That’s about the limit I think they could afford and if his price tag goes up, that will be the end of that.

Darren L. writes: I keep reading that the Caps are very aggressive in the trade market. Do you think that there is an under the radar move that we, as fans, don’t know about yet?

In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman listed Washington among one of the most aggressive teams in trade talks saying generally of the NHL “we could see some frenetic attempts to move up and down.”

Friedman also wrote, “Other teams believe the Capitals are in total ‘go for it’ mode.”

The Niskanen trade was one we all saw coming, maybe not for Radko Gudas, but Brian McNally and I have been saying pretty much since the offseason began that Niskanen was going to get traded. I also wrote Tuesday on why the Caps could be players at the draft to move from their 25th pick. Anything beyond that, whether it means bringing in someone or sending someone out, I think we could label as unexpected.

Sure, there are players like Andre Burakovsky who it would be a surprise but not be shocking to see moved. If the Caps are as big a trade player as Friedman reports, I think we could be looking at a surprise move especially considering they would have to ship out cap space to get someone of significance.

Tyler A. writes: With Brett Connolly likely leaving Washington, how can the Capitals add some more offensive power to the bottom six this off-season?

Good question and it is an important one as depth offense is one of the team’s biggest weaknesses. The Caps probably have enough cap room for one significant third-line signing in the $3-4 million range depending on the salary cap. They could probably get a Joonas Donskoi, Micheal Ferland type for that amount.

But it is also important to remember that the fourth line needs a boost as well. The team just did not seem to find the right combination for that bottom line. For most NHL caliber RFAs, there is usually little question as to whether they will be re-signed. For Washington, however, the questions needs to be asked if it makes sense to bring back Chandler Stephenson or Dmirij Jaskin when the offensive upside looks pretty limited. Do the Caps have enough money to go after free agent fourth liners like Noel Acciari or Brian Boyle? And then, of course, what do you do with Andre Burakovsky and that leads to the next question….

Benjamin C. writes: Do you think we can get Andre Burakovsky back?

Eric C. writes: With the signing of Gudas and Hagelin what do you think this means for Burakovsky and his future in D.C.?

This depends on whether Burakovsky will be willing to sign for less than the $3.25 million the Caps would have to offer to qualify him. To me, there is definitely room for Burakovsky with the probable loss of Connolly. He can be an asset to the bottom-six so long as he gets paid like a bottom-six player.

After three straight seasons of scoring 12 goals, at this point, it is time to view and judge Burakovsky like a bottom-six player. We saw in the playoffs that he boosts the fourth line as he provides more talent than most teams see when facing an opponent’s fourth line. But you cannot afford to spend $3.25 million on a fourth line wing. That’s the key.

Bob C. writes: Why do you and some others maybe feel that Andre Burakovsky deserves to come back to the team? Myself and other fans feel he will never develop any more than what he has been.

“Deserve” has nothing to do with it. I have been pretty consistent in the fact that I think the Caps should bring Burakovsky back only if they can get him for less than what it would take to qualify him. That is too much for a player who has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent play throughout his career and who has scored 12 goals in each of the past three seasons.

With Connolly likely on his way out, that’s 22 goals coming off the third line. Washington’s bottom-six accounted for five goals in seven games in the playoffs. That’s not enough. In this day and age, you need players who can produce on the third and fourth lines. Burakovsky provides a dangerous offensive option in the bottom six, his skill set still has a high ceiling and the team is running out of options and cap space to improve depth scoring.

Lower the bar for Burakovsky and assume he is a bottom-six producer at this point. If he exceeds that expectation, great. If not, well then you paid a bottom-six forward a bottom-six salary.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be read and answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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Capitals' National Anthem singer Caleb Green auditions on America's Got Talent

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Capitals' National Anthem singer Caleb Green auditions on America's Got Talent

If you've been to a Caps game, you've definitely heard the incredible voice of Caleb Green singing the National Anthem.

Behind his impassioned voice is an undeniable patriotism, as Green is a retired Master Sergeant of the United States Army.

Beloved by Caps fans, Green decided to take his talents to the biggest stage in the world: America's Got Talent (AGT).

"Voices of Service" is an acapella group comprised of Green and three other servicemen and woman that have found music as a way to provide music therapy to servicemen and women suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Tuesday night on AGT, Green and the "Voices of Service" delivered an incredible acapella rendition of Katy Perry's "Rise," resulting in a standing ovation from the crowd and a resounding "YES" from the judges to advance to Hollywood.

 

The Washington Capitals gave their own shout out to Green following his performance.

As did Capitals commentator, Craig Laughlin.

America's Got Talent airs on NBC Tuesday nights at 8 p.m.

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