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Capitals take back first place in Metro by dismantling shorthanded Devils

Capitals take back first place in Metro by dismantling shorthanded Devils

A three-goal second period fueled the Capitals to a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, giving Washington back sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Goalie Pheonix Copley earned his sixth straight win with 20 saves while Brett Connolly became the fifth Cap this season to reach the 20-goal mark.

Here are four reasons Washington got the win.

Kyle Palmieri leaves early

The Devils were already without Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Mirco Mueller and Sami Vatanen so they really could not afford to lose Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri took an inadvertent shoulder from Nick Jensen which dropped him. He was very slow to get back to the bench and did not return. He played only 1:18.

With the number of injuries the Devils have faced, Palmieri has been huge with 27 goals and 50 points, both team highs. Trying to beat the Caps without so many key players was already going to be a tall task. Adding Palmieri to that list was a real blow to the gut.

Andre Burakovsky stays hot

Burakovsky got Washington on the board early as he ripped a shot past MacKenzie Blackwood less than three minutes into the game. The Caps winger circled around the boards with the puck and New Jersey gave him some room to work with. He cut from the boards to the faceoff circle and fired the puck through the legs of defenseman Eric Tangradi. There was so much speed behind that shot that, Blackwood barely had enough time to react. The puck did hit him in the arm, but on the way out. The puck was hit so hard it bounced back out into Blackwood’s arm.

The goal is Burakovsky’s 12th of the season. He has scored five of those goals since Feb. 23.

Brett Connolly opens the flood gates

The box score does not look great for Blackwood, but he was doing all he could to keep the Devils in it. With the score tied at 1 at the start of the second period, Blackwood made a number of dazzling saves to preserve the tie, including stoning Jakub Vrana on a 2-on-1. His play made you wonder if a beaten up New Jersey team would somehow be able to steal away two points from the Caps, but Brett Connolly put fans’ fears to rest.

Christian Djoos, playing for the first time since Feb. 23, made a good play at the wall faking the pass to open up the lane, and fired the puck right to the tape of Connolly who tapped the puck in for his 20th goal of the season. This marks the first 20-goal season of Connolly’s career.

From that point, the Caps added two more goals in the second to take control. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his 19th of the season about six minutes later and just over a minute after that Tom Wilson extended Washington’s lead to three.

Top-Six Shuffle

About midway through the game, Todd Reirden switched centers on the top two lines with moving Nicklas Backstrom with Wilson and Alex Ovechkin and Kuznetsov down with Vrana and T.J. Oshie. The move had positive results for both lines.

Vrana tipped the puck up from the defensive zone to Kuznetsov who called his own number on the 2-on-1 and buried the puck through the 5-hole of Blackwood. Later in the second, Backstrom and Ovechkin both earned assists on Wilson’s 21st goal of the season.

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Capitals Goal of the Year Bracket: Ovi Dangles Canes with Wilson vs Ovi Slapshot

Capitals Goal of the Year Bracket: Ovi Dangles Canes with Wilson vs Ovi Slapshot

With less than a month before training camp opens in mid-September, we are taking one last look back at the 2018-19 season as we dive into the best goals of last year. We compiled our bracket based on the cumulative rankings of our Capitals team, from reporters to producers and everyone in between, and now is your turn to help us determine the best Capitals goal of 2018-19. Below is a Slack conversation between members of the Capitals content team.

jmurph: Alright everyone, our bracket starts today with the 1 vs 16 matchup. Alex Ovechkin factoring heavily into both goals. Our #1 rated goal of the season was Ovi's incredible effort in Game 7 against the Hurricanes to set up Tom Wilson and the #16 seed is a vintage Ovi slapper off a faceoff from February 21 against the Leafs. Let's start in on Goal #1, what makes this the best goal of the season?

JJ Regan: Alex Ovechkin's entire career has been full of jaw-dropping moments. Some times we can take that for granted, but what he did in Game 7 was absolutely phenomenal and I can say, without hyperbole, that the play he made to set up Tom Wilson was one of the best plays I have seen Ovechkin make in his entire career.

Ryan Billie: How about the fact that he literally did EVERYTHING on that Wilson goal?

Rob Carlin: The Wilson goal in the playoffs was sick. Ovi was magical with the puck. And it was a big goal - at the moment. But now that’s just part of a bad memory. Give me Ovi one-timers from 40’feet directly into my veins. I go with the ovi extended hours from his office

jmurph: Wow Rob, going for the UMBC takedown on the opening day

JJ Regan: I love the Ovechkin one-timer...but how many times have we seen him score goals exactly like that? The effort to setup Wilson is an all-time highlight even if the Caps ultimately lost that game.

Ryan Billie: Yeah, that’s a surprise. I don’t think the circumstances of the game take away from the fact it was an outrageous effort. One of the best I’ve ever seen.

Rob Carlin: Yes! Sorry Wahoo Wa. Find me 5 guys who score on that shot.

jmurph: Effort aside, was the goal good?

Ryan Billie: Find me 5 dudes that make that play to Wilson.

JJ Regan: That is really the only argument. The play to setup the goal was great...but was the goal itself?

bmcnally: The goal is still sick. Credit to Wilson for realizing Ovi is playing like he's in a video game and shading away from goal a bit to give him the space to finish the pass

jmurph: Going back to the slapshot, it's crazy how we just think that it's normal to be able to do that with such ease because we've seen Ovi do it so many times

Rob Carlin: The goal was sick. I remember literally jumping out of my seat. Just don’t penalize a 40 foot slap shot just because he’s scored 400 of those.

timmcdonough: the Ovi effort immediately reminded me of the behind-the-back off-the-wall goal against Montreal.. which some people say is his best ever. Plus, nothing better than an Ovechkin rush at home where the entire crowd is standing before the puck hits the net

Ryan Billie: ^^^

bmcnally: That really was a great :"Roman Hamrlik" goal call back from 2009

Rob Carlin: TMac from the top rope! That’s a solid argument

bmcnally: The only real difference is this time he stayed on his feet and had someone with him

JJ Regan: Plus, he didn't actually score the goal, it was Wilson.

Ryan Billie: And it’s crazy, because when Ovi is open for a slap shot, you can feel the air get let out of the arena because you know what’s coming... every time he touches the puck, you just never know what’s gonna happen.

JJ Regan: There is something to be said about how incredible it is that everyone knows what Ovechkin is about to do and you just can't stop it.

jmurph: JJ are you leaning towards Rob on this one? Voting for a 16-1 upset right off the bat?

JJ Regan: Absolutely not. Just giving credit where credit is due. The Ovechkin one-timer is great, but the set up on Wilson's goal is better. An all-time highlight in a highlight career.

Rob Carlin: That’s my argument, JJ. It’s been done 400 times. Yet no one can stop it. When his stick goes up, just waiting, the excitement builds. Every time. He scored this one from 42 feet away. With no screen. Sick.

timmcdonough: I will say this about the other goal... people don’t realize how much preparation and coordination goes into scoring that fast off a faceoff. Clean win, quick pass, off-balance rocket, all in like 3.7 seconds

Ryan Billie: It’s the equivalent of a Steph Curry deep 3. We’re so used to them now they don’t seem special. But they are.

jmurph: I love me some Nic Dowd backhand sauce for 40 feet but I think the Ovi slapper got the shaft here on our list coming in at 16 against an all-timer

Rob Carlin: I’m not dying on this hill. That goal vs Carolina was all world. As Johnny said in the video, he almost threw me off the balcony when it happened. I just love Ovi one timers from way downtown.

JJ Regan: Don't bust my bracket on the first goal! Give me Ovechkin to Wilson!

bmcnally: Yeah I'm definitely going for the playmaking goal with Wilson. It's just so ridiculous someone that size can do that. But before we bury the slapper just wanted to give it the respect it deserves. It's a 16 seed that took the 1 seed deep into the second half before fading

Ryan Billie: Is Carlin pulling a Homer and backing into the bushes??

JJ Regan: That is well done

Rob Carlin: I’m basically just a lawyer in a trial who knows he’s gonna lose but wants his point on record and in the minds of the jury.

jmurph: So it seems like we are all in agreement, if this #16 Ovi slapper comes up against most goals, it might get the nod, but not on this day. Chalk it up and #1 moves on.

Ryan Billie: Not just moves on... but covers as well.

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Metropolitan Division Outlook 2019-20: The New York Rangers

Metropolitan Division Outlook 2019-20: The New York Rangers

The Capitals enter the 2019-20 season looking for their fifth consecutive Metropolitan Division title.

But this could be the most challenging year yet. The bottom of the division has improved dramatically with offseason moves and the top of the division still has quality teams. It’s hard to figure who will crater and finish last. The winning team might not top 100 points.

For the next two weeks, NBC Sports Washington will take a look at each Metro team and where they stand with training camps opening in less than a month. Today: The New York Rangers.

In February 2018, the Rangers did a very un-Rangers-like thing. The team sent a letter to their fans declaring the plan to rebuild the team. Now just over a year later, it did not take long for New York to make a splash in the offseason again.

The Rangers landed the prize of free agency in Artemi Panarin, added free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba, drafted Kaapo Kakko with the second-overall pick in the draft and traded for prospect defenseman Adam Fox. They also managed to avoid a restricted free agent standoff with Pavel Buchnevich.

All these moves combined put the Rangers among the most improved teams in the league. It did not take long, but New York was able to shift its team from a group of veterans not good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup to a team full of youth and potential.

The future certainly looks brighter for this team in the future than it previously had, but despite all the improvements there are still plenty of questions about the present roster.

While New York certainly got younger, star goalie Henrik Lundqvist did not.

Lundqvist had an up-and-down season last year. His first half of last season was good enough to get him to the All-Star Game. He struggled in the latter half of the season and finished with a save percentage of only .907 and a GAA of 3.07. He is not a goalie who seems to do well taking a backseat, but Alexander Georgiev played well enough to earn more playing time. All of this makes it difficult to determine just what the split between the two netminders is going to be heading into this season.

In front of the crease, the additions of Trouba and Fox look like they will give the Rangers two new top-four defenseman to plug in. That should certainly help a team that ranked 23rd in the NHL last season in goals against per game with 3.26 and could potentially take some of the pressure off Lundqvist.

Mika Zibanejad returns as the team’s top center after what was easily his best season in the NHL with career highs in goals, assists and points. He was seen as a second-line center going into last season, but certainly took advantage of the larger role offered by New York. The concerns over whether he can handle a top-line role may not be as prevalent as last year, but I still seem him as a poor man's No. 1 center.

The offense is also likely to lose some of its depth before the start of the season due to salary cap constraints.

The Rangers sit with just $1 million remaining in projected cap space and still have RFAs Brendan Lemieux and Anthony Deangelo left to sign. When looking into what the team's options are for freeing up space, you have to wonder if players like Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov -- who are both entering the final year of their contracts -- could both be moved before the summer is over.

Panarin is a great addition and undeniably a superstar, but he cannot carry a team by himself. When he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets and became the offensive focal point of the team, he was only able to lead the Blue Jackets to a single playoff series win in his two seasons there. That was a much deeper team than the Rangers appear to be if they should lose Kreider or Namestnikov.

Money decisions will continue to loom over this team even after a decision is made on those players. The cap situation was dire enough that the Rangers bought out the remaining two years of Kevin Shattenkirk’s contract. While he was underperforming, the combined buyouts of Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner will leave New York with $5,394,444 of dead cap space in 2019-20 and nearly $7.5 million of dead cap space in 2020-21. These are not just bad contracts that can be packaged in a trade and sent away, that is dead cap space that the team is stuck with. That is a massive amount for a team that sure looks like it wants to compete for the playoffs sooner rather than later.

You still have to count the Rangers among the most improved teams this offseason, but the hill they had to climb and still must continue to climb may have been much steeper than many anticipated. There is still a lot of work left to do in Manhattan.

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