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Capitals’ title defense halted in first round as Hurricanes stun Washington in overtime

Capitals’ title defense halted in first round as Hurricanes stun Washington in overtime

WASHINGTON – The Capitals are the defending champs no more. After taking a 2-0 lead in the first period of Game 7 on Wednesday, Washington was stunned as the Carolina Hurricanes rallied for the 4-3 overtime win 

The Hurricanes now advance to face Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders int he second round starting on Friday. Washington, meanwhile, is left to ponder what could have been as their quest to repeat is now officially over.

Here are five reasons the Caps saw their season come to an end on Wednesday.

The second period

The Caps took control of the game early with two goals in the first seven minutes of the game. With all the momentum on their side and the crowd going berserk, Washington could have ridden that momentum to the comfortable win much as they did in Game 5. Unlike in Game 5, however, Carolina was able to find life in the middle frame with two goals of their own.

Sebastian Aho got the Hurricanes on the board with a shorthanded tally. Evgeny Kuznetsov restored Washington’s two-goal lead, but Teuvo Teravainen responded just over three minutes later to make sure the Hurricanes stayed within one through the second period.

A one-goal deficit with a period to play is hardly insurmountable and a confident Carolina team left the ice through 40 minutes despite the fact that they were still trailing. They had life and that meant they had a chance.

A shorthanded goal

Up 2-0, the Caps were handed a power play in the second period after Jordan Martinook was called for tripping Nick Jensen. Rather than stepping on Carolina’s throat, however, Washington instead allowed the Hurricanes right back into the game as they gave up a shorthanded goal to Aho.

After a scrum in front of the net Carolina’s net, Brett Pesce came away with the puck. Aho immediately went out to the neutral zone and began tapping his stick for the puck. Instead of just clearing it, Pesce passed it up to Aho. John Carlson was in good position to defend him, but had to drift more to the middle with Teuvo Teravainen streak to the front. Aho saw he had some room and skated and chipped an innocent looking puck at Braden Holtby, probably looking for the rebound to set up Teravainen. Instead of setting up Teravainen, however, the puck bounced back out to Aho. Carlson and dove in front to block the shot and was out of position to defend leaving Aho all alone to shoot his own rebound and score.

Teravainen’s lightning fast shot

This play turned into one of the biggest plays of the game. Kuznetsov responded to Aho’s goal to make it 3-1 Caps, but Carolina was determined to score before the second period came to an end.

If you blinked, you would have missed it.

After a prolonged offensive shift for the Hurricanes, the Caps were on their heels. Pesce tried to pass from the blue line, but Carl Hagelin got his stick there to block it sending the puck bouncing toward the slot. Aho went after it, but missed. Instead it came to Teravainen who took one touch to control, then fired the quick shot before anyone realized what had happened.

Suddenly it was a one-goal game and Carolina had life.

Jordan Staal's game-tying goal

After taking momentum at the end of the second period, that certainly carried over to the start of the third. The Hurricanes were a step faster than Washington out of the game and it did not take long for them to get the game-tying tally.

Staal streaked into the offensive zone off a line change by Washington. The pass was perfect to lead Staal into the zone and he had enough time to aim and fire the wrister before Jonas Siegenthaler was able to get over to challenge him. Tie game.

An overtime deflection

It was only a matter of time. The Caps may have started off as the better team, but Carolina took control and were easily the best team in overtime.

The Hurricanes fired off the first nine shots of the extra period before Washington was able to get a puck on the net. It only made it to a second overtime because of the brilliant play of Braden Holtby. Holtby made 17 saves in both overtime before he was finally beaten.

It was a deflection by Brock McGinn that ultimately ended the Caps' season after over 90 minutes of hockey.

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In an offseason full of questions, Jonas Siegenthaler isn’t one of them

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In an offseason full of questions, Jonas Siegenthaler isn’t one of them

The Capitals will have a lot of roster spots open and not much money to fill them with this offseason. Adding a young, cheap defensive prospect to the NHL roster will certainly help and that appears to be the plan for Jonas Siegenthaler.

Siegenthaler’s first NHL season began with him in the AHL, but it finished with him playing on the top defensive pairing of the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The season did not get off to a great start for Siegenthaler as he became a cap casualty despite a strong training camp. Heading into the start of the NHL season, he looked poised to make the Caps roster.

“I came to camp here with the mindset to make the team and come to camp in good shape and everything,” Siegenthaler said at the team’s breakdown day.

The suspension to Tom Wilson and subsequent acquisition of Dmitrij Jaskin off waivers forced Washington to shuffle money to get under the salary cap. Siegenthaler, who was waiver exempt, was sent to the Hershey Bears as a result.

Siegenthaler would have to wait until Nov. 9 to finally make his NHL debut. He would go on to play 26 games his rookie season.

“I think a guy like Siegenthaler came up and played really well,” Lars Eller said.

““I tried to play my best game,” Siegenthaler said. “Of course it wasn’t always easy but I think like I did my best and tried to help the team.”

With a deep blue line, Siegenthaler was sent back to Hershey in February, but was recalled late in the season after Michal Kempny suffered a season-ending injury. The call-up, however, was just to have an extra body. As Todd Reirden experimented with the defensive pairs heading into the playoffs, it did not appear he viewed the rookie defenseman as a real option for the playoffs. Despite all the shuffling, Siegenthaler did not get into the lineup until the season finale after Washington had already wrapped up the division crown.

The Caps struggled in the first round against the Carolina Hurricanes, however, prompting changes to the lineup. The defense still struggled with the constant in-game adjustments and a change was clearly needed. Siegenthaler got into the lineup for Game 4. By Game 5, he was playing in Kempny’s spot on the top pair alongside John Carlson.

“He really just seemed very poised,” Eller said. “There wasn't any panic in his game. It's hard to be thrown into a series like that where the stakes are high and I thought he did that really well.”

Still just 22 years old and with a contract that remains waiver exempt for another year, Siegenthaler could enter the 2019-20 season in a position to again have to compete just to make the NHL roster. The possible retirement of Brooks Orpik and speculation over whether Matt Niskanen could be traded, however, leaves the team with spots open on the blue line.

The fact that Siegenthaler was able to go from the AHL to the top pair of the Caps during the playoffs reflects his growth as a player over the course of the year. To expect him to come into next season in a top-pair role would be unfair. Even a top-four role seems unlikely with Kempny likely returning and Nick Jensen taking Niskanen’s spot if he does in fact get traded.

But if the coaches trusted Siegenthaler as a rookie when it mattered most and with him still on an entry-level deal at a time when the team will need to pinch every penny, Siegenthaler will almost certainly be in Washington and not in Hershey for the 2019-20 campaign.

“Next season’s going to be huge,” he said. “I’ll do my best in the summer to keep myself in shape, in even better shape. My goal is to be here a long time and for rest of my career and yeah, just got to work for it.”

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

The St. Louis Blues won a decisive Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks 5-0, pushing the Sharks to the brink of elimination.

The Blues are now one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final since the 1969-70 season, where they lost to the Boston Bruins in a sweep.

St. Louis started the scoring early when Oskar Sundqvist netted his second goal of the series in the first five minutes of the game. 

Jaden Schwartz then tallied his first goal of the game off a juicy rebound in front of Martin Jones to start the scoring in the second period. It was Schwartz's 10th goal of the playoffs, which tied him for third all-time in Blues history for goals in the postseason.

Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Blues lead off a penalty shot. He's the first player in Blues franchise history to score a penalty shot goal in the playoffs.

Schwartz then added two more goals in the third period for a hat-trick. The first came on a 5-on-3 power play advantage off a scramble in front of the net, and the second came from a backdoor one-timer pass from Tarasenko.

Schwartz now has 12 goals these playoffs, and it's his second hat-trick of the playoffs.

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington recorded 21 saves for a shutout, and he's the first rookie goalie to accomplish that feat for the Blues.

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