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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 a sport in which silence is the norm, Braden Holtby continues to be a voice for change

In a sport in which silence is the norm, Braden Holtby continues to be a voice for change

The phrase "stick to sports" is one often uttered by angry fans who don't want politics to bleed into their past time, who want sports to remain an escape from every day life. No sport has taken those words to heart in recent years more so than hockey where players very rarely come out and discuss political or social topics. Braden Holtby, however, has been a notable exception.

With the country locked in political unrest after the senseless murder of George Floyd, Holtby tweeted out an impassioned statement on Wednesday with his thoughts.

"I don't think this time is a time to sugarcoat anything," Holtby said Friday in a video conference. "I think it's a time to look at ourselves in the mirror and really find how we can be better and how we can take responsibility for the past and learn from that to move forward."

Holtby has been an outspoken advocate for human rights, particularly those of the LGBTQ community, for several years. Many hockey players have been outspoken in the wake of the protests currently gripping the country representing a shocking shift from the norm of silence we typically see in hockey from such issues.

Holtby, however, has never been shy about giving his thoughts.

"I don’t know why it’s been kind of taboo to speak your mind or stand up for what you believe in," Holtby said. "Obviously, there’s always this divide from sports to social issues. You want to be educated, you want to make sure that you know what you’re talking about [and] you’re not just using your platform to try and be popular or something like that."

RELATED: HOLTBY, WILSON MAKE STRONG STATEMENTS IN SUPPORT OF BLACK LIVES MATTER

Quick reactions on social media are easy and often without substance. Holtby, however, who professed that he actually dislikes social media and does not like to use it all that much, stressed the need for everyone, including himself, to educate themselves on the important issues facing the country before and in addition to speaking out.

"It wasn't until I moved here that you really understand what racial injustice is in this country," Holtby said, who is originally from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. "In Canada, we have indigenous rights and racism that way. I grew up around that, but this is different so I needed to educate myself and still need to. I believe how my parents did the right thing in teaching us in our situation. I learned a lot from them and Brandi as well and now we're just trying to take our knowledge we've learned in a different culture and try to teach our kids that way."

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But not everyone is open to hearing Holtby's thoughts on the matter.

When you speak out on these types of issues, you are bound to get plenty of backlash. Holtby has gotten such reaction from many who have decided that because he is a professional hockey player, he is for some reason no longer entitled to have a voice. There are also those who do not want to hear the opinion of a Canadian on America despite the fact that Holtby has been living in America since 2009.

"I think we all have our professions," Holtby said. "Everyone does. I don't know if any of us have -- unless your job is to fight racial inequalities or any sort of social issues that way, we're all just trying to be humans. And we just happen to have a following based on our job where people see us and it's easier to see us. It's crazy to think that that's an argument. We play hockey on the ice. We live our lives just as humans off of the ice and try to do our part that way. The second part about the Canadian thing is I've lived here for over 10 years now, so we call this home. This is my kids' home. My kids are both American. I feel like I'm fortunate to have been in both countries and be a part of both countries. I've said this a long (time): Canada follows America in a lot of ways. If you go from Canada to America, you don't see a ton of difference. The northern part of the states are very similar to Canada, and I believe when you try to make changes in one [it affects the other]."

But when the issues are important enough, it's easy to tune out the naysayers.

"I'm just trying to learn how I can do my part and my family's part to help people out," Holtby said. "I'm really hoping and I really believe that this is going to change the world in a lot of ways."

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Watch Alex Ovechkin’s son Sergei work on his slap shot

Watch Alex Ovechkin’s son Sergei work on his slap shot

The future looks bright for the Capitals with Alex Ovechkin’s son Sergei as an up-and-coming star.

Ovechkin’s wife Nastya captured an adorable moment on her Instagram story Thursday afternoon when Sergei practiced his shot and found the back of his miniature net on six consecutive attempts – just like his father would.


Nastya praised her 1-year-old, saying “Bravo!” after every goal scored, before he celebrated in classic Ovechkin fashion.

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While Ovi's eldest son has been occupied with his new role as a big brother as of late, he makes sure to leave plenty time to work on his slap shot and practice his celly, too, of course.

It looks like the young star is already on track to catch his father at 700 and make his debut in the 2038 NHL season.

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