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Caps at Coyotes: Can Ovechkin find No. 700 in the desert?

Caps at Coyotes: Can Ovechkin find No. 700 in the desert?

The Capitals (37-15-5) are back in the win column after beating the Colorado Avalanche in a come-from-behind win on Thursday. Can they keep up that momentum on Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes (28-24-8)?

Tune in to NBC Sports Washington for the game broadcast plus pre and postgame coverage. Pregame coverage begins at 9 p.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live bringing you up to the 10 p.m. game broadcast. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for postgame coverage with Caps Postgame Live.

Here is what you need to know for Saturday's game.

698 and counting

Alex Ovechkin remains stuck on 698 career goals. He last scored on Feb. 4 against the Los Angeles Kings in the miraculous third period hat trick. That marks three straight games without a goal for the Great 8. There have been five other times this season in which Ovechkin has gone three games without a goal and each time he did not allow that streak to reach four games.

Kuznetsov watch

Evgeny Kuznetsov did not play in Thursday's game due to an upper-body injury, but he did skate after the morning skate. Because the team did not practice on Friday, we won't know Kuznetsov's status until Saturday's morning skate, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET.

Here are the lines from Thursday's game with Kuznetsov out:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

We will also have to wait to see who will be in net. Braden Holtby seems most likely after he turned aside 32 out of 34 shots he faced in Thursday's win.

When last we met

The Coyotes came to Washington on Nov. 11 and ended the Caps' six-game win streak with a 4-3 shootout victory. It looked like Washington's 11-game point streak was also in jeopardy as Arizona jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks to two goals in the first minute of the second period. Washington battled back with two goals from Kuznetsov and Oshie scored the game-tying goal with just 76 seconds remaining in regulation.

In overtime, it looked like Oshie had scored the game-winning goal, but it was called back on an offside review.

Slumping

The Caps snapped a two-game losing streak on Thursday and while that may not sound too bad, it was the way they lost those two games, by a combined score of 12-5, which made it so brutal. Since returning from the all-star break, Washington is 4-4-0.

But if you want to talk about slumps, that's nothing compared to the one Arizona is slogging through. The Coyotes come into Saturday's game with two straight losses, including a regulation loss to the lowly Ottawa Senators. Arizona has only won three out of its last 15 games going from western contender to the second wildcard spot. The Taylor Hall trade has not propelled them to the top of the West as they may have hoped.

Strength vs. strength

Washington ranks second in the NHL in offense with 3.54 goals per game.  Defense is the strength of the Coyotes who rank fifth with 2.68 goals allowed per game. Ovechkin is going to put that defense to the test looking for goals No. 699 and 700.

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Alex Ovechkin reveals the last time he cried and the thing that ticks his wife off about him

Alex Ovechkin reveals the last time he cried and the thing that ticks his wife off about him

Future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin joined the people over at Men's Journal recently for a very candid interview regarding his life off of the ice. 

Of the many topics discussed, one that made Ovi smirk a tad was "What do you do that drives your wife crazy?"

"I think the thing my wife Nastasiya hates the most about me is how much I play games on my phone," Ovechkin said. "Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, all of those games. Even before I go to bed I play them."

While this may seem like an addiction to most, Ovi promises it's not -- just some good fun. 

"I'm not addicted, I just like video games," Ovechkin said. "Every time we're away on a road trip I try to get my Xbox with me just to play video games."

While Ovechkin's gaming habits may irritate Nastasiya, he finds time for movie nights (and sometimes cries, sort of). 

"The last time I cried is when we watched the movie, 'The Notebook,'" Ovechkin said. "I wasn't crying-crying, but I look over at my wife and she's crying so I tried to hold it together and think of something else."

Whatever you say Ovi, whatever you say.

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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 7

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 7

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 7, a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 4 that featured the most unexpected and perhaps the most amazing hat trick in Alex Ovechkin’s career. 

You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

Fresh off a loss to Pittsburgh, the Caps came out completely flat against an inferior Kings team. There was no energy on the ice and there was no energy at Capital One Arena. After tilting the ice in their favor all period, Los Angeles got on the board at the 15:03 mark on a Jeff Carter wrister past Braden Holtby. 

Holtby and John Carlson woke up Washington in the second. Holtby made several critical saves to keep the deficit at one. Carlson erased the Kings lead as he finished off a 3-on-2 rush with a close-range snipe on Jonathan Quick. 

  

The momentum once again shifted towards Los Angeles in the third. Holtby did an outstanding job keeping the Kings off the board until Carter scored his second of the night with less than nine minutes remaining. It looked like it wouldn’t be Washington’s night until this: 

 

 Alex Ovechkin didn’t have a shot on goal for the first 53-plus minutes of the game. His first shot of the night came off a great pass from T.J. Oshie and Ovi beat Quick on the doorstep. Just 70 seconds later Ovechkin struck again. Carlson started the play with a long stretch pass that hit Ovechkin in stride. Quick made the initial stop on Ovechkin’s wrister, but couldn’t find the rebound. While Quick and his defense scrambled, Ovechkin got to the loose puck first and gave the Caps their first lead. 

  

Ovechkin added an empty-net goal a few minutes later for one of the most unlikely natural hat tricks. 

MEMORABLE MOMENTS 

Ready for the Ovechkin statistical smorgasbord? He scored three goals in 4:24 of play. The three goals gave him 14 goals in his last seven games and 16 goals in his last ten. It was his third hat trick in six games. It was his 27th career hat trick which passed Maurice Richard for eighth-most in NHL history. He reached 698 career goals and 40 for the season. He was the first player in 2020 to 40 goals. And at that point, he was on pace for 61 goals on the year. By the way, he’s 34 years old.  

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT 

Aside from Ovechkin, the play of Holtby was the biggest takeaway after the game. Carter beat him twice glove side, but Holtby handled the other 29 shots he faced. Holtby was fresh off a miserable January that had seen Ilya Samsonov get more and more playing time. But instead of growing impatient with their star goalie, the crowd at Capital One Arena got behind him. There were several Holtby chants throughout the second period as Caps fans tried to encourage him out of his slump. 

  

Since his win against the Kings, Holtby is 5-3-2 in ten starts and his save percentage is back over 90%. 

WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOU

To provide some energy, Tom Wilson went to the corner and tried to pick a fight with the entire Kings lineup after a whistle. None of the Kings took the bait. 

In the “never seen this before” category, Dmitry Orlov’s slap shot was so hard, it knocked the blade off Carl Grundstrom’s skate. 

  

We also had one of the best Mites on Ice celebrations of the season. That was going to be the highlight of the evening until Ovechkin carried the Caps to a win. 

  

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