The Caps wrapped up the regular season on a high-note with a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. Even with nothing to play for, the Caps managed to take control in the third period and put away the Devils. Here’s how.
Alex Ovechkin really wanted 50
From the very first shift it was clear that Ovechkin was on a mission. He wanted to reach 50 goals for the season. Ovechkin started the game just three goals shy and he got goal No. 48 just 2:21 into the game. It looked like he might get all three in the first period the way he was playing. His second goal came in the third period when he was able to grab an ill-advised clear attempt and quickly fire it on net. In the end, he came up one goal shy, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Ovechkin finished the game with 16 shot attempts, eight of which were on goal. With the game well in hand, the last five minutes of the game just became about getting him the puck to try to get him No. 50.
Michal Kempny’s best game as a Cap
Kempny has provided stability to the Capitals’ top four on defense, but his offensive game was on fire on Saturday. He scored his second goal as a Cap in the second period on a slap shot from the point. That goal also gave Shane Gersich his first NHL point as he tallied an assist on the play. Kempny later set up Andre Burakovsky in the third period right on the doorstep for the team’s fifth goal on the night.
The Devils’ lineup
The Caps were locked into their playoff position and had nothing to play for. New Jersey had considerably more on the line Saturday as they could have climbed as high as third in the division or sank as low as the second wild card. The Devils decided to take their chances and did not dress Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri, Sami Vatanen or goalie Keith Kinkaid. New Jersey put up a fight, but ultimately could not keep up with the Caps’ full roster. The loss certainly cost the Devils as it dropped them to the second wild card, meaning they will play the winner of the Atlantic Division in the first round.
WASHINGTON – The Capitals are sick and they are tired and they are injured and they are experimenting.
That’s the takeaway with six games left to go in the regular season after a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at Capital One Arena. Todd Reirden mixed his defensive pairs routinely and did the same in the third period with his forward lines, which led to a goal for Jakub Vrana.
Washington extended its lead in the Metropolitan Division to three points over the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. But they have been forced to look at different options thanks to an injury to defenseman Michal Kempny and illness spreading through the forward ranks at a bad time.
And so that’s how John Carlson started the game on the right side of the top pairing as usual, but was soon on the left side of the ice, with Nick Jensen moving up to replace Christian Djoos. At various times, Brooks Orpik played with Jensen and Djoos on the third pair. Kempny is out indefinitely, so Reirden doesn’t have much time to configure his ideal pairings. And trying to win a division title while doing so is problematic.
“I feel perfectly comfortable playing with any of our D,” said Jensen, who was acquired just before the NHL trade deadline in late February. “I think they're all capable of playing great defense, and I think they're all really great D and we tend to all be on the same page a lot of the time. When we're switching up D-pairings there, it might be a little bit of an adjustment period, but we'll get used to it as it goes down the line as we keep playing with each other.”
They’d rather have Kempny, of course. Washington had turned the tide on shot attempts during the 10 games after Jensen was acquired and the lineup was stable. It was a good sign heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Unfortunately, Kempny is out indefinitely and no one is sure if or when he will return.
“We're looking for the right combinations that work for us that can set us up for future success,” Reirden said. “Just some guys that aren't 100-percent in terms of lets say sickness wise that are low on energy so you have to manage those minutes as well. So there's a lot of things in play that cause for that type of mix and match stuff both with up front and on our blue line.”
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If you didn't think you could love the Caps more, think again.
With an assist from some puppies, Caps' significant others Katrina Connolly, Paige Dowd, Tasha Maltman and Taylor Pischke announced a $177,000 donation to Homeward Trails Animal Rescue on the jumbotron during Sunday's 3-1 win over the Flyers.
All of the proceeds came from the Caps' 2019 canine calendars and were donated on behalf of the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation. Since 2014, the foundation has donated over $400,000 to Homeward Trails through the Capitals' annual canine calendars.
The puppies featured on the jumbotron are all available for adoption.
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