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New additions Jensen and Hagelin adjusting to life with Caps

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New additions Jensen and Hagelin adjusting to life with Caps

ARLINGTON – Nick Jensen spent a decade with the Detroit Red Wings. 

It was the team that drafted him out of St. Cloud State in 2009 and the team that nurtured him during a long four-year journey through the minors to the NHL. But at age 28, a pending unrestricted free agent on a bad team, Jensen’s life was upended last Friday when Detroit traded him to the Capitals just as he was about to take his pre-game nap. The Red Wings were playing at home that night.  

Before he had a chance to catch his breath, Jensen promptly signed a four-year, $10 million contract extension with Washington. He found his new home before he’d even seen it.     

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Jensen said. 

That’s life at the NHL trade deadline. The Capitals acquired Jensen and veteran forward Carl Hagelin to bolster a lineup that needed fine tuning heading into the final 20 games of the regular season. Just like that a career arc changes. 

The organization let Jensen gather himself while it played a road game at Buffalo on Saturday and he quickly packed some things – about what he’d take on a long road trip – said goodbye to his wife, Jenner, and his dog, went through a few quick video sessions and made his debut on Sunday against the New York Rangers.

It helped a bit that good friend and former St. Cloud State teammate Nic Dowd was already with the Capitals. He was actually in Jensen’s wedding. But there’s only so much one familiar face can do. 

Jensen has no plans to stay in a hotel near the Capitals’ practice facility for long. He still needs to get his car here from Detroit. Jenner and the dog will join him. They don’t have any kids yet to complicate the move, but for now life is hectic enough. 

Hagelin can empathize. He was drafted by the New York Rangers in 2007 and spent four years with that organization in the NHL. Hagelin played for a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 2014 and almost made it back the next season. Then he signed a four-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks and thought the next phase of his career was set. They traded him after 43 games. So much for that. 

But he went to Pittsburgh where he helped the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups – at the expense of the Capitals both times, of course. Hagelin, 30, learned to go with the flow. He had to. It happened again last Thursday when he was traded for the second time this season. He'd already gone from Pittsburgh to the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 14. Now he'd been shipped back to the East Coast after three months. 

“[Washington] acquired me for a reason. They know what I’m all about and how I play hockey,” Hagelin said. “There’s a lot of good guys on this team. Just the fact that I’ve played against them so much, it makes me feel like I know them even if I don’t. It’s an easy transition for me.”

Hagelin has played in 35 playoff games alone against the Capitals dating to his days with the Rangers. He was on the winning side five times in those intense, emotional series in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Four of the five went to seven games. He shook hands with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, among others, on the ice in four of those series and saw the life drained from them after crippling losses. The Caps finally got him back last spring when they beat the Penguins in the second round. Now they all share a locker room.

Hagelin noted that NHL teams do well to help traded players adjust quickly. They take care of travel arrangements and help get their families situated. His wife, Erica, remains back home in Sweden with his 10-month-old daughter, Blanche. They will join him later this month. For a while, at least, he’s on his own. 

“But it’s always tough,” Hagelin said. “You still have some things in different places. You have cars and your buddy is going to have to figure a way to bring that car to the rink in L.A. and then ship it over here. There’s logistics you’re going to have to deal with. It comes with it.”

Jensen said he’s diligent about nutrition and it’s hard to eat healthy at restaurants all the time when you don’t have a place of your own. Off the ice, he and Jenner have to look at houses and decide if they’re going to rent or buy. As Hagelin’s situation in Anaheim proved, though, just because you sign a contract doesn’t mean that city will be your home for long. Ten years with one organization is an exception, not a rule, and change is always coming.  

“It’s that feeling in your stomach – a little nervous, a little excited,” Jensen said. “It’s kind of weird hearing it. ‘You’re going to the Capitals.’ You try to take it all in. It’s hard leaving an organization you’ve been drafted to and been with so long. But at the same time I was super excited to come to another great organization and look at playing in some playoff games.”

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With the season on the line, the Capitals remain confident heading into Game 7

With the season on the line, the Capitals remain confident heading into Game 7

ARLINGTON, Va. – While Capitals fans woke up breathing into paper bags on Wednesday trying not to hyperventilate, the team was all smiles as it skated onto the ice for the morning skate. While the curse of playoff failures past still clearly resonates through a nervous fan base, there was nothing but confidence coming out of MedStar Capitals Iceplex.

“It’s a positive mood,” Carl Hagelin said. “But at the same time, you can see that guys are focused. I think that’s a big part of it, too, being focused going in and knowing that first shift is going to be key.”

The newfound confidence stems from last year’s playoff success which included a dominant 4-0 Game 7 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

“I think the last year experience what we have against Tampa helps a lot,” Alex Ovechkin said. “We have the same motivation, we have the same atmosphere. Of course it's not for Stanley Cup Final, it's for second round."

“Until you go through it and you've had success, then you can only talk so much about it,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “Eventually you have to go through it. Our core group has gone through it, and we'll use that as a positive tonight and go about our business."

Unlike last year’s Game 7, however, this one will come in Washington which should give an advantage to the Caps.

The home team has gone 6-0 in this series thus far and Washington has looked like two different teams playing at Capital One Arena and in Raleigh.

While the true advantage of home-ice throughout the league is debatable, clearly it has mattered in this series and, according to the team, the importance of having the home crowd certainly matters to them.

“When the fans cheering for you in your big moment, block shots or kill the penalty and the fans get into it right away, you feel it and it gives you more energy and motivation," Ovechkin said.

"Home ice has been a big advantage in this series,” Reirden said. “I expect our crowd to give us the lift that they have thus far. Right from the start of the playoffs they've given us a boost, I think different than in past years, and it's allowed us to have more success at home.”

One player who will need to step up his game if the Caps hope to extend their season will be Evgeny Kuznetsov. One of the most dominant players in last year’s postseason, Kuznetsov has been held to just five assists and no goals in six games.

Kuznetsov enters Game 7 knowing he needs to be better than he has been to this point.

“I think that is how everyone feels when you lose a game in the playoffs,” he said. “You always feel like you did something wrong and you are not fully there and you know it.”

While the pressure of a Game 7 can wear on some players, however, Kuznetsov said that he looks forward to these moments. Kuznetsov was the Game 7 hero in 2015 when he scored the game and series-winning goal against the New York Islanders.

“Game 7 is Game 7,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said. “It is fun to play.”

In the past we have seen a tentative Capitals team take the ice, play tight and collapse when things did not go their way. A more experienced team will take the ice on Wednesday knowing that things will not go completely their way in the game, but with the confidence that they are good enough to overcome those obstacles, win and advance.

“I just think unexpected stuff happens and being mentally tough is really important in these games and just having confidence and trust in one another,” John Carlson said. “A lot can go astray, a lot can change quickly and with both of the teams’ backs against the wall, that’s what you rely on and fall back on.”

“You’ve got to be prepared for everything,” Reirden said. “In this situation you need to come back to your foundations as a group, as a system, as a team. That never changes, regardless of what happens within the game. So you've got a system and that's your security blanket, and you've got that structure in place. Where the game goes from there is going to be decided by the players executing that system and that game plan. Every [Game 7] plays out a little bit different. There's crazy swings. It's a fun time to be playing in these type of games and our guys will grow from it no matter what."

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Bruins, Sharks eliminate Maple Leafs, Golden Knights in Game 7s

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Bruins, Sharks eliminate Maple Leafs, Golden Knights in Game 7s

With two Game 7s lined up Tuesday, the daytime was filled with anxiety and curiosity over which teams would come out on top. The Maple Leafs were looking to end a streak of Game 7 losses to their rival Bruins, and the Golden Knights were looking to continue their quest toward returning to the Stanley Cup Final and perhaps getting the job done this year.

However, the games took a wild turn, as Boston was able to easily cruise past Toronto and the Sharks were able to comeback from a 3-0 deficit to win in overtime. Here's how each game played out.

Bruins top Maple Leafs in another Game 7, 5-1

Game 7 seems to happen naturally between these two teams, and yet again, it was Boston who was able to easily win this one with a 5-1 victory.

The beginning of the first period was seemingly quiet, but in the last six minutes, the Bruins turned on the jets. Joakim Nordstrom scored after putting a pass from the top of the circle past Frederik Andersen to make it 1-0 for Boston. Just three minutes later, Marcus Johansson scored on a quick shot that made it 2-0 heading into the second.

John Tavares was able to cut the lead to one early in the second, but Sean Kuraly went top-shelf to restore the Bruins' two-goal lead in the first two minutes of the third.

Charlie Coyle and Patrice Bergeron added two more for Boston to guarantee the win and move onto the second round, and Tuukka Rask made 31 saves in the win. This is the third time in the last decade and the second year in a row that the Maple Leafs have fallen to Boston in seven games in the first round.

Sharks stun Golden Knights with 5-4 OT win

It was an interesting night for the Sharks to say the least. After trailing 3-0 after two periods, it seemed as if the season was over, but a costly major penalty for Vegas led to a comeback and eventual overtime victory for San Jose.

William Karlsson opened the scoring halfway through the first after jumping on a loose puck and firing it past Martin Jones. Cody Eakin added to the lead 10 minutes into the second to make it 2-0, and later, to start the third, Mark Stone struck to make it 3-0.

However, Cody Eakin then cross-checked Joe Pavelski in the head, receiving a five-minute major that led to a lengthy power play for San Jose and changed the momentum of the game. That's when the Sharks scored four goals on the lengthy man advantage.

Logan Couture struck first, scoring on a pass from Kevin Labanc to make it 3-1. A minute later, Tomas Hertl redirected an Erik Karlsson point shot past Fleury to pull San Jose within one. Couture put home his second of the night soonafter, then Labanc had a goal of his own to give San Jose a 4-3 lead with seven minutes remaining.

The Golden Knights were able to tie it with 47 seconds left, as Jonathan Marchessault was able to one-time a feed from Reilly Smith past Jones to make it 4-4. However, the Sharks eliminated Vegas after Barclay Goodrow deked the puck past Fleury in the final minute of the first extra period.

San Jose will face Colorado in the second round, which kicks off Thursday.

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