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The next great hashtag, give props to Stephenson and Carlson can't stop scoring

The next great hashtag, give props to Stephenson and Carlson can't stop scoring

Game 1 of the World Series was completely overshadowed by the big matchup in Calgary between the Capitals and Flames...OK, so that’s not entirely true, but while the Nationals were battling in Game 1, the Caps extended their win streak to four games including two wins to start their five-game road trip.

Here is everything you need to know from Tuesday's 5-3 win.

Observations from the win

Another big-game for Carlson

The NHL points leader scored another two goals to give him 20 points in his first 11 games. He now has a career-high eight-game point streak.

Yawn. Seen it. It's all routine at this point.

All kidding aside, if you’re not on the Carlson hype train, get on board. This is quickly turning from a great start to a special one.

Reirden is showing a lot of trust in his fourth line

Brendan Leipsic, Chandler Stephenson and Nic Dowd only played about 6:45 together as a line on Tuesday, but the vast majority of that time came in the third period when the Caps when it really mattered and with the Caps protecting a lead.

Six minor penalties in the first two periods limited their ice-time to less than seven minutes. You may look at that as a sign of distrust, but if you dig deeper and see that the fourth line took six shifts in the third period alone, you start to realize it’s not how much they were used but when that really matters.

Big props to Stephenson

At no point in the offseason did I think Stephenson would be a regular in the Caps’ lineup this year. That’s not just me, the Caps essentially broadcast that they were not satisfied with his play when they signed him to a contract just under the maximum cap hit that can be buried in the AHL. At that point, I thought he should have started packing his bags for Hershey. Instead, he worked his butt off, had a great training camp and has stuck on the roster ever since.

Stephenson’s goal was not just pure luck. No, I don’t mean he meant to bank the puck off Rasmus Andersson. What I mean is he followed the puck on a dump-in, sped in to steal it from Cam Talbot behind the net and then banked it in. He didn’t give up on the play and created a goal out of nothing.

There are times I think Reirden shows Stephenson a little bit too much faith as I think Dowd should not be scratched as much as he is, but it is hard to argue with Stephenson continuing to play a fourth-line role considering how much he continues to work for it.

Give credit to Vrana

Tom Wilson scored the game-winner on a goal that was assisted by Lars Eller and Michal Kempny. But do not discount the role Jakub Vrana played on that goal.

Eller picks up the puck when Travis Hamonic failed to control it and Vrana immediately went hard to the net. Noah Hanifin went with him which left Wilson wide open for the goal.

Vrana may not get a point for it, but he was instrumental in setting up that play.

Turning point

Calgary battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game at 2 late in the second. That tie lasted...10 whole seconds.


Play of the night

Brendan Leipsic dumped in the puck and Talbot went behind the net to corral it. You see this multiple times per game, every game. Nothing ever comes from it. This time, however, Stephenson never gave up on the play and caught Talbot by surprise.

Stephenson stole it from Talbot and fired a centering pass off Andersson into the empty net.


Stat of the night

First, the obligatory Carlson stat:

Now another bonus stat just to make sure this does not get monopolized by Carlson.

Nicklas Backstrom picked up an assist on Ovechkin’s goal in the second period. That assist was the 649th of his career which moves him one past Daniel Sedin for the fifth-most assists all-time by a Swedish-born player.

Quote of the night

Ovechkin on Carlson’s incredible start to the season:

“#Johnny4Norris. That’s a hashtag right now. Let’s keep it going.”

Fan predictions

I don’t know whether to be more impressed by how many predictions you got right or the window.

Calling a Stephenson goal is pretty damn bold.

Nailed the score.

Caps in 5.

Anything to avoid going to Edmonton.

I’m kidding! I hear Edmonton is lovely this time of year….

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Wild Capitals-Ducks brawl could have repercussions after spitting incident

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Wild Capitals-Ducks brawl could have repercussions after spitting incident

WASHINGTON —The final minute of the second period between the Capitals and Ducks on Monday looked like scenes cut from the cutting room floor of “Slapshot.” 
 
With Washington ahead 2-0, all hell broke loose behind the Anaheim net just as Chandler Stephenson stepped into a pass from teammate Garnet Hathaway and ripped a shot past goalie John Gibson. 
 
But for almost five minutes no one inside Capital One Arena knew if the goal counted at all as players from both sides traded blows and Hathaway spit on defenseman Erik Gudbranson. 
 
That momentary loss of control could have severe consequences if the NHL decides to impose supplemental discipline. In all, the two teams combined for 50 minutes of penalties and two ejections. The goal did count and the Capitals won the game 5-2, but all talk afterward was about the wild scene at the end of the second.   
 
“It has no place. It was an emotional play by me,” Hathaway said. “You don’t plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me after a sucker punch.”
 
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Brendan Leipsic hit everything that moved during that ferocious shift, including Ducks center Derek Grant directly next to the goal. The puck jarred loose. While Gudbranson and fellow Anaheim defenseman Brendan Guhle jumped Leipsic, Hathaway slipped a pass into the high slot for Stephenson, who scored.  
 
“Growing up, playing against him since I was 15, and you know he's been the exact same,” Stephenson said. “He catches guys by surprise. I've seen him knock guys that are twice his size on their ass. He's a pretty stocky little fire hydrant out there."
 
Leipsic needed to be as the 6-5 Gudbranson and the 6-2 Guhle pummeled him. But the puck was in the net as the crowd roared and the players raged. It was glorious chaos. 
 
Leipsic first checked Gudbranson hard behind the net with 51 seconds to go in the second period. Guhle then cross-checked him three times in the back in retaliation. 
 
With 35 seconds to go, Leipsic struck again as Grant turned for a loose puck next to the Anaheim net. He never saw it coming. Leipsic drove hard and knocked Grant – who has four inches and 26 pounds on him at 6-3, 206 – to the ice.
 
While the Ducks wasted their time dealing retribution, the puck was headed out front and into their net. Gibson didn’t have a chance. Then things turned ugly. Hathaway took three rapid punches at Grant and then he got entangled with Ducks forward Nick Ritchie.    
 
Gudbranson nudged his way into that scrap, but referee Peter MacDougall appeared to have them separated and in control grabbing their jersey collars. But as MacDougall turned his head, Gudbranson unexpectedly punched Hathaway in the face. Enraged, Hathaway clearly spits in his face. 
 
"That's about as low as you dig a peg, really,” Gudbranson said. “It's a bad thing to do. It's something you just don't do in a game, and he did it."
 
Added Grant:“At the end of the day, it’s probably the least respectful thing you can ever do to somebody. It’s just not a good part of the game and you don’t want to see that. I thought the refs handled it. It’s something that will be handled after it as well.”
 
Hathaway has put the Capitals in a difficult spot. With Carl Hagelin and Nic Dowd injured and salary-cap space tight, there really is no way to call up another player from AHL Hershey if Hathaway gets suspended. Contrite after the game, Hathaway asked to speak to reporters.  
 
“First there was a fight and then how I saw it was they had a third man in. I think they had a fourth man in, too,” Hathaway said. “The refs were trying to break it up and it felt like there was a couple sucker punches thrown and I got there one quick and then reacted a little emotionally and unfortunately spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker punched and it went on to him.”
 
Now, Hathaway hopes the NHL shows some leniency. 
 
“I have a lot of time for Garnet Hathaway. He’s a stand up guy, a first-class guy,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “He was getting punched by a couple different guys at once and lost control of his emotion and did something that there’s no place for in the league. That’s disappointing. He feels terrible about it. But he didn’t have to talk to anybody today. He’s the first one to say ‘I want to own up for what I did.’ He’s not happy about it. That’s who he is. He made a mistake and we’ll see where it goes [Tuesday].”
 
It was a dark moment in an otherwise excellent game for the Capitals who are 13-1-2 in their past 16 and continue to roll with the NHL’s best record. They just weren’t expecting such a wild and crazy night against a Western Conference team on a Monday night in November. You never know what you’re going to get with this sport. And it all started with a big hit from a smaller man.   
 
“I don't know, I was kind of a big blackout after that when everyone starts getting whipped around and stuff,” Leipsic said. “I didn't even know Chandler scored until the dust was all settled. It was nice to get a goal out of it too, I guess."

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Hathaway spits, Panik scores and Boyd produces

Hathaway spits, Panik scores and Boyd produces

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals won 5-2 on Monday against the Anaheim Ducks in a game that very much took a backseat to the fight that erupted in the second period.

You can read a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Take off your fan hat for a minute when watching Hathaway

I love fans. I have a job because of fans. You guys love hockey so much you want people like me to write about hockey so that you can read about hockey when you're not watching hockey. But when you watch the Hathaway fracas, you guys have to take a step back and take off the fan hats.

Hathaway spit on a dude. You can't have that.

Yes, Erik Gudbranson socked him while he was being held back by the refs. That's bad. Yes, I can understand why he would be pissed. Honestly, he should have just tried to punch him back. But...

Hathaway spit on a dude. You can't have that.

I got a lot of reaction from fans saying "It was his mouth guard," "Some spit came out of his mouth when he was punched, but it wasn't a spit," "What about Brad Marchand licking people?" "The rules say game misconduct, not an automatic match penalty, so clearly the suspension should be rescinded!

Let's try to look at this objectively.

Hathaway after the game admitted to spitting on Gudbranson, albeit in the most awkward way possible.

"The refs were trying to break it up," he said, "And it felt like there was a couple sucker punches thrown and I got there one quick and then reacted a little emotionally and unfortunately spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker punched and it went on to him.”

One player spit on another, it was caught on camera and he admitted to it afterward.

The gaggle of penalties the referees called was a mess and half of them were wrong. Having said that, they got Hathaway right by tossing him and supplementary discipline is likely coming.

"It has no place," Hathaway said. "It was an emotional play by me. You don’t plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me to a sucker punch.”

Journalist note

Hathaway did not have to talk after the game. A lot of players don't talk after a bad game or a bad situation like this. Hathaway did. That does not absolve him from spitting, but I thought it was worth noting that he did not hide away from the media. He came out and answered our questions. I'm sure it wasn't fun, but he did it. Good on him.

Oh yeah, there was a hockey game....

It was easy to forget that an actual game was being played with everything going on in the second period. I have to admit that I did not even notice that Stephenson scored. When Brendan Leipsic came in and decked Derek Grant, my eyes were glued to everything going on below the goal line. I literally did not know there was a goal until I watched the replay and realized, oh...Stephenson scored?

By the way, the Ducks and Caps play again on Dec. 6.

Don't Panik

Panik has played well since returning from injury and finally, finally he was rewarded with a goal. He spoke after the game about how his game improved after the injury and that has been clear to me ever since he returned.

Travis Boyd is an NHL player

Boyd added another assist in this game as he set up Panik 50 seconds in.  He now has six points in eight games played. Most importantly, he has a cap hit of only $800,000. He needs to stick around in Washington.

Turning point

Stephenson's goal simultaneously marked the moment the game was out of reach, and the moment neither team cared what the score was anymore.

Play of the game

This was a real pretty move by Evgeny Kuznetsov. I thought he was shooting, John Gibson thought he was shooting, the Ducks thought he was shooting, but he wasn't.

Stat of the game

There were 50 total penalty minutes handed out for the second-period brawl:

Hathaway received a five-minute major for fighting and a 10-minute match penalty
Brendan Leipsic received a double-minor for roughing
Gudbranson received a minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct
Brendan Guhle received a double-minor for roughing
Nick Ritchie received a game (10-minute) misconduct

Quote of the game

The entire scrum erupted when Leipsic knocked Grant over with an incredible hit. From there all hell broke loose. Stephenson was asked about Leipsic after the game:

"Since growing up, playing against him since I was 15, and you know he's been the exact same. He catches guys by surprise. I've seen him knock guys that are twice his size on their ass. So he's pretty stocky and a little fire hydrant out there."

Fan predictions

This is impressive. Hathaway fought...the entire Ducks team. Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana both scored while Boyd assisted on the first goal.

Nailed it. This makes me feel sorry for the one fan who predicts a Radko Gudas goal every single game....

Yikes. This is awkward.

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