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Remembering a record-tying game as Capitals and Panthers meet again Saturday night

Remembering a record-tying game as Capitals and Panthers meet again Saturday night

ARLINGTON – It is a record that still stands all these years later. 

The Capitals and Florida Panthers have had a few memorable games dating to their days as Southeast Division rivals. One of them came 16 years ago at Capital One Arena when Washington scored 12 goals to tie a team record on Jan. 12, 2003. 

One of the two Florida goalies that night? Roberto Luongo, now 39, who is expected to start tonight for the Panthers when they visit the Capitals (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). 

Jaromir Jagr had three goals and four assists in that long-ago 12-2 victory. That tied his career high with seven points, something he only did twice in 1,733 NHL games over 24 seasons. The Capitals, too, tied their own goals record. 

The only other 12-goal game in franchise history came on Feb. 6, 1990 against the Quebec Nordiques. Washington has reached double digits just 12 times in 44 seasons. 

But that game against the Panthers in 2003 – during a year that marked the last time the Capitals would make the Stanley Cup playoffs until 2008 – was special for a host of players. Kip Miller tied his career best with four points. Peter Bondra and Dainus Zubrus each scored twice. Bondra and defenseman Sergei Gonchar had four points each. Robert Lang had a goal and two assists. 

Luongo started 72 games that season for Florida and had six shutouts. But what was supposed to be a night off went south when he was called into action just 17 seconds into the second period to take over for Jani Hurme, who earned a rare start that night. The score was already 5-0 after a Steve Konowalchuk goal. 

Luongo gave up four more on 14 Washington shots and by the end of the second period Jagr had a hat trick and Hurme came back in to finish the game.

Don’t expect such fireworks tonight. The Capitals (30-18-6, 66 points) are 3-1 on a critical six-game homestand, but need to bank points with an extended six-game, 12-day road trip coming up. The Panthers (22-22-8, 52 points) have moved into sixth place in the Atlantic Division. And while they are far from an Eastern Conference wild card spot, they have won five of their past seven games with every one against a current playoff team. Here is what else to watch for tonight: 

Djoos is loose

The Capitals will play defenseman Christian Djoos for the first time since Dec. 11 when he needed surgery to stem compartment syndrome in his thigh after taking a hit in a game against Detroit. This marks the first time all season Washington has its expected starting lineup all together on the ice. Djoos missed 24 games. 

400

The number of the week for Washington. Brett Connolly played in his 400thNHL game on Thursday against Colorado. Braden Holtby is expected to make his 400thappearance tonight against the Panthers. Holtby has stopped 95 of 101 shots (.941 save percentage) in three games since the All-Star break. 

Ovechkin’s moving

Alex Ovechkin has three assists in three games since the All-Star break, but he doesn’t have a goal yet. He is three points shy of passing Rod Brind’Amour for 48thplace on the NHL career scoring list and 18 away from 1,200. San Jose’s Joe Thornton is the only active player above the 1,200-point level. 

Power surge

The Capitals had 15 shots on goal on the power play against Colorado on Thursday. They scored once and should have had another save for a quick whistle on a Nick Backstrom goal. Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov clearly did not have the puck when Backstrom tapped it in. So while Washington is 4-for-18 on the power play over the past six games, it has looked dangerous. Don’t expect six chances tonight, but the Caps look like a team about to cash in. That’d be helpful since they haven’t had two power-play goals in a game since Oct. 22. They have drawn 14 penalties on this homestand already.

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Capitals GM Brian MacLellan facing an offseason full of questions and no real answers

Capitals GM Brian MacLellan facing an offseason full of questions and no real answers

It's the job of a general manager to plan for the future. The team will project their contracts and salary cap years ahead of time. Of course, play on the ice is the most important factor and can change a team's plans, but every good general manager enters the offseason with a plan in place knowing who he wants to re-sign, who will walk, who to draft and who to target in free agency. This year, however, is different. How do you prepare for an offseason when you know...practically nothing? That's the task that lays before every NHL general manager right now, including Capitals GM Brian MacLellan.

Heading into the 2019 draft, the salary cap ceiling had not been set and it was rumored that the actual number would be below the initial projections. MacLellan called it "frustrating" to have uncertainty with the cap heading into a key date in the offseason.

Thanks to the coronavirus, there is much more uncertainty regarding this year's offseason. MacLellan has to prepare for both the playoffs and the offseason not knowing if the players will get back on the ice, an uncertain cap number that seems unlikely to rise next season, no date for the combine, no date for the draft, no date for free agency and no idea whether next season will begin on time or could get pushed back by the current season.

"It is difficult," MacLellan said in a conference call on Monday. "I guess we talk over all the possible scenarios and you try to prepare mentally for anything. What happens to the cap? Does the cap go down because revenues are going to decrease? Do they artificially keep it where it’s at? So, the answer to those questions puts us on pause on your [unrestricted free agent] negotiations. How do we proceed given both those scenarios? Those are just open-ended questions and we discuss them, but we don’t come up with any answers."

And there won't be any answers until the world begins to emerge from this global pandemic and the NHL can get some clarity on when players could potentially return to the ice.

Once the world is ready to return to some semblance of normalcy, however, it is not as if everything can return to business as usual.

One of the major events of the offseason is the draft. Both the scouting combine and draft, set for early and late June respectively, have been postponed. In addition, travel restrictions and health concerns greatly limited what the team's scouts were able to do even before everything was paused.

"The amateur guys, they had some big tournaments at the end that got canceled on them," MacLellan said. "It's a big part of their year. I think they always look forward to the tournaments and finalizing their lists and reports and it kind of got grounded to a halt at the end of this, at the end of the season for us. I talk to [assistant general manager Ross Mahoney] a lot about what we can do to keep guys engaged, the use of video. Can we do a little more phone interviews? We look for ways to stay engaged creatively and to see if we can improve on our process of finding players."

There are also logistical issues with changing the offseason calendar. The league year officially begins on July 1 and NHL player contracts expire on June 30 for any player on the final year of his deal. Should the season extend deep into the summer -- MacLellan noted the NHL had asked for building availability dates for the month of August -- those contracts would have to be extended.

“I think the League brought up that in the last call that it would be extended through August if that was the case," MacLellan said. "If that’s the route we were going down, the contracts I guess would have to be approved by the [NHLPA] still too, but they would go to the end of August, if that was the date they chose.”

That is a positive, but it will still be hard to prepare for free agency without knowing what the salary cap will be or when it will take place. That makes it difficult to know what the team can spend on its on free agents, let alone on players they can bring in. The Caps are a veteran-laden team with several players signed to long-term contracts when it was presumed the cap would continue rising. Even one year without the cap raising could quickly put Washington in a bind.

And while MacLellan is still trying to wrap his head around that, this is all being done not knowing if this season is over or not. Will there be a playoff for the Caps to further evaluate their players? Should MacLellan prepare for next season as if the Cup window is still open? It's hard to tell if the Caps can continue competing for the Cup without a postseason to evaluate.

And so for general managers across the league, people whose job it is to prepare for the future, they are all left with more questions than answers.

"I don't think we have answers to any of those questions," MacLellan said.

He added, "If we did (play) through August, could we have a couple of months off and then start back up in November? What do they do with that cap number? I think there are so many questions that we haven't even considered that'll pop up given whatever the result is at the end of this. Again, the league has been very open to anybody asking questions of giving recommendations. So all we can do is try and prepare for different scenarios that we see coming and do the best we can do."

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Kuznetsov tips in OT winner for Caps' 6th straight simulation win

Kuznetsov tips in OT winner for Caps' 6th straight simulation win

A two-goal rally for the Minnesota Wild forced overtime, but Evgeny Kuznetsov proved to be the hero for the Capitals in a 4-3 win in the latest NHL 20 sim. The win is Washington's sixth straight simulated win.

Result: Caps 4, Wild 3 OT

1st period

0-1 Wild goal: Joel Eriksson Ek from Mats Zuccarello and Zach Parise

2nd period

1-1 Caps goal: Jakub Vrana from Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie

2-1 Caps goal (power play): Evgeny Kuznetsov from Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov

3-1 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Nick Jensen and Nicklas Backstrom

3rd period

3-2 Wild goal: Joel Eriksson Ek from Zach Parise and Ryan Suter

3-3 Wild goal: Alex Galchenyuk from Kevin Fiala and Mikko Koivu

Overtime

4-3 Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson


How the Caps won

1. The second period

Minnesota held a 1-0 lead after the first, but Washington rallied to take control with three goals in the second period. Jakub Vrana got things started with a backhand goal off his own rebound less than three minutes into the second frame. Later in the period, Tom Wilson forced a kick-out save from goalie Devan Dubnyk and the rebound went right to Kuznetsov on the back door for the open net. Alex Ovechkin made it 3-1 with a breakaway goal.

2. Rebounds

This was not Dubnyk's best game. All three of Washington's regulation goals came off of rebounds and Dubnyk showed poor rebound control, giving the puck up in high-danger areas. Even on Ovechkin's breakaway goal, Dubnyk denied the initial opportunity but Ovechkin was able to grab his own rebound and backhand it in.

3. A critical faceoff

Kuznetsov won the opening faceoff to start overtime and that was it. That was the game. Kuznetsov would go on to score on that first shift to win the game as the Caps never gave up possession of the puck. They controlled it from the faceoff to the goal ensuring Minnesota never had an opportunity to win it.

Next game

The Caps were scheduled to play the Florida Panthers on the road Saturday. The game will be simulated with NHL 20 on NBC Sports Washington at 7 p.m.

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