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A slow start down south dooms Capitals in potential Metro clincher

A slow start down south dooms Capitals in potential Metro clincher

SUNRISE, Fla. — Saturday was a clinic. The Capitals were all over the Tampa Bay Lightning from the start, Alex Ovechkin scored his 50thand 51stgoals and they rolled to a big win. 

Monday was a disaster. With a chance to clinch the Metropolitan Division with some help, Washington played its worst game in weeks and lost 5-3 to the Florida Panthers. There was some bad luck early, to be sure. But the Capitals struggled to generate anything of note when it mattered in a quiet BB&T Center that was a far cry from Saturday’s rowdy Stanley Cup playoff atmosphere in Tampa. 

That could hurt them. With two games left, one of them against the second place New York Islanders, the Capitals have work left to do if they want to win the Metro for the fourth year in a row. And they do. 

“It would've been nice to clinch it today, but we've got two more chances,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Hopefully we can get it done."

Early in the game, a puck ricocheted off a referee and the ensuing chaos resulted in a goal by Frank Vatrano. A nice poke check by Evgenii Dadonov on defenseman Matt Niskanen led to a Jonathan Huberdeau goal. The Capitals could be criticized for playing backup goalie Pheonix Copley instead of starter Braden Holtby. But those goals weren’t on Copley. 

Down 2-0, you could see a comeback coming. Maybe. But at 12:01 of the second period, with their first power play of the game, the Capitals collapsed. Aleksander Barkov blocked a pass from defenseman John Carlson, got the puck out of Florida’s defensive zone and hit Vincent Trocheck in stride. He blew past Evgeny Kuznetsov and beat Copley to make it 3-0. 

Troy Brouwer, the ex-Capitals forward, ended the competitive portion of the game with an easy goal at 17:57 of the second. That one stung. If there was some rough luck early, the Capitals did little to mitigate it. 

“It starts with being emotionally in the game and not waiting for what kind of game it’s going to be,” forward Lars Eller said. “Don’t wait to get down four. I think it starts with being emotionally in it, being ready. And then usually the other things come. But we were just slow. Not executing passes. That was the main thing.”

And so there was little solace taken in a late rally. Evgeny Kuznetsov made it 4-1 at 10:55 of the third. At 4-1 things still looked hopeless. But the Capitals are always capable of turning on the jets. 

Backstrom, whose line admittedly played a big part in that rough start to the game, made up for it at 16:25 with a goal to make it 4-2. Suddenly the BB&T Center crowd was nervous. They were downright angry when Jakub Vrana scored 1:14 later to cut the lead to 4-3 with Copley pulled for the extra attacker. It was a nice rally and Washington had some chances in the final two minutes against Florida goalie Roberto Luongo. But it didn’t happen. It wasn’t their night. And, to some, it didn’t matter anyway.     

“Yeah, but I think we shouldn’t be focusing on that,” Eller said. “We know we are capable of that, but we should not put ourselves in that position. We should not.”

Added Carlson: “It’s nice to see us battle but there are no consolation prizes for stuff like that. We needed to be better earlier, that’s really what it comes down to.”

The Capitals caught a break thanks to the New York Islanders’ 2-1 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. That leaves New York at 99 points with two games left. The Islanders play here against the Panthers on Thursday. 

The Capitals can clinch the Metropolitan Division outright for the fourth year in a row with a win against the Montreal Canadiens back at home on Thursday. If they fail there, they have another shot when the Islanders visit for the final game of the regular season. That would be an epic night.  

“We obviously want to win the division and we’re disappointed, but I don’t know if we throw it out,” Carlson said. “You can learn a lot from games like this. Todd [Reirden] talked about it after, just when things aren’t going our way to simplify. We could have kept it a lot closer than four. When we’ve got the players that we do we can come back from one or two or maybe even three. But four is difficult.” 

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Capitals at Ducks Game 31: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

Capitals at Ducks Game 31: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

These teams faced off just two weeks ago, and things got a little crazy. Fists flew, punches were thrown, and tensions were high. 

The Washington Capitals are eager to seal this road trip with what would be their sixth consecutive victory (and ultimately staying 1.00 on this trip westward). 

Atop the league standings and sitting seventh-to-last respectively, the Capitals and Ducks are at very different points nearly two months in to the 2019-2020 NHL season.

Anaheim is 12-12-4 after beating the LA Kings 4-2 Monday night, the only team they are doing better than in the Pacific Division. The Ducks face a crucial point to spur some upward momentum, but will be met by swift Capitals offense (+26 differential so far this season) as well as Norris contender John Carlson, who scored his 100th and 101st career goals in Los Angeles Wednesday night against the Kings. 

CAPITALS-DUCKS GAME 31: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Anaheim Ducks

Where: The Honda Center, Anaheim, CA

When: Friday, December 6, 2019 at 10 PM ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Ducks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. (NBC Sports Washington channel finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Ducks game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

CAPITALS-DUCKS TV SCHEDULE:

9:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live (LIVE)
9:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live (LIVE)
10:00 PM: NHL: Capitals @ Anaheim Ducks (LIVE) [NBC Sports Washington Plus]
12:30 AM: Caps Postgame Live (LIVE) [NBC Sports Washington Plus]

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'I look so damn good': Beninati, Laughlin humbled, thrilled by their bobbleheads

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'I look so damn good': Beninati, Laughlin humbled, thrilled by their bobbleheads

The legendary duo of Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin will soon be immortalized with their very own bobblehead on Saturday as part of a giveaway for a blood drive being held at MedStarCapitals Iceplex. You can get a good sense of the personalities of the two from their reaction when they first heard about the bobblehead.

"I think it's incredible, I'm totally flattered by it," Beninati said.

"About time," Locker said. "Everyone else has one, I figured I've got longevity here. I thought I would've had one sooner."

"Just kidding," he quickly added.

It's that sense of humor and contrasting personalities that has endeared the duo to Capitals fans for so long. Beninati and Laughlin have been paired together on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals game broadcast since 1994.

Because of their place within the Caps community, it is perhaps no surprise to see them get the notable honor of a bobblehead. Despite the initial jokes, both broadcasters were incredibly honored when approached with the idea.

"It's cool that we were asked to have one," Laughlin said. "I think it's very cool if you get a bobblehead. I thought all the players had got one so I thought maybe someway in the years to come we might have a chance to get one."

Both have enjoyed the process as well.

"The cool thing is I've seen it change from like a clay formation to an early mockup to, ok let's put some paint on it," Beninati said. "I had no idea that these things change so radically from the original first blush look to the finished product."

Both Beninati and Laughlin were shown various iterations of the bobblehead and offered their critiques. The bobblehead was then updated each time leading to the final product which will be given out to participants at Saturday's blood drive.

"It's very tough to get realistic," Laughlin said. "It's a mold, they're doing different things, we went back and forth, I said well I hold my mic in this hand so they changed that, I'm sure Joe had a lot of changes to his."

Beninati indeed had a few suggestions, but not just for his own visage.

While both were thrilled with how the bobblehead began to develop, Beninati could not help but notice just how...young Laughlin looked.

"I was the one who was critiquing his side of the bobblehead the whole time," Beninati said. The biggest question he had: "What are you doing with Locker's hair?"

"It's probably me when I played back in the playing days, but I like it," Laughlin said.

There's a lot of brown hair on that bobblehead which...may not be the most accurate depiction of Laughlin's current look.

"He's laughing because it's Locker minus 30 years which is what he will lord over me and continue to razz me about for the rest of time," Beninati said. "He'll look at it and he'll just start laughing and that's enough, that's what he does."

"I think I look so damn good, so young, way better than Joe B. and that's why I want a single of myself," Laughlin said. "I'm going to cut mine in half."

Regardless of how many years it may have shaved off of Laughlin, it's all in good fun and for a great cause.

The blood drive will be held on Saturday at MedStar Capitals Iceplex from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. At the time of writing, every appointment for whole blood, double red cell and platelet donations was full.

"We've been blessed for a long, long time.," Beninati said. "The fans have treated us very, very well. Most importantly, I'm hoping that the blood drive is extremely successful. It's something obviously that's needed."

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