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For Smith-Pelly, happiness, chance to repeat ranked more important than money

For Smith-Pelly, happiness, chance to repeat ranked more important than money

Devante Smith-Pelly could have earned more money elsewhere.

He could have locked up a little more security, too.

But in the end, being happy meant more to DSP than either of those things. And so on Thursday morning, he signed a one-year, $1 million contract to return to the defending Stanley Cup champion Caps.

“I had a couple of other offers on one or two-year deals, but I thought it wasn’t really worth it to leave somewhere where I’m happy and somewhere where I really wanted to be,” said Smith-Pelly, who earned $650,000 on a two-way deal last season.

The 26-year-old winger, of course, was one of the clutch performers during the Caps’ run to the Cup, scoring seven goals in 24 games, including tallies in Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Final.

“I think everyone can see how close we are,” Smith-Pelly said of the Caps’ dressing room. “We all want to come back and try it again with the same group. Obviously, it might not work that way. But I think that’s everyone’s intention, is to all come back and all be with the same group. We’re incredibly close and I feel incredibly comfortable there.”

“And the city, it’s embraced me and it’s a beautiful place to live,” he continued. “Like I said, the money, to me personally, is not that important if I’m not going to be happy somewhere.”

Although Smith-Pelly’s hard-hitting style of play and clutch goals made him a favorite among all fans, he acknowledged the fact that he’s carved out a special place in the heart of Washington’s black community.

“It’s great,” he said. “I love being a role model and being in a city where there a lot of black kids. I saw a lot of black people in general at the parade. To be a part of that and hopefully grow the game in the DMV area, me being a part of that, it feels good. They’ve embraced me. And I want to get back to the city that welcomed me in.”

Smith-Pelly bounced around the previous few years, making stops in Anaheim, Montreal and New Jersey since the start of the 2014-15 season. So re-signing in Washington also offered the Ontario native something he hasn’t enjoyed recently: stability.

“That had something to do with the decision,” he said. “It would be nice to stick in one place for a couple of years. And hopefully, it works out longer than just this one year next year. …I’m kinda tired of playing on new teams. It’s good to come back and be in the same place in consecutive years.”

Another reason Smith-Pelly was okay with the Caps’ one-year offer? He feels that he found his game in the playoffs and, if he can replicate that next season, it could set him up for a bigger deal next summer.

“I have confidence in myself that [things] can carry over from the playoffs and [I can] set myself up for something bigger and more stable later,” he said. “It’s definitely betting on yourself—that’s what I’m doing.”

With Smith-Pelly back in the fold, the Caps now have nine of their top-10 goal scorers from the playoffs under contract for next season. Tom Wilson, a restricted free agent, is the lone exception...for now, anyway. 


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Caps ride two power play goals from Ovechkin to their first win in Los Angeles since 2005

Caps ride two power play goals from Ovechkin to their first win in Los Angeles since 2005

The Capitals built a 3-0 lead over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday thanks to two power play goals from Alex Ovechkin and rode that to the 3-2 win. This marks the first time Washington has won in Los Angeles since 2005.

Ovechkin scored his league-leading 41st and 42nd goals of the season to pull him six ahead of Patrick Kane and Jeff Skinner who both sit tied for second at 36.

John Carlson reached a milestone 300th career assist becoming just the third player in franchise history to reach that mark joining Calle Johansson and Scott Stevens.

Here are four reasons Washington won.

Three early saves

Considering how bad Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks was, you had the feeling that a slow start on Monday would be tough for the Caps to recover from. Washington needed three big saves to prevent Los Angeles from jumping out to the early lead and only one of them came from goalie Pheonix Copley.

Less than two minutes into the game, Carlson turned the puck over at blue line and Carl Hagelin set up Ilya Kovalchuk for the breakaway. Copley made the save. Later in the period, Carlson was called for tripping Anze Kopitar. On the resulting power play, Kopitar got a shot off on Copley which he got a piece of, but the puck got behind him and was headed for the goal line. Matt Niskanen was there to sweep it away from the line and then again when Tyler Toffoli tried to shoot it in.

One big save from Copley and two big saves by Niskanen kept the score at 0-0.

Jakub Vrana draws the penalty, Alex Ovechkin scores on the power play

Vrana recorded an assist on only one of Ovechkin’s two power play goals, but in fact, he set both up by drawing the penalty.

Vrana’s speed was on full display Monday and the Kings had no answer for how to defend him. He was tripped by Derek Forbort in the first period and again by Jeff Carter in the second. Ovechkin would score on each resulting power play.

No pressure on John Carlson

It is no secret that Washington’s power play is built around Ovechkin shooting from his office in the faceoff circle. Teams differ in how they defend this, but the Kings showed a penalty kill set up that just will not work against the Great 8. Washington had only two power play opportunities on the night and Ovechkin scored on both.

Ovechkin can get passes from anywhere on the ice, but the primary set up on the power play comes from Carlson on the blue line. Some teams try to pressure Carlson to prevent him from making that pass, some try to cover the passing lane between him and Ovechkin and others try to cover Ovechkin himself to prevent him from getting off the one-timer. Los Angeles, however, elected to use a very tight formation in front of the net.

There is value to a setup like that as it allows a penalty kill to cover and collapse on the higher danger areas in front of the net. For most teams, keeping the puck to the perimeter is ideal, but not when the perimeter includes setting up one of the greatest goal scorers of all-time for a one-timer.

Carlson had all the space and time he could possibly want to work with as the Kings collapsed in front of their own net and did little to pressure him on the blue line. That allowed him the easy set up for Ovechkin. That was especially evident on the first goal as Carlson and Ovechkin passed back and forth between one another, forcing goalie Jack Campbell to keep moving. He was not able to get set for the Ovechkin shot and the puck was in the net before Campbell could even react.

2 goals in 20 seconds

No one could deny that the Caps were thoroughly outplayed Sunday in Anaheim, but that game could have been very different early in the second. Already up 1-0, the Caps had breakaway chances from Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and both were turned aside by Ducks goalie Ryan Miller. Who knows could have happened if Washington was able to take the 2-0 lead?

On Monday, however, the Caps wasted no time in extending their lead and taking full control of the game.

Ovechkin got Washington on the board midway through the first period and just 20 seconds later, Brett Connolly deflected in a shot from Andre Burakovsky to make it 2-0. From that point on, the Caps looked to be very much in control of the contest.


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Remembering the last time the Caps won in Los Angeles…in 2005

Remembering the last time the Caps won in Los Angeles…in 2005

The city of Los Angeles has not been kind to the Capitals in recent years where they have lost eight straight games. You have to go all the way back to Dec. 14, 2005, to find the last time they beat the Kings on their home ice.

That game came in Alex Ovechkin’s rookie season, meaning he is the only player still with Washington who played that game. But he wasn’t the star. The star that night was, of course, defenseman Jamie Heward.

Los Angeles boasted a roster with Luc Robitaille and Jeremy Roenick. Future Caps Eric Belanger, Joe Corvo, and Tim Gleason also suited up for the Kings.

Heward opened the scoring in the first period with a power-play goal. Belanger and Sean Avery scored to give Los Angeles the 2-1 lead, but Brian Sutherby tied the game midway through the third and Heward scored his second goal of the night, also on the power play, with just 63 seconds remaining. Washington would hold on for the 3-2 win.

Olie Kolzig was in net for the Caps and had a strong night with 24 saves on 26 shots.

Ovechkin recorded an assist on both of Heward’s goals. Heward scored 11 goals in his 123 career games with Washington and two of them came that night.

The Caps have not won in Los Angeles since. They will look to snap that streak on Monday (10:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

Game notes

Copley in

Pheonix Copley is expected to start after Braden Holtby got the nod Sunday in Anaheim. Ironically, Copley’s last start came on Feb. 11 against…the Kings.

When last we met

Los Angeles visited Washington one week ago and the Caps earned the 6-4 victory to finish off their season-long six-game homestand. Evgeny Kuznetsov had a four-point night with two goals and two assists. Ovechkin also had three points (one goal, two assists).

About last night….

The last time the Caps played a back-to-back, they were obliterated 3-0 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The game started off their current six-game road trip. Washington looked completely out of gas for that game. They will need much more energy for Monday's game in Los Angeles to come away with the win.

Oshie status unclear

T.J. Oshie left Sunday's game in the second period due to an upper-body injury. After the game, Todd Reirden said Oshie needed to be reevaluated. With no morning skate Monday, Oshie's status for Monday's game remains unclear for now.