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3 bold predictions: Third line's the charm against Tampa

3 bold predictions: Third line's the charm against Tampa

The Capitals hope to start their Christmas break off right with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here are three bold predictions for Friday's game (CSN, 7 p.m.).

1. Jakub Vrana, Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky will combine for five points

Why is having a productive third line so dangerous? Because opponents focus primarily on shutting down a team's top two lines. Generating consistent offense from a third line demonstrates a level of depth few teams can boast. Pittsburgh's now infamous HBK line (Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel) was the key to the Penguins' championship run last season. The Caps look like they may have found something with their Vrana, Eller, Burakovsky line. While the Lightning are working to shut down Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Bcakstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, etc., look for the third line to have a big night.

2. Tampa Bay will outshoot the Caps by at least five shots on goal in the first period

The Lightning will be playing their second game in as many nights while the Caps had a day to rest. That would suggest a better start for Washington. Tampa, however, knows that. On the road, playing the second game of a back-to-back, a good start will be key for the Lightning and they will look to avoid an early deficit.

3. Jonathan Drouin will score a goal

With the litany of injuries Tampa has experienced, they needed someone to step up. That person has been Jonathan Drouin who has four goals in his last three games and 13 points in his last nine. He will stay hot with a goal in Washington on Friday.

RELATED: Jagr becomes No. 2 on NHL all-time points list

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Braden Holtby sets franchise record for shutouts in blowout simulation win over Panthers

Braden Holtby sets franchise record for shutouts in blowout simulation win over Panthers

The Capitals got plenty of offense in the latest NHL 20 simulation, but they didn't need it as Braden Holtby turned aside 36 shots to become the team's all-time shutout leader in a  5-0 blowout of the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Result: Caps 5, Panthers 0

1st period

1-0 Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson

2nd period

2-0 Caps goal: Nicklas Backstrom from Nick Jensen and T.J. Oshie

3-0 Caps goal (power play): Jakub Vrana from T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom

https://twitter.com/NBCSCapitals/status/1246580242438815745?s=20               

3rd period

4-0 Caps goal: Brenden Dillon from Evgeny Kuznetsov

5-0 Caps goal: Tom Wilson from Alex Ovechkin and Brenden Dillon

How the Caps won

1. Fast start

What kind of a game was this going to be? We found in just 61 seconds as Kuznetsov wasted no time to get the Caps the lead. Washington would lead the rest of the way.

Carlson charged the blue line to keep a loose puck from getting out of the zone. He passed it up to Ovechkin who made a quick backhand pass to Kuznetsov in the slot to score the goal.

2. Possession

Florida somehow recorded 36 shots on goal, but did they ever really have possession of the puck in this game? It didn't feel like it. The Panthers had trouble defending against the Caps' offense as they struggled to keep the puck out of the defensive zone and struggled to get it out once it got there.

Florida also had no answer for Washington's physicality. The Caps threw their bodies around all game long to separate the Panthers from the puck and Florida just took it.

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3. A long-awaited shutout

It's been a long time coming. Holtby had not recorded a shutout all season long and finally got one in the final game of the regular season with 36 saves. The shutout is the 36th of Holtby's career, which gives Holtby the most in franchise history, moving him one ahead of Olie Kolzig. Or it would have of course if it was not a simulation.

In the few opportunities in which Florida did manage to keep the puck long enough to set up its offense, Holtby was there and gave the Panthers no daylight with which to shoot on. 

Next game

This was the final game of the regular season. Check back with NBC Sports Washington for a simulated playoff.

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Washington Capitals Tom Wilson sends Make-A-Wish kids heartfelt message and gifts

Washington Capitals Tom Wilson sends Make-A-Wish kids heartfelt message and gifts

Washington Capitals right-winger, Tom Wilson is utilizing his newfound free time by giving back to the children of Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic.

Saturday, Wilson was featured on the charity's Instagram page delivering an uplifting message to the kids that are going through unforeseen changes due to quarantine. 

"I understand a lot of your wishes are on hold right now due to this very weird time in the world," Wilson said. "I just want to let you know I'm thinking of you."

"You guys are so strong, keep fighting and I'm looking forward to seeing you around."

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It’s FR🏒DAY! And what better way to start your weekend than hearing from our @capitals friend, @tomwilson! Just like all of us, Tom is thinking of our local wish kids whose wishes are currently indefinitely on hold and knows how strong and awesome each of you are. 💪 He's cheering on every one of our wish kids during this challenging time and can’t wait to see your wishes come true. Tom also went above and beyond and bought activities for us to send all our kids whose #WishesAreWaiting to pass the time at home or in hospital. Thanks for sharing your Message of Hope Tom, and for being a such a great champion for wishes and a winner on and off the ice! 💫💙🏆 @capitalspr

A post shared by Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic (@wishmidatlantic) on

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Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic detailed that "Tom also went above and beyond and brought activities for us to send all our kids whose #WishesAreWaiting to pass time at home or in the hospital."

A class act gesture from an even classier man. 

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