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3 key observations from Game 1: Pittsburgh capitalizes

3 key observations from Game 1: Pittsburgh capitalizes

The Pittsburgh Penguins seized the early series lead with a 3-2 victory in Game 1 on Thursday. Here are three key observations from the game.

1. Sidney Crosby is already having a better series than last year

Despite losing to the Penguins in last year’s series, the Caps actually played Crosby very tough, allowing him only two assists and no goal in six games. After Game 1, he already has two goals. That’s a bad sign. While limiting Pittsburgh’s secondary scoring will be key, Washington also cannot allow Pittsburgh’s top player to run wild on them. He will make them pay for every mistake they make.

RELATED: Jill Sorenson has a message for the pessimistic Caps fans

2. Braden Holtby is still not at his best

After a shaky start to the Toronto series, Holtby rebounded with two strong performances in Games 5 and 6 to help lead the Caps to the series win. Thursday was a step back. You cannot blame him for the first goal. What is a goalie supposed to do on a 2-on-1 against Crosby? The second goal, however, Holtby got his glove on the initial shot by Olli Maatta, but was unable to catch it. The resulting rebound was tipped to Crosby for the goal. Make no mistake, these are the best two teams left in the playoffs. It will take a superhuman effort to win. Allowing three goals on 21 shots isn’t it. I still do not think it is time to even consider putting in Philipp Grubauer, however. Holtby is not the reason why the Caps are losing, he is just not playing at a level in which he will be able to steal a game for Washington anytime soon.

3. Pittsburgh forwards play incredibly high

All year Trotz has stressed to his forward the importance of getting back on defense and not getting caught too far up the ice. Pittsburgh‘s forwards do the exact opposite. When back on defense, the Penguins’ forwards play very high in the defensive zone. There were even times when a forward was skating at mid-ice when Washington was still attacking. Pittsburgh is a fast team that likes to push the rush. By playing so aggressive, they are able to get the puck out of the zone and push the attack faster. But this comes at a price as they leave themselves more vulnerable in the defensive zone. The Caps need to be aware of how quickly Pittsburgh can push the counter, but they also need to take advantage of their vulnerability defensively.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' locker room 'somber' after Game 1 loss

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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

Down 4-1, the Capitals scored five goals in the third period for the incredible 6-4 comeback win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick pulling him in a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals.

Here is how the Caps won.

Ovechkin

Ovechkin was hot coming in with five goals in his past two games. He scored midway through the first period, getting a great pass in stride from Nicklas Backstrom to launch him behind the defense. Just as the defense closed in he fired a wrister past Semyon Varlamov to make it 1-0.

There is...pretty much nothing positive to say after that until the third period. There was a great 5-on-3 penalty kill, but it was essentially negated as they allowed a goal soon after. The Islanders built a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes and it looked all but over.

But after Carl Hagelin made it 4-2, Ovechkin pulled the Caps to within one, pulling the vintage back-to-front Ovechkin curl-and-drag before passing to the front where the puck deflected off the boot of Ryan Pulock and in.

After Jakub Vrana made it 5-4, Ovechkin added the empty-netter for the knockout punch.

With three goals, Ovechkin now has 34 on the season. He passed Mario Lemieux and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals. Incredibly, this is the first time in his career Ovechkin has three straight multi-goal games.

Motivation

Just what exactly lit the fire under the Caps butts for that third period will probably be a talking point after the game. Was it Devon Toews doing the bird celebration after he scored to make it 4-1? Was it pulling Braden Holtby and starting Ilya Samsonov in the third period? Was it something Todd Reirden or one of the players said?

Whatever it was, it was a different Caps team that took the ice for the third period.

Hagelin's turnaround

As great as Ovechkin's performance was -- and it was epic -- it might not happen without the Carl Hagelin's early third-period tally.

The comeback was sparked by Hagelin's goal that came less than three minutes into the final frame. A great pass by Richard Panik set Hagelin up on the doorstep and he hit it home.

That goal made it 4-2 and a two-goal deficit seems a lot less daunting than a three-goal one.

Shaky Varlamov

Once Ovechkin made it 4-3, you could smell the blood in the water. Washington had gotten to Varlamov and the flood gates were open.

Dmitry Orlov took the puck up to the top of the faceoff circle and fired a slap shot that Wilson managed to get a stick to and deflected it through Varlamov to tie the game.

About three minutes later, Vrana intercepted a pass and fired a quick shot to beat Varlamov far-side for the 5-4 lead.

Varlamov faced 10 shots in the third period and allowed four goals. The fifth came on an empty net.

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