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After being prodded, Capitals 'take out the best'

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After being prodded, Capitals 'take out the best'

Following Tuesday night’s gutsy come-from-behind 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings, Barry Trotz could have raved about the play of Philipp Grubauer (39 saves), the clutch performance of Justin Williams (game-winning assist) or the triumphant return of defenseman Brooks Orpik (five hits, 1 assist, plus-1 in 16:43 of ice time).

Instead, Trotz harped on how he had to call a timeout late in the second period to prod his players to play dump-and-chase, grind-it-out hockey against a team that won two of the last four Stanley Cups by playing dump-and-chase, grind-it-out hockey.

“I was just trying to get everyone’s attention,” Trotz said, accusing his team of playing “easy and light” in the first period. “We needed to start playing north.

“I used the term during the playoffs last year. We didn’t want to go through that game, we wanted to go around it. Once we decided we had to go through the game I thought we were a much better hockey team.”

Trailing 1-0 late in the second period, Andre Burakovsky took his coach’s advice and drove the lane to redirect a hard pass from Dmitry Orlov past Jonathan Quick for his 12th goal of the season.

“We talked about it between the first and second period, that we need to get more bodies to the net,” said Burakovsky, who has 17 points in his last 14 games. “I was just trying to crash the net and obviously it was a sick pass from Orlov and he just hit my stick. The only thing I had to do was hold my stick on the ice.”

The Caps outshot the Kings 12-9 in the third period and netted the game-winner with 2:02 remaining when Williams found Evgeny Kuznetsov at the side of the net for a slam dunk.

“it’s tough to miss him when he’s standing right in front of the net,” Williams said of his 21st assist of the season. “I tried to get it over there as quick as possible and give him an empty net because he gave me one earlier that I couldn’t convert on.”

Kuznetsov celebrated with a goofy twirl of his glove and wave to fans behind the glass.

“It was just emotion,” Kuznetsov said of his 16th goal. “It happens, you can’t control that.”

Despite getting outplayed for most of two periods, the Caps (41-10-4, 86 points) said they were happy to get out of Verizon Center with two points in regulation, improving their record to 15-1-1 in their last 17 games in Chinatown.

“We were kind of excited to play against these guys,” Burakovsky said. “They already got two Cups and we’ve got none. We’re trying to be the best team in the league and if we want to be the best we have to take out the best. It felt like a playoff game. It was a fast game and we battled it through and had a big two points.”

RELATED: Kuznetsov's go-ahead goal lifts Capitals over Quick and Kings

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Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

The Caps looked like they were in good shape in the third period on Wednesday. With a 3-2 lead in the final frame against a New York Rangers team that had played the night before, Washington looked like they were starting to wear down the blue shirts and tilt the ice in their favor.

But everything changed just before the midway point of the period.

Nathan Walker, in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 4, chased down Neal Pionk behind the Rangers net as Pionk went to collect the puck. Walker put his arms around the Rangers’ defenseman to slow him up and he was called for holding.

“That was the safest thing possible for me to do is to wrap him up and take him in the corner like that,” Walker said to NBC Sports Washington on Friday. “Personally, I didn't think it was a good call on the ref's side, but that's the way it goes.”

Just over a minute later, Chris Kreider deflected a shot that was going wide past Braden Holtby for the power play goal to tie the game at 3.

A third period mistake that tied the game from a player in and out of the lineup could have been a devastating moment for Walker, but head coach Todd Reirden was adamant after the game that he did not want Walker to lose his aggressiveness or change the way he plays as a result of Wednesday’s mistake.

“I insert him to be aggressive and his intensity was something we needed,” Reirden said. “I thought he won a lot of puck battles earlier in the game and at different points. He's pursuing the puck trying to force a turnover and it ends up as a call against. That's I think a tough call in that situation, but we're able to pick him up and if there's a guy on our team that we want to rally around and try to come back for, it's someone like that with a work ethic and just commitment and dedication and how he is as a teammate.”

Luckily for Walker, the Caps were still able to get the win thanks to Matt Niskanen’s overtime goal. Those were nervous moments for him watching as the team tried to overcome his mistake.

“It's definitely nerve-wracking for sure,” Walker said. “You kind of feel like you're the reason why they got back into the game. I personally thought we were all over them in the third period up until they got that goal. I think we still played really well, but obviously the play with the lead is a lot nicer than playing tied up 10 minutes to go in the third. It was nerve-wracking, but it was good that the guys came through and we got the two points at the end of the day so that's the main thing.”

The fact that Walker’s mistake did not end up costing the team will make it easier for Reirden’s message to sink in. It’s his aggressiveness that makes him valuable. One mistake should not make him change that aspect of his game.

Said Reirden, “It's something that if he stops hunting pucks and creating havoc up ice then he's just a very average player that's going to find himself in and out of the league.”

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Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Panthers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals (3-2-1, 7pts) are coming off of an overtime thriller at home over the Rangers thanks to Matt Niskanen's crafty timing.

Through the first six games of the season, Washington is undefeated on Wednesdays, yet has failed to win consecutive games. The Caps hope to change that trend Friday night at home vs. the Florida Panthers (0-2-2, 2pts).

The Panthers have yet to win a game this season, with each of the four games being decided by just one goal. The Panthers have no problem scoring, netting at least five goals in two of the first four games, but have failed to seal the deal. This is where the defending Stanley Cup champions will need to capitalize.

Only the Maple Leafs (33) and Hurricanes (33) have scored more times than the Capitals (24). Washington has a clear advantage in firepower. The biggest key to victory is keeping the space in front of Braden Holtby clean as a whistle. If the Caps control their goalmouth, they should have no issues dispatching the Panthers.

Here is everything you need to know about the Friday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

CAPITALS-PANTHERS GAME: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Friday, October 19, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Panthers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: Watch Capitals vs. Panthers on the NBC Sports Washington live stream page and the NBC Sports MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS-PANTHERS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: NHL: Florida Panthers at Capitals 
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: Travis Boyd (OUT, IR), Tom Wilson (OUT, Suspension)

Panthers: Michael Haley (OUT, Leave of Absence), Roberto Luongo (OUT, MCL injury), Mike Matheson (OUT, Suspension) 

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Evgenii Dadonov, W, Panthers: Dadonov is leading the Panthers this season with two goals and two assists on the season.

John Carlson, D, Capitals: Carlson had a heck of a game vs. the Rangers Wednesday night with a goal and two assists. The Capitals worked on faceoffs in practice leading up to Wednesday night's game and all of the hard work paid off with Carlson's goal coming right off the faceoff from Backstrom. 

CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 123

All-Time Series Record: 64-50-9

Playoff Record: N/A

Last Meeting: Panthers beat Capitals 3-2 (2/22/2018)

Last 10 Meetings: Tied 5-5 

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