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Alex Ovechkin's hat trick leads Caps in overtime win over Wild

Alex Ovechkin's hat trick leads Caps in overtime win over Wild

Final score: Washington Capitals 5, Minnesota Wild 4 (OT)

How it happened: T.J. Oshie took sole possession of the team goal lead with his 31st of the season in the first period. Jason Pominville responded early in the second and then Alex Ovechkin took over. Ovechkin scored two power play goals in the second, one to tie Oshie at 31, the second to overtake him for the team lead. Martin Hanzal, however, scored before the end of the period to keep the came close heading into the third. Ovechkin finished off the hat trick goal, also on the power play, but a bizarre shot from Jared Spurgeon beat Braden Holtby on a deflection. Then the Caps' killer Eric Staal tied the game on a goal that stood after a controversial offsides review. It did not cost the Caps, however, as 

What it means: The Capitals have won five straight and extended their point streak to seven games. With the win, Washington maintained a three-point lead over Columbus who won their game earlier on Tuesday. Holtby also became just the third goalie in NHL history to record three consecutive 40-win seasons.

Goals

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at 11:36 in the 1st period. Some hard work in the offensive zone by Ovechkin generated the puck which he passed to Backstrom. Backston fired a one-timer on Devan Dubnyk and Oshie was on the doorstep for the rebound. He deftly stick-handled the puck around the pad and into the net. Caps 1, Wild 0

Wild goal: Jason Pominville from Nino Niederreiter and Martin Hanzal at 2:17 in the 2nd. Niederreiter took the puck on the wraparound and the Caps were late to cover the far-side of the net. Hanzal fed Pominville in the slot for the open shot. Caps 1, Wild 1

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom at 7:31 in the 2nd. Shattenkirk didn’t get an assist, but his breakout pass set up the play. From the defensive zone, Shattenkirk fired a pass to Backstrom past the red line. Backstrom entered Minnesota’s zone, hit a trailing Johansson who sent a pass cross-ice to Ovechkin. The Great 8 took advantage, hitting the empty-net with the snap shot. Caps 2, Wild 1

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Kevin Shattenkirk and Marcus Johansson at 12:28 in the 2nd. Johansson held the puck behind the net and found Shattenkirk at the point. Shattenkirk gave Ovechkin the puck in the office for the one-time that he sent into the back of the net. Caps 3, Wild 1

Wild goal: Martin Hanzal from Jared Spurgeon and Jason Pominville at 15:43 in the 2nd. Pominville fired a shot which Holtby kicked out for the save. The rebound, however, sat in the slot waiting for a charging Hanzal to chip it in.  Caps 3, Wild 2

Capitals goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom at 12:29 in the 3rd. Backstrom fired the cross-ice pass to Ovechkin who was at the top of the circle. He had plenty of time to aim and release the blistering wrister. Caps 4, Wild 2

Wild goal: Jared Spurgeon at 15:03 in the 3rd. Spurgeon shot an innocent looking shot from the blue line that bounced its way toward the net and deflected off of Dmitry Orlov and in at the last second. Caps 4, Wild 3

Wild goal: Eric Staal from Jared Spurgeon and Mikko Koivu at 19:33 in the 3rd. Caps 4, Wild 4

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie from Marcus Johansson at 1:52 in overtime. Johansson gave Oshie a great back-door feed, but Oshie missed the shot. Johansson regained possession and fed Oshie again and this time, he beat Dubnyk in the top corne. Caps 5, Wild 4

3 stars

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin has responded to the challenge Oshie has given him for the team lead in goals. Once Oshie took it over in the second period, Ovechkin took over with two power play goals in the second. Everyone knows he's going to fire from the office and no one can seem to stop it.

2. Martin Hanzal: Hanzal assisted with the heads up wrap around opportunity. When he saw he was open, he passed to Pominville in the slot rather than try the open stuff attempt. The decision paid off. His hard work in the second period also netted him a goal as he was able to chip in the rebound off a Pominville shot that Shattenkirk lost at his feet.

3. Marcus Johansson: Johansson recorded four assists for the first time this season including a great play to set up Oshie for the game-winner.

Look ahead: The Capitals continue their five-game road trip with a quick turnaround on Wednesday as they face the Colorado Avalanche. They continue with a game in Arizona on Friday, Columbus on Sunday and Toronto on Tuesday.

Tell us what you think: Ovechkin and Oshie are going back and forth for the team's scoring lead. Who do you think will ultimately finish the season with the team lead?

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NHL Power Rankings: No, the Capitals' season is not over

NHL Power Rankings: No, the Capitals' season is not over

Things have not been going well for the Capitals as of late. They have lost eight of their last 11 and five straight games for the first time since October-November 2014. They can’t score and are porous defensively. That’s not a good combination.

As a result, people are despairing. The team has no talent, the coaches have no idea what they’re doing and you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

In this day and age, we all tend to be prisoners of the moment. Will the Capitals come close to winning the Stanley Cup the way they are playing right now? No, of course not. They look terrible.

B ut let’s not forget, it’s not like last season was without its challenges.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE 

On Nov. 14 and 16 in 2017, Washington suffered consecutive blowouts at the hands of Nashville and Colorado to drop their record down to 10-9-1. There was talk of whether Barry Trotz would even survive the season. But the Caps rallied.

F rom Feb. 2 on, Braden Holtby suddenly couldn’t stop a beach ball. He wasn’t even the Caps’ starter the first two games of the playoffs. He got back in net in Game 3 and was brilliant the rest of the playoffs.

D id anyone think Washington would win the Stanley Cup after getting blown out against the Predators and Avalanche? Did anyone think they would win when Holtby was struggling to stop anything in February?

No.

Heck, if you’re mad about how the Caps lost Sunday’s game in Chicago, they lost even worse to the Blackhawks last year 7-1 in February. I sure didn’t think I was watching a Cup winner at that point.

Washington is hardly the only team to suffer such a low point in their season. Look at some of the other contenders across the league. The Caps are only one point behind Toronto which has lost four of its last five, Pittsburgh went through a stretch in which it lost nine out of ten in October/November, Nashville lost six straight from Dec. 17 through Dec. 29, San Jose lost five out of six from Nov. 20 to Dec. 1 and Vegas started the season 9-12-1 before they finally turned things around. No one thinks those teams are done. So why should we write off the Caps?

Looking at the playoff race, Washington is only one point ahead of Pittsburgh for the last wild-card spot…but five points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo. The season is not lost…yet.
Every team has low points during the season, but it’s January.

There’s still a lot of hockey left to play.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE 

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The return of Barry Trotz came at a bad time for Washington. Because of how he has turned around the Islanders and how the Caps have struggled, that has led many to simply dismiss Todd Reirden as a head coach. Here’s what Reirden has had to deal with to start the season: A 20-game suspension (later reduced) to Tom Wilson, a lineup that has not been 100-percent available at any point this season, simultaneous injuries to Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby, a second injury to Holtby and prolonged injuries to Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos. Plus, he’s had to navigate his team coming into a season as the defending champions for the first time in franchise history. The book on Reirden as a head coach is not going to be written based on a January slump. It’s going to be written based on what he does this season as a whole and, even more importantly, on what he does in the playoffs.
     
  • I have seen a few people wonder if the Caps should recall anyone from Hershey, but the simple fact of the matter is that the solution to Washington’s problems is not in the AHL. There are just no difference makers with the Bears right now and adding anyone would be a headache. The Caps have no cap room and two extra forwards already on the roster. To add anyone would mean sending someone back down and exposing them to waivers. Adding Nathan Walker or Shane Gersich to the bottom six is not going to make any difference if Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie can’t score.
     
  • Dmitrij Jaskin needs to stay in the lineup. He can’t finish, but no one can right now. Specifically, among bottom six players, Travis Boyd and Brett Connolly have only one goal in 12 games, Andre Burakovsky has not scored in his last 13, Nic Dowd in his last 16 and Devante Smith-Pelly in his last 23. So really, what offense are you losing by dressing Jaskin? Jaskin, Dowd and Boyd was a very solid line earlier in the season. While Reirden has the line blender out, why not try this one again?


It may be too early to give up on the Caps’ season, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sinking the rankings.

Find out where they land here in this week’s NHL Power Rankings. 

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Defense optional as Caps handed 8-5 loss in Chicago

Defense optional as Caps handed 8-5 loss in Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks handed the Capitals their fifth straight loss on Sunday in an ugly 8-5 defeat. All five of Washington's goals came from defensemen as the team's top forwards continued to struggle.

Here are five reasons the Caps lost.

Missed early opportunities

The game got off to a great start. Tom Wilson fed Jakub Vrana in the middle for a great early opportunity and Lars Eller had another shot with the rebound. Washington also got a power play less than two minutes into the game and was brilliant with the setup, keeping the puck in the zone for the full two minutes and getting a number of high-quality opportunities.

But they didn’t score and that soon loomed very large.

Brandon Saad put Chicago on the board 6:36 into the first and Patrick Kane scored 80 seconds later to make it 2-0, thus erasing the Caps’ strong start.

The goals have been hard to come by for the Caps so when they had the opportunity to take the early lead, they absolutely had to finish. They didn’t and the game got away from them as a result.

A bad play by Madison Bowey

Bowey will be cringing at the replay of the Saad goal for a while. Saad broke the puck out of the defensive zone and carried it into the neutral zone. Bowey had a bead on him until Saad cut to the center. Suddenly Bowey was caught flat footed. He reached for Saad with a weak stick check which Saad easily fought through with no real resistance and he was in on net. He finished the play with the game’s first goal.

 An own-goal

This was really the moment when you realized this was not going to be a good day for Washington.

Down 2-0, Brooks Orpik managed to sneak a softy through goalie Colin Delia to make it 2-1. Just 28 seconds later, however, bad luck struck the Caps yet again.

Dmitry Orlov and Jonathan Toews battled for the puck right in front of the crease and it bounced into he air. Orlov swiped at it with his glove to try to clear it from danger, but instead knocked it right over Holtby and into the net. The own goal made it 3-1 and signaled that Washington was in for a long day.

An ill-advised penalty

This game felt like it quickly was getting out of hand. Somehow, however, the Caps managed to keep things close. Dmitry Orlov snuck another squeaker through Delia in the second and John Carlson fired a one-timer early in the third to make the score 4-3. All of a sudden, the Caps had signs of life. With all the momentum on their side, however, Nicklas Backstrom was whistled for hooking Toews just 23 seconds later.

You could tell what was about to happen.

Sure enough, Kane scored 13 seconds into the power play to restore the Blackhawks’ two-goal lead.

The Toews hat trick

Once again, Washington tried to battle back. Matt Niskanen scored with just over six minutes remaining in the game, the fifth goal from a Caps’ defenseman, to pull the score to 6-5. Toews provided the coffin nail just over a minute later with an absolutely brutal play on Orlov.

Toews entered the offensive zone and Orlov took an awful approach. Toews finessed the puck right in front of Orlov which he should have been able to easily sweep away. Instead, he whiffed completely allowing Toews to regain the puck, step past Orlov and fired it under the pad and into the net.

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