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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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A first period to forget, a strong night for Holtby and hope for the third line

A first period to forget, a strong night for Holtby and hope for the third line

 

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals returned home only to have their six-game winning streak snapped by a Columbus Blue Jackets team that had lost its last four.

Check out the recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

The first period is in the running for worst of the season

Washington was outshot 20-6, could not get possession and could not get the puck out of the defensive zone. Things were getting comically bad as Michal Kempny accidentally shot the puck on his own net which forced a save from Braden Holtby and then a trip as he tried to keep Pierre-Luc Dubois from getting to the loose puck. Later in the period, Gustav Nyquist got a breakaway chance when Jakub Vrana basically passed the puck right to him.

Why was it so bad? Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe the Caps came into this one thinking they would have an easy time against a bad team or maybe it was just one of those nights. Regardless, it was bad. While Washington played better as the game went along, that first period really set the tone for the entire 60 minutes.

Holtby was the only reason the Caps were in this game

The Caps will likely have to choose between Holtby and Ilya Samsonov in the offseason as their goalie of the future. Because of that, some fans are already drawing lines in the sand and declaring themselves for Team Holtby or Team Samsonov. Those Holtby detractors take every opportunity to declare every bad game as Holtby’s fault, but that was just not the case on Monday.

Holtby was the only thing, the only thing keeping Washington in this game.

Holtby made 33 saves for the game, 19 of which came in just the first period alone. The third goal Holtby allowed was soft as he showed Riley Nash too much daylight off the post allowing Nash to bank the puck off him and in, but besides that, it was a really strong game for the Caps' netminder overall.

The third line showed signs of life but remains a work in progress

Coming into this game, Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, and Richard Panik had played less than 24 minutes together at 5-on-5 this season. Having a full lineup back, Reirden was able to utilize this line and the results were good. They ultimately did not produce any points, but the line looked very good to start and it looks like there is potential there.

"They did some good things," Reirden said. "I thought early on they were probably one of our better lines to start the game. They were the group that was giving us some offense and giving us some possession time and I thought executing at probably the highest level."

Look, I know many fans out there are done with Panik already, but give him time to actually play on the line he was signed to play with. The Caps have banked a ton of points and sit first in the entire NHL. They have the flexibility to experiment with the third line and see if that trio can build some chemistry together.

Keep an eye on the home record

The loss drops Washington's home record to 8-3-4 for the season. Not terrible, but not great either especially when compared to their 14-2-1 record on the road. I'm not ready to think there is something wrong with theCaps at home yet, but this is something that is worth monitoring.

Turning point

The Caps had nothing going for them through 40 minutes, but it would not be the first time they were able to rally from a multi-goal deficit in the third period to get the win. Heck, I'm not sure people would even be surprised by it anymore. When Alex Ovechkin scored less than a minute into the third, my gut reaction was OK, here we go. Here comes the rally.

Nash's goal put an end to all of that when he was able to bank the puck in off of Holtby from behind the goal line. At that point, you knew the game was over.

Play of the game

On the first period breakaway Nyquist received courtesy of Vrana, Nyquist tried to beat Holtby with the backhand through the 5-hole. The Caps' netminder recovered well and swept out the pads to deny him the goal. Had Washington come back to make a game of this one, this save would have been one of the pivotal moments of the game.

Stat of the game

Congratulations to Craig "Woody" Leydig!

Quote of the game

Reirden on what went wrong in the first period:

"There wasn't a whole lot going right. That was, to me, one of our worst two periods of the year."

Fan predictions

You got the score right, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had one goal and one assist. I'm pretty sure you meant that the Caps were going to win though so you didn't nail this one as much as it looks like you did.

Umm...just a narrow miss there.

Go home Mike, you're drunk.

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Caps finally lay an egg to end six-game winning streak

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Caps finally lay an egg to end six-game winning streak

WASHINGTON - Put it away. 

Honestly, what else can the Capitals say after a 5-2 loss to the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at Capital One Arena. 

They had won six games in a row. They had just swept a four-game road trip to Detroit and the three California teams (San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim). Things were going great. That's always dangerous in the NHL.  

Use any excuse you want - a trap game before playing the powerhouse Bruins visit in two days, a letdown coming home for the first time since Nov. 29, a sleepy Monday night crowd in early December - but the Capitals were having none of it. 

"Even if you had a winning streak like this, I think it's important - when you lose, there's no easy games in this league, that's for sure,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. “You’ve just got to bounce back right away. We have a good test on Wednesday against Boston. I think, right?"

Forgive Backstrom if he wasn’t quite certain that a showdown loomed with the Bruins, who have the second-most points in the NHL behind Washington (22-5-5). It’s a tough time of year for players and the calendar gets away from them.

But after eight games out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, Backstrom was just happy to be back on the ice. He even scored a goal late in the third period to cut the Columbus lead to 4-2 before an empty-netter put things away. 

Up in Ottawa, the Bruins (20-5-6) were also losing a game you wouldn’t expect: 5-2 to Ottawa. Combine the Blue Jackets and Senators have just 55 points. That’s barely more than Washington (49) and Boston (46) on their own, but in the NHL there’s too much parity to take any game for granted.

“You've got to be on top of your game or you're susceptible to ending up on the wrong end of things,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “We’ve been really consistent, obviously, through 30-plus games of doing that. Tonight, we weren't. Had a bad start to the game. It cost us.”

Consider it a humbling lesson. Just like when the New York Islanders won a game at Tampa Bay on Monday night and the lead in the Metropolitan Division is seven points for the Capitals. No reason to panic, no reason to do anything other than start a new streak against a top-level opponent on Wednesday that should give both Washington and Boston a good sense of where their game is.

Take the good and toss the bad: Backstrom is back and scored. The penalty kill, with Lars Eller playing a bigger role, was solid again at 5-for-5 and the third line of Eller. Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik played as a unit for the first time since early October. 

Braden Holtby (33 saves, 37 shots) had a great first period in goal, but gave up an ugly bad-angle shot in the third to Riley Nash just a few minutes after Alex Ovechkin had cut the lead to 2-1 in the first minute of the third period with his 21st goal. But Columbus scored three times in the third - once on an empty net. A game Washington was chasing almost the entire way turned into a deserved Blue Jackets win. Things have gone so well so far in 2019-20. Time to flush it fast. The Bruins await.  

“We were lucky it was only a 1-0 game because of the way [Holtby] played,” Hagelin said. “We started getting better and better as the game went on, but it wasn’t enough. That’s one of those games where you have to forget about it and move on.” 

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