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Alex Ovechkin's OT winner caps feverish rally against Maple Leafs

Alex Ovechkin's OT winner caps feverish rally against Maple Leafs

The Caps walked away the 6-5 winners in a wild affair against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

How it happened: Alex Ovechkin drew a hooking penalty on the first shift of the game and the Caps took advantage as a Dmitry Orlov slapshot deflected off the skate of Justin Williams to beat Frederik Andersen.

The Leafs responded with a power play goal of their own just 5:25 later as a quick pass from Nazem Kadri in the slot to James van Riemsdyk on the goal line hamstrung Braden Holtby who was only able to extend his pad left as he slid right allowing Kadri to whack it in the rebound. Connor Brown soon gave Toronto the lead with a wicked wrist shot to the top shelf.

After killing off a Williams penalty, the Caps tied the game at 2 as Oshie found Williams on the stretch pass just as he exited the box. Williams didn’t have the jets for the breakaway, but he did find a trailing Oshie who showed great patience to draw Andersen out of position before firing it home. Toronto took the lead again, however, as former Cap Connor Carrick broke his stick on a slap shot attempt.

The Caps seemed to be in good position to block the shot, but the puck didn’t go where anyone expected thanks to the broken stick and instead landed right on the tape of an open Frederik Gauthier who tipped it in past Holtby.

And that was just the first period.

Auston Matthews put on a show in the second period, taking the puck behind the goal line then executing a spin move to complete perfection to set up Leo Komarov for the goal. It was Toronto’s second power play goal of the game and put them ahead 4-2.

But the Caps woke up in the third. Marcus Johansson fed a wide open Kuznetsov in the slot and he flicked the one-timer past Andersen. Just 1:19 later, Dmitry Orlov fired a one-time on a sharp angle to tie the game at four. But Mitch Marner put the Leafs up for good with a breakaway goal to break the tie.

But the Caps weren't done. A physical drive by Kuznetsov setup John Carlson for the game-tying goal. Alex Ovechkin then won it for the Caps just 22 seconds into overtime.


What it means: The Caps have won six of their last seven meetings with the Maple Leafs and have earned at least a point in ten of their last 12 games against Toronto. The win extends the Caps' win streak to three games and their point streak to four. Washington has also improved to 10-2-1 against the Atlantic Division this season.

Turning point: Down by two entering the third period, it looked like the Leafs had this game well in hand. Instead, the Cpas scored twice in a 1:19 stretch in the third period to tie the game at 4 and breathe new life into the Caps.

Short night: Holtby’s night was over after just 20 minutes as Philipp Grubauer started the second period. Holtby gave up three goals on eight shots in the opening frame. It is the first time Holtby has been pulled in a game this season and the first time he has gotten the hook since March 20, 2016. Grubauer finished with 15 saves on the night.

Role reversal: The Caps had not allowed a power play goal in the last 29 opportunities they faced entering into Tuesday's game, but the Leafs were quick to end that streak. Toronto scored on their first opportunity of the night just 6:39 into the game. They would add another in the second period. The Maple Leafs finished with two goals on six opportunities. The power play, meanwhile, entered Tuesday's game on a 0-for-17 drought. Washington scored on their very first opportunity as well to snap that streak.

Kuznetsov awakens: Kuznetsov's third period goal was his first since Nov. 23 and his fourth of the season. He also added three assists on the night He now has 13 assists in his last 14 games.

Williams rolls on: Williams remains the hottest Cap offensively as he recorded one goal and two assists, his 27th career three-point game. He now has 15 points in his last 14 games.

Look ahead: Washington will host the hottest team in the NHL Thursday as the Columbus Blue Jackets come to town. Columbus has won 16 straight including their win over Edmonton on Tuesday. After Thursday, it's off to Canada where the Caps will face the Ottawa Senators on Saturday and the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.


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This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat


This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."


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Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing a long-term contract?

Tarik: When a player has a career year and it coincides with the final year of his contract, the reaction from some fans and media is often a sarcastic, ‘Well, of course he did.’

And I’m sure there are some folks who wonder about Carlson’s breakout season and whether there was a connection between the uptick in his production and the potential of an enormous payday.

Indeed, the 28-year-old established highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68) and ice time (24:47). He was outstanding in the postseason, too, amassing five goals and 15 assists while playing solidly in his own end to help lead the Caps to their first championship.

The financial reward came a couple of weeks later when he signed an eight-year, $64 million contract to remain in Washington.

Which brings us to today’s question.

It’s obviously impossible to say for sure what’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had another big season. Why? A few reasons:

  • As good as he was, last year wasn’t a total outlier, either. Carlson racked up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 2014-15, which was tied for fifth best among blue liners that year.
  • He was at his best last season skating with trade deadline addition Michal Kempny. Kempny, of course, also re-upped, agreeing to a four-year extension. So, in theory, Carlson should be able to pick up where he left off.
  • Carlson has credited Todd Reirden with helping him take his game to new heights. Well, Reirden is now the guy in charge of the whole operation. How could that not help?
  • A major reason Carlson puts up so many points is his role on the power play. And that unit, which really hit its stride in the postseason (29.3-percent), returns all five skaters.
  • Carlson has also been pretty durable, which is critical to being productive. In fact, last season he skated in all of the Caps’ games for the sixth time in eight full-time seasons.

So, yeah, it’s all setting up nicely for Carlson to have a strong 2018-19.

To me, the only unknown is whether he’ll have the same hunger and determination now that he’s got long-term security and that previously elusive championship ring.

Again, that’s impossible to predict. But I can tell you this: Over the course of two decades in this business, I’ve covered lots of players who inked life-changing contracts. With a few of them, I had immediate concerns.

I have no such reservations about Carlson's ability to play up to his new deal, particularly in the first several seasons of it.

JJ: There's nothing wrong with a player being motivated by a new deal, but I am always wary when players have career years on the last year of their contract.

The issue is whether or not a player can continue to play at the level they showed when a new contract is no longer a motivating factor. After signing a new deal for eight years and $64 million, Carlson won't have to think about money or contracts for a long time.

When it comes to motivation, a lot of the questions surrounding the Capitals this year will depend on how they react to winning the Cup. Of course everyone wants to repeat, but psychologically will they come into camp more motivated than ever to defend their title or will they be satisfied with finally winning it all?

For Carlson, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Tarik went over a number of those reasons above, but the two biggest for me are Michal Kempny and Todd Reirden.

This season, Carlson will have Kempny as his partner to start, rather than a cycle of practically every left-handed defenseman on the ice depending on the situation. Second, what Mitch Korn is to goalies, Reirden is to defensemen. With him as the head coach, I believe the ceiling for Carlson will only continue to climb.

Let's also go beyond the numbers. Matt Niskanen suffered an injury early last season that forced Carlson into a primary role on both ends of the ice. He was playing nearly 30 minutes a night and, with two rookies on the blue line who Barry Trotz did everything he could to shelter, those were very hard minutes. Yet, Carlson excelled. The offensive upside was always there, but the way he played defensively was a revelation.

While Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen will remain a solid pair for the Caps, I believe Carlson will be the guy heading into the season which will mean more minutes and more responsibility.

Plus, despite what he meant to the team's defense and despite leading all defensemen in points with 68, Carlson was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game, he was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and he was not among the four defensemen named to the end of season All-Star team. His incredible season earned him no recognition at all other than his new contract. A $64 million contract is a heck of a consolation prize, but his season deserved more recognition than that.

You don't often see a player of his caliber enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but Carlson should have a fairly sizable one.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?
Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?
Has Evgeny Kuznetsov made the jump from really good player to superstar?