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Braden Holtby brilliant again in shutout win vs. Buffalo

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Braden Holtby brilliant again in shutout win vs. Buffalo

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres Monday night at Niagara Arena:

How it happened: Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring 19 seconds into the second period with his team-high 18th goal of the season on a nice Nicklas Backstrom pass from behind the net. Jay Beagle made it 2-0 with his sixth goal of the season at the 12:55 mark when a shot by Tom Wilson caromed wide of the net and banked right to Beagle in the slot. Caps goalie Braden Holtby did the rest, stopping all 31 shots he faced to earn his second shutout of the season and 22nd of his career.

What it means: The Caps (27-6-2, 56 points) have rung up eight straight wins, all of them in regulation, to move within one point of the NHL-leading Dallas Stars (27-7-3, 57 points), who have played two more games.

MORE CAPITALS: LATTA POSSIBLY INJURED IN FIGHT VS. BUFFALO

Scary moment: With 4:10 remaining in regulation Buffalo forward Tyler Ennis crashed the net with the puck lying at the feet of Holtby and made helmet-to-helmet contact with the Caps’ netminder. After the play, Holtby removed his mask and took a knee but remained in the game and finished off the shutout with an incredible glove save on Evander Kane. Holtby (23-4-1) stopped Jack Eichel four times.

Pay back for Deslauriers?: With 8:09 gone in the second period, Sabres left wing Nicolas Deslauriers shouldered Caps right wing Justin Williams hard into the boards, clipping him in the face with his stick on Williams’ way to the ice. 

While Williams’ face was getting repaired in the trainer’s room, Deslauriers took his next shift at 10:46 and 3 seconds later Michael Latta defended Williams by fighting Deslauriers. Latta got the worst of the fight, taking a pair of hard rights to the head and did not return to the game with an upper body injury.

Deslauriers celebrated wildly on the ice and in the penalty box and likely will be watched closely by Tom Wilson when the two teams meet again at Verizon Center on Wednesday night.

Statistically speaking: The Caps are now 13-0-0 when leading after one period and 19-0-0 when leading after two periods. They are also 22-0-5 whenever Jay Beagle scores a goal in his career.    

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Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

The odds have never gone the way of the Washington Capitals.

After years of being the common pick to finally break through and win the Stanley Cup, this was most definitely not the year.

Yet, here we are with the Capitals as one of the final two teams standing.

For their upcoming Stanley Cup Final, the Caps are the underdogs against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  The opening line from OddsShark has the Golden Knights as -135 money line favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals were listed as +115 underdogs.

Vegas (the betting entity, not the team) has not exactly been the most reliable this year though. After all, the Golden Knights were 100/1 odds to win the whole thing. Now they are four games away.

In their past two series, Washington was not the favorites. The Capitals have not been favorites since the First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For years in the Alex Ovechkin era, they have been the favorites to not only go on to play for the Stanley Cup but winning it.

In 2018 they started the season tied for the fifth best odds to win the Cup (14/1), one of their lowest opening marks in the past decade. For the full perspective, Washington was tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and behind the Dallas Stars at the start of the season.

Without question this underdog role has fit them quite well, they shouldn’t want anything to change heading into the biggest postseason series in 20 years for Washington D.C.

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How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

It wasn't supposed to happen.

The Capitals celebrated too hard after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Second Round. The Tampa Bay Lightning had been here before. Tampa Bay's roster was deeper. Their goalie was hotter. They had home ice advantage. They had easily won their first two series. Nicklas Backstrom was still injured. Washington wouldn't be able to stop the Lightning's power play.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

For all of those reasons, many did not even give the Caps a chance. Washington overcame every obstacle in their way and was, for the most part, the better team through seven games defeating Tampa Bay to win the Eastern Conference for just the second time in franchise history.

The Capitals showed in their second-round win over the Penguins that these weren't the "same old Caps." They continued to prove that in the conference final when they stunned the Lightning to win Game 1 and Game 2 both on the road.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

When Washington lost the next three, many thought that meant the real Lightning had awoken, but it was the Caps who rose to the occasion in Game 6 and Game 7 where they face elimination as they completely dominated Tampa Bay by a combined score of 7-0.

The Caps now advance to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights have lost only three games this entire postseason and will hope to carry that momentum with them into Game 1.

If there is one thing this Washington team has proven, however, it's that you should never count them out.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

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