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Burakovsky scores, but Caps fall in shootout to Flyers

Burakovsky scores, but Caps fall in shootout to Flyers

PHILADELPHIA— Andre Burakovsky scored his first goal in 27 games and helped set up another for the Capitals, but it wasn’t to prevent the visitors from falling to the Flyers, 3-2, in a shootout at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.

How it happened: Lars Eller, with some help from Burakovsky, scored his third goal of the season midway through the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1. The visitors held that lead until the final seconds of the middle frame, when an Evgeny Kuznetsov turnover landed squarely on the stick of Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who ripped a wrist shot past Braden Holtby to send the game into the third period knotted 2-2.

The Caps were gifted a chance with 1:48 remaining in regulation when they were awarded their first power play of the night. But they mustered only one shot—by Alex Ovechkin—and the game went to overtime, which didn’t settle anything, either.

As a result, one of the season’s most exciting games of the season was settled by a skills competition. Wayne Simmonds was credited with the winner.

What it means: The Caps arrived on Broad Street trailing the Flyers by a single standings point in the jammed-up, ultra-competitive Metro Division. They left trailing by two points.  

Bura’s back: No one on the Caps needed a goal more than Burakovsky, who had been scratched the previous three games for his lack of goal production. That slump, however, ended emphatically with 1:36 remaining in the first, when the 21-year-old winger cradled a slick pass from Dmitry Orlov and then sent a blistering wrister over Steve Mason’s blocker to open the scoring. Even before Burakosky broke through on the score sheet, he had been one of the Caps’ best players, backchecking with vigor and making plays in the offensive end.   

Game of inches: Confusion reigned inside Wells Fargo Center for a few moments early in the second period. The horn sounded. The goal light came on. The capacity crowd erupted. But the refs needed a second look on video review. Michael Raffl’s wraparound attempt hit Holtby’s outstretched stick and flipped up into the air. Just as it crossed the goal line, Carlson used his stick to bat the puck out of midair and away from the cage. Unfortunately for the Caps, though, the puck had already crossed the goal line by a few inches prior to Carlson’s effort. Following a brief review, the correct call was made. Raffl’s seventh goal knotted the game 1-1.

Makin’ a killing: The Flyers’ power play came into the game without a goal in four straight games, but the unit still ranked fifth overall in the NHL. Well, the Caps’ penalty killers made sure it stayed cold. The Flyers did not register a single shot on net with the man advantage.

Makin’ their case: Barry Trotz has made no secret of the fact that he’s still searching for the right mix on the third line. And although it was just one performance, it would seem that the trio of Burakovsky, Eller and Vrana have entered the conversation after a particularly strong night Wednesday. The line combined for two goals, four points and eight shots on goal.

Look ahead: The Caps have 12:30 practice Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. They host the Lightning on Friday. The Bolts are 3-7-2 in their last 12 games and will be playing the back half of a back-to-back after entertaining the Blues on Thursday night. No games are scheduled league-wide Saturday-Monday in observance of Christmas.   

RELATED: Joe Biden in attendance at Caps-Flyers game

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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