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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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An inherent contradiction in rules on goalie interference cost the Capitals

An inherent contradiction in rules on goalie interference cost the Capitals

The defining moment of the Capitals’ Game 6 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday was Alex Ovechkin’s disallowed goal in the third period.

Ovechkin thought he had tied the game at 3 when he poked a loose puck across the goal line, but the goal was waved off by the referee and the play upheld after a coach’s challenge.

You can watch the play here:

The NHL released the following explanation of the call: 

At 10:34 of third period in the Capitals/Hurricanes game, Washington requested a Coach’s Challenge to review the “Interference on the Goalkeeper” decision that resulted in a “no goal” call.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Referee, the Situation Room confirmed that Alex Ovechkin interfered with Petr Mrazek by pushing his pad, which caused the puck to enter the net. According to Rule 69.3, “If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.”

Therefore, the original call is upheld – no goal Washington Capitals.

Mrazek was in the crease, Ovechkin clearly made contact with his pad as he went for the puck and, according to the rule, even incidental contact will result in a disallowed goal. The fact that Ovechkin was clearly going for the puck and not simply trying to push Mrazek back into the net is irrelevant.

Caps fans may not want to admit it, but this seems pretty black and white…until you read the rule that completely contradicts it.

Rule 69 is the rule that deals with goalie interference. The NHL cited rule 69.3 in its explanation for the disallowed goal. Rule 69.7, however, deals with rebounds and loose pucks. That rule states, “In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether insider or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.”

After the game on Monday, the Caps were fuming at the call because the puck was clearly loose.

“I saw the puck,” Ovechkin said. “He didn't get it in control. He didn't see that, so I don't know what the referee saw or what the explanation was.”

“From our angle from the bench it looked like the puck was loose,” Reirden said. “We talked with our video staff and they felt like it was worth a challenge in that situation. That’s not how the league or the referees saw it and that’s a decision they made. But for us we thought the puck was loose. It was still a puck that was in play.”

When you see the replay, it’s hard to argue. That puck was loose. Rule 69.3 says it doesn’t matter. Rule 69.7 says it does.

When you read the NHL’s explanation for why the goal was disallowed, it makes sense. It stinks, but Ovechkin makes incidental contact with Mrazek in the crease. But take the same play and let’s pretend that the call was overturned and the goal allowed on the coach’s challenge. If the NHL cited Rule 69.7 in its explanation, it still would make complete sense.

If you can use two different rules on the exact same play to justify two different calls, that’s a problem.

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial rules in hockey because no one seems to know what does and does not constitute goalie interference. What happened in Game 6 is a prime example. 

When even the NHL’s own rulebook seem to contradict itself, it is impossible for players, coaches, referees or fans to know what is and is not within the rules.

This is a problem and it is one the NHL needs to fix.

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A frustrating Game 6 loss, but Caps can't dwell on the negative

A frustrating Game 6 loss, but Caps can't dwell on the negative

RALEIGH — By the end of the night the frustration was evident. Three times the Capitals have played at PNC Arena during this Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series and three times they have left the ice stick-smashingly angry. 

Capitals coach Todd Reirden screamed at the officials. Alex Ovechkin earned a game misconduct after a mock wave following a late penalty call. By then the Carolina Hurricanes had already assured there would be one final game in this closer-than-expected series with a 5-2 win. Now both teams face elimination with Game 7 looming Wednesday at Capital One Arena. 

Washington’s anger was understandable. Alex Ovechkin apparently poked home the game-tying goal with 9:26 remaining. But while the Capitals celebrated, referee Kyle Rehman blew his whistle. In his view, Ovechkin had shoved Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek’s pads to force the puck into the net. 

The NHL Situation Room in Toronto upheld that call on the ice after the Capitals tied it. Just 1:24 later, ex-Capitals forward Justin Williams stuck a dagger in the heart of his old team with a deflected goal to give the Hurricanes a 4-2 lead.

"I don't think anyone expected it to be easy,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “They played well all series. We were up 2-0 and we were probably fortunate to be up 2-0 and we've been good on home ice and now we have a Game 7 and it is probably good that we have home ice."

There were other issues on Monday. Dmitry Orlov was whistled for embellishment in the second period that denied Washington a power play. Carolina tied the game 2-2 at 1:56 of the second period when referees – in the Capitals’ view – missed an obvious slash by Sebastian Aho on defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler behind the net. His attempted clear was flubbed and Aho found Teuvo Teravainen alone in front for an easy goal.

None of it matters now. The Capitals didn’t play well enough to win anyway, especially in a ragged second period that ominously looked like the 5-0 Hurricanes win in Game 3. Reirden himself admitted that Carolina earned the breaks it got. Goalie Braden Holtby was especially critical of his team for not building on a dominant 6-0 win at home in Game 5 on Saturday. 

“I don’t know. I thought we played pretty well to come out and we just faded,” Holtby said. “I’m not sure why. At this point it doesn’t matter. It’s over with and it’s down to one game.”

The challenge will be leaving all of that negativity in the PNC Arena locker room. One player walked away and said to no one in particular “No goal….what a call.” The sarcasm dripped. But it can’t follow the Capitals back home to Washington. This group of players has plenty of experience putting bad playoff losses behind them. 

If anything carries over into Game 7, however, they could be in trouble. Those days are thought to be long over after last spring’s Cup. And maybe they are. But the Capitals will have to forget about what happened in Raleigh. They have one last chance. It can't be clouded by what happened here.  

"It's over. Again, right now nothing you can do,” Ovechkin said. “After fight, you can't do anything. It was a good battle. Good for them, they win Game 6, and you know, Game 7 is going to be much interesting. We know how to play that. Pressure on both teams, but it's a good chance for us to beat them at home." 

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