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Capitals amped for 'extra challenge' of preventing Blue Jackets from making history

Capitals amped for 'extra challenge' of preventing Blue Jackets from making history

Although the Capitals were in engaged in a thrilling, back-and-forth battle of their own Tuesday night against the Maple Leafs, many of them had more than a passing interest in a game taking place in Columbus.

Why? Because the Blue Jackets’ 3-1 victory over the Oilers extended their win streak to 16 games—one short of tying the 1992-93 Penguins’ NHL record of 17 consecutive wins.

So when the Caps host the Jackets on Thursday night at Verizon Center, the game will mean much more two Metropolitan Division rivals crossing paths on a weekday night in January.

And Brooks Orpik can’t wait.

“As soon as our game was over last night, guys were checking to see if they won or not,” Orpik said after practice on Wednesday.

“We had it on. If anyone says they weren’t [paying attention] they’re lying because we had it on in the change room.”

RELATED: HOW FAR IN FRONT OF CAPITALS ARE THE BLUE JACKETS?

“As soon as we asked if they won or not, guys were like, ‘I don’t know, it said 2- 1 on the scoreboard during our game’,” the veteran defenseman continued. “So guys were aware of it. It’s something fun to watch. Everybody was paying attention to [Columbus’] game against Minnesota the other night to see who would win that one. It’s a little extra challenge.”

Indeed, the Blue Jackets present challenges all over the ice. They’re a league best 27-5-4. Their power play is ranked No. 1 at 28.3-percent. They’re allowing fewer goals than anyone else (2.03 per game) and are scoring more goals (3.44 per) than anyone other than Sidney Crosby and the Penguins (3.45).

Coach Barry Trotz said he considers Thursday’s game to be a good measuring stick for his team, especially given the way the last two meetings between the clubs ended.

On Nov. 15 in Columbus, the Jackets rallied for a 2-1 win in overtime. Then, five days later, Nicklas Backstrom was whistled for high sticking Jackets captain Nick Foligno, who threw his head back despite the fact that Backstrom’s stick did not contact his face. Columbus scored on the ensuing power play with 54 seconds remaining to steal two points.  

“I think our guys are up to the challenge,” said Trotz, whose team has won three in a row and is 10-2-3 in their last 15 games. 

“This is a team that’s leading the league. They’re a team that I think both games were very competitive that we played. …I think guys look at it as they like the competition and I think it will be something that good pros look and go, ‘They’re a good team, so are we and let’s see what happens.’”

Said Daniel Winnik: “We lost in OT against them and then the very phantom high stick call that they scored with a minute something left on the power play. It’s going to be a good test for us.”

Lars Eller said the chance to end the streak will add some juice to the game. But the veteran center also feels the November losses should provide the primary motivation.

“I think it should be a good motivational factor for us,” he said. “But even more so, the biggest motivation for us is the last two games. We felt like we let points slip through our hands too easily when we should have closed the game. That’s probably the biggest thing.”

Orpik added: “We had two pretty good games against them earlier in the year that I think we felt like we were in good position to win and we kinda let it slip away against them. So hopefully tomorrow night will be similar to those two. …It’s always a good measuring stick, especially a team that’s going this well right now.”

RELATED: MESMERIZING CAPITALS' FROZEN MOMENTS

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Alex Ovechkin challenges Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin to shave while in isolation

Alex Ovechkin challenges Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin to shave while in isolation

While we all focus on social distancing and staying at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, this difficult time has basically given us a license to take time off from shaving. 

Don't tell that to Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, who has seemingly started a new shaving challenge on Instagram with his wife, Nastya (music NSFW). 

As Ovechkin goes for the clean shave with Nastya dancing by his side, the caption translates to him challenging fellow Russian hockey stars Ilya Kovalchuk and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. 

Neither player has considerable facial hair, but credit to Ovechkin finding another way to keep busy during isolation. Even if he's fraternizing with a Penguin. 

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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 4

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 4

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 4, a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 16 that featured a bloodied Alex Ovechkin getting revenge against the Devils and Braden Holtby getting a fancy new hat. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

Ovechkin made his presence felt in the first period. He scored on a blistering one-timer during a 5-on-3 power play to get the Caps on the board first. Then with less than a minute remaining, after Nicklas Backstrom won an offensive zone draw, Ovechkin picked up the loose puck and fired a wrister that Louis Domingue never saw. 

  

Just 16 seconds in the second period, Ovechkin got some help. Lars Eller’s forecheck forced New Jersey into a turnover. Eller and Richard Panik eventually found Carl Hagelin in front of the net for the easy score. Hagelin’s goal came on Cory Schneider, who replaced Domingue at intermission. 

  

Despite being dead last in the Metro Division, the Devils didn’t roll over. Wayne Simmonds scored less than a minute after Hagelin’s goal. Blake Coleman scored shorthanded for his 19th of the season early in the third period to make it 3-2. 

Order was eventually restored. Jakub Vrana took advantage of a bad clearing attempt by Pavel Zacha and snuck one through Schneider. And at the 15:42 mark, the Capitals put the game away for good. Tom Wilson made one of the best passes of the season right to Ovechkin on the doorstep. Washington wins 5-2. 

  

MEMORABLE MOMENTS 

This was Ovechkin’s second hat trick of the season. It looked like it would be a rough night early on for the Captain. On one of his first shifts of the night, Ovechkin took a high stick from Miles Wood that drew blood. Ovi spent most of the period getting stitched up in the dressing room. He returned to the game just in time to score two goals in the final five minutes of the period. Don’t make Ovechkin angry, you won’t like him when he’s angry. 

  

Ilya Samsonov continued a brilliant stretch of games. He made one of the more remarkable saves of his young career. 

  

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT 

Just five days earlier, the Caps hosted New Jersey and lost 5-1. It was arguably their worst game of the season. Washington didn’t take the Devils lightly in this contest and got a much needed two points with the All-Star break looming. 

Ovechkin scored career goals 687, 688 and 689. That put him one behind Mario Lemieux for 10th place on the all-time scoring list. He would jump Super Mario less than 48 hours later. 
 
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT 

When throwing hats on the ice, fans usually just chuck cheap baseball caps and toques. This is the first time I can remember someone throwing a women’s fedora on the ice. 

  

Braden Holtby pulls off the look well. The whole incident begs the question: who wears a fedora to a hockey game? 

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