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Capitals beat Coyotes on the way to franchise record for home wins

Capitals beat Coyotes on the way to franchise record for home wins

Final score: Washington Capitals 4, Arizona Coyotes 1

How it happened: Alex Ovechkin scored a power play tally in the first period and it looked like the Caps would breeze through Arizona. The Coyotes had other ideas. Mike Smith kept things close through two periods and Peter Holland tied the game at 1 in the third period. Then the Caps responded with two quick goals from Daniel Winnik and Justin Williams to take back control. Winnik added the exclamation-point empty netter for the win.

What it means: The win is Washington’s 31st at home for the season which sets a new franchise record. The Caps have now won four straight games and hold a three-point lead over Columbus and Pittsburgh for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Goals

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson at 8:31 in the first period.  With T.J. Oshie, Johansson and Backstrom passing the puck on the far wall, they drew all four penalty killers to their side of the ice leaving Ovechkin wide open from the office. Backstrom fed him with the pass and Ovechkin wristed it home. Caps 1, Coyotes 0

Coyotes goal: Peter Holland from Anthony Duclair at 12:29 in the 3rd period. Duclair showed his jets by pouncing on a loose puck in the neutral zone and leaving everyone in his dust. Holtby made the initial breakaway save, but the trailing Holland was able to score on the rebound. Caps 1, Coyotes 1

Caps goal: Daniel Winnik from Kevin Shattenkirk and Dmitry Orlov at 15:21 in the 3rd period. Orlov started the rush out of the defensive zone and found Winnik streaking down the right side with the pass. Winnik did the rest, taking the puck on net and wristing one past Smith. Caps 2, Coyotes 1

Caps goal: Justin Williams from Kevin Shattenkirk at 15:53 in the 3rd period. Williams fired an innocent-looking shot from the right faceoff circle that somehow beat Smith top shelf. Caps 3, Coyotes 1

Caps goal: Daniel Winnik (empty net) from Jay Beagle and Brooks Orpik at 18:21 in the 3rd period. Caps 4, Coyotes 1

3 stars

1. Mike Smith: While the Coyotes were getting buried in shots, they weren’t getting buried in the scoreboard because of the phenomenal effort of Smith in net. He stopped 26 shots in the first two periods including a 2-on-0 opportunity for Washington in the second period to keep Arizona in the game.

2. Daniel Winnik: Winnik to the rescue! Just when the Coyotes tied the game, Winnik responded less than four minutes later to give the Caps back the lead. He then added the empty-netter with a great effort play to beat defenseman Jamie McGinn who was all over him.

3. Alex Ovechkin: If you give Ovechkin that much room on the power play, he's going to make you pay and he did with his 30th goal of the season. Ovechkin is now one of just three players to score 30 or more goals in his first 12 seasons.

Look ahead: The Capitals hit the road for a five-game road trip starting on Tuesday in Minnesota. The trip will also bring them to Colorado, Arizona, Columbus and Toronto.

Tell us what you think: The Caps could not take control of this game until Arizona tied the game at one in the third period. On Thursday, they responded only after Columbus took the 1-0 lead in the third. What is your takeaway from the Caps' clutch play in the third period of late?

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin hits 30-goal mark for 12th straight season

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Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s semifinal matchup:

Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

2018-19 stats

Joonas Donskoi (27 years old): 80 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 13:25 TOI

Playoffs: 12 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 12:26 TOI

Carl Gunnarsson (32 years old): 25 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, 15:15 TOI

Playoffs: 19 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 14:57 TOI, won Stanley Cup

Hockey-Graph contract projections 

Joonas Donskoi: 3 years, $2,847,521 cap hit

Carl Gunnarsson: 1 year, $731,159 cap hit

The case for Joonas Donskoi

Maybe Andre Burakovsky’s qualifying offer of $3.25 million means he’s back with the Capitals for another year. But it doesn’t preclude a trade and in Donskoi you’d have a similar option at a cheaper price, which matters if you only have $9.2 million in cap space left for now.

Donskoi made the offense better in San Jose in whatever role he was asked to play. He can go up and down the lineup and had a consistency to his game that Burakovsky at times lacks. Donskoi’s stats may not always reflect that, but making his teammates around him better is a valuable asset. Either way, depth scoring is important and a priority for the Capitals. 

Donskoi has every bit the Stanley Cup playoff experience as Burakovsky does if that matters to you. Donskoi has nine goals and 12 assists in 50 playoff games and Burakovsky has nine goals and nine assists in 56 playoff games. Not much to chose between the team except Donskoi would be cheaper if Washington decided to trade Burakovsky. 

The case for Carl Gunnarsson

The Caps will need a No. 6/7 defenseman after Brooks Orpik retired on Tuesday. Yes, they gave a qualifying offer to RFA defenseman Christian Djoos and they have Jonas Siegenthaler under contract, too. Both are natural left side defensemen. Going with the kids is an option. But both of them? That becomes problematic when someone gets hurt in your top two pairings and players have to bump up. 

Gunnarsson was the hero of the “Boston Pee Party” when he scored the overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after declaring to head coach Craig Berube at the urinal he just needed one more opportunity. Gunnarsson had just seven points in the regular season so no one should expect a ton of offense, but the point is he delivered when it mattered most.

When he is not playing the overtime hero, he is a third-pairing, stay at home defenseman who can play on the penalty kill which is pretty much exactly what the Caps need in a depth defenseman.

Take a look at Gunnarsson’s contract projection. You can’t beat that price. Sure, those projections came out before he won the Stanley Cup, but even if his price goes up, it will not be significant. You’re tinkering at the margins of the roster here and championship experience matters. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here:

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

The Capitals tendered qualifying offers to six of their seven restricted free agents at Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, including forward Andre Burakovsky. 

Burakovsky, 24, had been the subject of trade rumors up until the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25 and also in the days leading up to last week’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. Nothing came of them. Washington general manager Brian MacLellan made it clear that while teams were calling, he wasn’t about to just give away a 2013 first-round draft pick. 

“We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player,” MacLellan said last Thursday. “We'd like to keep him around but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him. But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back.”

But the Capitals are still in a salary cap crunch and that could still land Burakovsky elsewhere in the coming days. His qualifying offer is $3.25 million. Washington is only $9.235 million below the salary cap of $81.5 million. If Burakovsky signs, he would provide scoring depth. He has a career-high 17 goals and has scored 12 each of the past two seasons.

The Capitals do need to see more from Burakovsky. He has struggled with confidence and consistent production over the years. But if he returns, he would be a good option to replace the expected-to-depart Brett Connolly at right wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin. Connolly is an unrestricted free agent and likely out of Washington’s price range. 

By tendering a qualifying offer, the Capitals ensure that they will keep Burakovsky’s rights. If they had not then he’d be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team. That’s not a smart use of an asset that could still help in 2019-20. They could, of course, still trade him at any time. 

Meanwhile, forward Dmitry Jaskin was not tendered a qualifying offer. He is a free agent now. Jaskin never gained the trust of the coaching staff last season. He appeared in just 37 games despite analytics that showed he had a positive impact on the fourth line. Jaskin picked up on waivers from the St. Louis Blues in October, had two goals and four assists. He did not play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Winger Jakub Vrana also received a qualifying offer, but that’s not expected to matter much as the two sides try to put together a long-term contract extension after his breakthrough 24-goal season in his second NHL year. 

The Capitals did tender a qualifying offer to defenseman Christian Djoos. An ugly thigh injury that turned into compartment syndrome and limited him to 45 games. But with Brooks Orpik retiring on Tuesday, Washington could go with Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler as their No. 6/7 defensemen on their natural left sides. 

Fourth-line winger Chandler Stephenson also received his qualifying offer. AHL Hershey forward Colby Williams and goalie Vitek Vanacek also received qualifying offers from Washington.  

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