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Capitals, Connolly overcome Bruins' rally for 5-3 win

Capitals, Connolly overcome Bruins' rally for 5-3 win

Final score: Capitals 5, Bruins 3

How it happened: The Caps opened with an early two-goal lead in the first period, but Brad Marchand scored twice to pull the Bruins back even. Alex Ovechkin scored with just 45 seconds remaining in the second period to restore Washington's lead. Bretty Connolly added the exclamation point in the third period with a beautiful goal against his former team.

What it means: Washington extended its home win streak to eight games and improved their record at Verizon Center this season to 20-5-1. They have now won eight straight against the Bruins and sit four points ahead of the idle Columbus Blue Jackets.

Goals

Capitals goal: T.J. Oshie from Nicklas Backstrom at 3:06 in the 1st. Backstrom intercepted a pass from Marchand in the defensive zone and Oshie took off up the ice. Backstrom was able to thread the needle between two defensemen with the pass to send Oshie in alone on the breakaway. Oshie then slipped the shot through the five-hole of Tuukka Rask. Caps 1, Bruins 0

Capitals goal: Nicklas Backstrom from Matt Niskanen and T.J. Oshie at 13:34 in the 1st. Rask made a kick out save on a slap shot from Niskanen, but the rebound went right to Nicklas Backstrom who shot it into the net. Caps 2, Bruins 0

Bruins goal: Brad Marchand (power play) from Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak at 18:46 in the 1st. Pastrnak entered the zone up the middle and passed it off to Bergeron. Bergeron passed to the trailing Marchand in the high slot and he hit the top shelf with a beautiful shot to beat Braden Holtby. Caps 2, Bruins 1

Bruins goal: Brad Marchand (power play) from David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner at 2:49 in the 2nd. The Bruins completed a tic-tac-toe play as Pastrnak went cross-ice for Spooner who found Marchand right on the doorstep for the easy tip-in past Holtby. Caps 2, Bruins 2

Capitals goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Matt Niskanen and Nicklas Backstrom at 19:45 in the 2nd. Ovechkin and Niskanen played keep away on the power play until Ovechkin found some space in the office and ripped the wrist shot past Rask to give the Caps back the lead. Caps 3, Bruins 2

Capitals goal: Brett Connolly from Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov at 3:29 in the 3rd. Kuznetsov skated into the right side of the offensive zone before dropping the pass back to the middle for Orlov. Orlov found a streaking Connolly who got in behind the defense and deftly skated around an aggressive challenge from Rask to backhand in the goal. Caps 4, Bruins 2

Capitals goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Tom Wilson at 15:53 in the 3rd. Tom Wilson emerged with the puck after a great puck battle along the board and passed to Kuznetsov who went blocker side to beat Rask. Caps 5, Bruins 2

Bruins goal:  David Krejci from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand at 18:29 in the 3rd. Caps 5, Bruins 3

Three stars

1. Brad Marchand: You could argue that perhaps Marchand shouldn’t have played at all after tripping Anton Stralman of the Tampa Bay Lighting with a slew foot on Tuesday just one week after getting fined for a very similar trip of Niklas Kronwall. But when Marchand isn’t knocking players down from behind on dangerous plays, he’s an incredible talent. That was on display Wednesday as he scored twice to help the Bruins climb out of a 2-0 hole.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: Backstrom had a hand in each of Washington's first three goals on the night with a goal and two assists. His pass to spring Oshie's breakaway goal was perfect.

3. Evgeny Kuznetsov: Kuznestov picked up in February right where his January left off. After being named the first star of the month for January, Kuznetsov started February off right with a goal and an assist.

Look ahead: The Caps will be off Thursday before returning to practice on Friday. Then it’s another back-to-back with a pair of matinees over the weekend. On Saturday, Washington will be in Montreal to face the Canadiens, then return home Sunday for a date with the Los Angeles Kings.

Tell us what you think: Washington allowed Boston the chance to battle back from a 2-0 deficit by giving up two power play goals. This is the sixth straight game the team has allowed a goal on the power play. What changes do you want to see Barry Trotz make to fix the penalty kill?

MORE CAPS: Owner has made his trade deadline expectations clear

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Capitals await word on possible Garnet Hathaway suspension

Capitals await word on possible Garnet Hathaway suspension

ARLINGTON — Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway was still waiting to hear about a possible suspension following his spitting incident Monday in a 5-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks
 
Hathaway spit on defenseman Erik Gudbranson in the final minute of the second period against the Ducks at the tail end of a brawl seconds after Chandler Stephen’s goal made it 3-0. The NHL Department of Player Safety is not involved in any decision for supplemental discipline. Instead, the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department will make the determination. Washington coach Todd Reirden said he was disappointed in Hathaway's action, but defended the player's character, too, after the game Monday. 

"I definitely appreciated that and it went a long way," Hathaway said. "Just to echo what [Reirden] said, that is not how I see myself either. Not the kind of character I want to uphold either. So it is something I regret and it was nice Todd said that stuff."
 
The Capitals play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Tight against the salary cap and already playing with a short roster, coach Todd Reirden said there are moves coming to ease that crunch whether Hathaway is suspended or not. 
 
"I think you always have to prepare,” Reirden said. “We're going to be making a few transactions here later today and tomorrow morning, and it'll all kind of combine into the decisions that we make."
 
One move could be placing forward Carl Hagelin on long-term injured reserve. He sustained an upper-body injury in a Nov. 7 game against the Florida Panthers. Hagelin must miss 10 games and 24 calendar days, however, to make that move retroactive. He skated again in a light blue non-contact jersey at practice on Tuesday. 
 
That almost certainly rules Hagelin out for the Rangers game. That would be his seventh game in a row out of the lineup. Because of the 10/24 rule and a compressed schedule, Hagelin would actually have to miss through the Nov. 30 game against the Detroit Red Wings, which would be an 11th game missed.
 
The Detroit contest is the beginning of a four-game road trip that continues in California. Hagelin would be eligible to play again Dec. 3 at the San Jose Sharks.   
 
Another option is a player with a more concerning injury. Fourth-line center Nic Dowd had a serious cut on his left hand against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 13. He has missed three games in a row, but the injury is considered more serious. Dowd would not be able to return until a Dec. 9 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 
 
“He's a little bit more serious than we anticipated, so he's still not on the ice,” Reirden said. “I'm going to wait to get final word from our trainer and I'll speak on that when I have that news.”
 
Dowd has a salary-cap hit of $750,000. Hagelin is at $2.75 million. The Capitals are down to $259,059 current daily cap space, according to the web site CapFriendly.com, and has been juggling players between the NHL and AHL roster (goalie Ilya Samsonov, defenseman Tyler Lewington, Travis Boyd, Vitek Vanacek, Liam O’Brien) thanks to the untimely injuries to Dowd and Hagelin. 
 
A possible Hathaway suspension complicates that further. The Capitals are headed to New York on Tuesday afternoon, but NHL executives are busy with the General Managers' meetings in Toronto so it is possible they don't find out for sure until Tuesday night or even Wednesday morning. 
 
“I haven't really thought about it, but you never want to sit and leave guys hanging and not be able to help out,” Hathaway said. “So this is a group that it would be unfortunate if I wasn't [playing], but they are a team that can handle themselves and not worried about them in the outcomes of games." 

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Travis Boyd has done enough to show the Caps they can't afford to send him back to Hershey

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Travis Boyd has done enough to show the Caps they can't afford to send him back to Hershey

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Travis Boyd knew the situation when he came into training camp. He knew the Capitals were tight against the salary cap even before the team signed several depth forwards who could potentially push him out of the lineup. He knew he would have to scratch and claw to keep his spot. Initially, however, he was not able to show the Caps why he deserved to remain on the NHL roster. When Evgeny Kuznetsov returned from suspension early in the season, Boyd was among the odd-men out and reassigned to Hershey in the AHL.

Fate, perhaps, is now intervening as Boyd has been called up twice due to injuries and he has certainly made the most of those opportunities. Now in his second call-up, Boyd is showing the coaches in real NHL games what he could not in the preseason, that he is an NHL player and that the Caps are better for having him on the roster.

“It's been a tough year so far definitely, but try not to think about it,” Boyd said. “That's the part of this that's out of your hands. My focus has been every game I've had a chance to play this year, just try to go out there and play well and make it a tough decision for them whether to send me back down or not. Just try and play well every game and get another chance and continue to show what I can do.”

In just eight games, Boyd has already contributed six points (1 goal, 5 assists). That’s more points than Carl Hagelin (5), Nic Dowd, (4), Chandler Stephenson (4) and Richard Panik (1), all of whom have played more games. Boyd is also contributing with limited ice time. Dowd and Brendan Leipsic are the only Caps currently averaging less than Boyd's 10:03 of ice time per game.

Promoted to the third line for Monday’s game, it took Boyd just 50 seconds to end Panik’s point drought, setting up his linemate with a pass from behind the net that Panik fired into the far corner.

The main issue for Boyd is that, apart from his offense, he does not provide much else. He is not good enough to play on the power play and not well suited for the penalty kill. He plays more of a finesse style than the heavy, physical style the Caps covet.

“It's more than just points,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “Obviously we want our lineup to have a certain identity to it and be able to play a particular way that we feel gives us a chance to have success and that's a heavier, more physical, aggressive forechecking style. So those are types of things that he can continue to add [to his game].”

But, even if Boyd does not contribute those big hits, he does provide something that right now may be even more valuable: a small cap hit.

With a total cap hit of only $800,000, Boyd has the third-lowest cap hit among the team's forwards and fifth-lowest among all players on the current roster.

Given how dire the Caps’ salary cap situation is, the fact that the team could potentially save money against the cap by replacing someone on the roster with Boyd cannot be ignored.

So tight against the salary cap was Washington that when Panik returned from LTIR, the team reassigned both Boyd and Tyler Lewington to Hershey leaving them with only six defensemen and 12 healthy forwards, the bare minimum. So tight against the cap was the team that when both Dowd and Hagelin were injured, the team recalled Lewington, a defenseman, because he has the lowest cap hit and was the only player the team could afford to call up. So tight against the cap was Washington that the next day the team sent down future starter Ilya Samsonov and replaced him with Vitek Vanecek just to get enough cap hit to recall Boyd in order to skate four full forward lines.

Clearly, the team’s cap situation is not sustainable.

Forget about when the team travels to California at the start of December and will need to bring extra players in case of injury, this already has proven to be a problem for the team. They need more cap room.

Even if the cap situation did not necessitate some sort of move to free up space, Boyd is showing through his play that he deserves to remain with the Caps. The impact he is having on the ice is undeniable.

When asked if Boyd was competing to potentially stay in Washington, Reirden did not hesitate.

“Absolutely,” he said. “He's known that. The message has been clear to him. Especially as we're getting closer here to 30 days with him and a decision having to be made again, he's doing everything he can with his game to be able to prove every night that he deserves an elevated role or to be here. Certainly with the low cap hit and the offense he's been able to generate make it an intriguing situation for sure.”

Once the team gets healthy again, the Caps will have no choice but to send someone back to Hershey, but both Boyd’s production and his cap hit dictate that it should not be him.

“I think I am an NHL player,” Boyd said, “But ultimately with the way that everything has worked out so far this year, every game I get is just another chance to show that.”

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