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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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Is Alex Ovechkin still the best winger in the NHL?

Is Alex Ovechkin still the best winger in the NHL?

When you win the Rocket Richard Trophy for the most goals, lead your team to a Stanley Cup and win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, you certainly belong in the discussion among the best in the game.

Even after Alex Ovechkin's incredible season, however, he falls just short of the top spot, according to NHL Network.

The NHL Network revealed the "Top 20 Wings Right Now" rankings as part of its countdown series on Sunday and Ovechkin came in second. Ahead of him was Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A compelling case could certainly be made for both players. Kucherov finished third in the NHL in points with a career-high 100 points (29 goals, 61 assists). Ovechkin, meanwhile, led the NHL in goals with 49 in his 87-point season.

The main argument for Kucherov is that he is 25 while Ovechkin will turn 33 in September and the ranking is for "right now." Ovechkin, however, is still basking in the glow of the Caps' Stanley Cup run which happened just a short two months ago. He also beat and outplayed Kucherov when the Caps met the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, outscoring him with seven points (four goals, three assists) compared to Kucherov's five (one goal, four assists).

Ovechkin's case is a compelling one as evidenced by the fact that he edged out Kucherov in the fan voting.

And then...there's analyst Mike Johnson who believes Ovechkin is neither No. 1 or No. 2. In fact, he barely cracks the top five.

Father Time is undefeated and there will come a point where Ovechkin begins to decline. But when the last competitive NHL hockey game was played, it featured an Ovechkin goal and him hoisting both the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup. Two months wasn't that long ago so perhaps we should not be expecting his production to fall off a cliff just yet.

The Great 8 has a way of making those quick to bury him look pretty foolish. Will he keep up that trend this season?

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2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: Carolina Hurricanes

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USA TODAY Sports

2018-19 Metropolitan Division preview: Carolina Hurricanes

The Capitals have won the Metropolitan Division three straight years. Can they defend their title? Here’s a preview of each team in the division for the 2018-19 season.

Today's team: Carolina Hurricanes

2017-18 Results: 36-35-11, 83 points, sixth in the division. Did not qualify for the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: F Micheal Ferland, F Andrei Svechnikov, D Dougie Hamilton, D Calvin de Haan, G Petr Mrazek, head coach Rod Brind’Amour

Notable departures: F Elias Lindholm, F Joakim Nordstrom, F Derek Ryan, F Jeff Skinner, F Lee Stempniak, D Noah Hanifin, G Cam Ward, head coach Bill Peters

When they will play the Caps: Dec. 14 in Raleigh, Dec. 27 in Washington, March 26 in Washington, March 28 in Raleigh

Offseason recap: The offseason was one of change for the Hurricanes as new owner Tom Dundon tried to make his mark. Peters and Ron Francis are out, Brind’Amour and Don Waddell are in as coach and general manager. Carolina’s new front office had a busy offseason with a number of splashy moves.

Hanifin, Lindholm and Skinner all will have new homes next season as the Hurricanes traded all three players in two big-time trades. Hanifin and Lindholm netted the team Hamilton, Ferland and a prospect while Skinner brought back a prospect, a second, a third and a sixth-round pick.

In addition, Carolina also added Svechnikov with the second-overall pick in the draft.

Biggest strength: Defense

Carolina was solid defensively last season, it just didn't seem that way because of how bad the goaltending was. Adding de Haan and Hamilton bolsters what was already a formidable blue line.

Biggest weakness: Goaltending

Did I mention how bad their goaltending was last season? Darling and Ward combined for a .909 save percentage, better only than the Buffalo Sabres. Ward put up better numbers (2.73 GAA, .906 save percentage) than Darling (3.18 GAA, .888 save percentage), but he has moved on to the Chicago Blackhawks. To replace him, the Hurricanes picked up Mrazek who also struggled last season (3.03 GAA, .902 save percentage).

So to recap, Ward and Darling both had subpar years, but to replace Ward the Hurricanes picked up a goalie who was worse.

It makes sense that Carolina would want to give Darling another shot at earning the starting job considering they traded for him to be their starter of the future, but just because the goaltending could not get much worse than last season is no guarantee it will be better.

2018-19 season outlook: The Hurricanes enter the season with a lot of question marks.

Can Brind'Amour handle the responsibilities of being a head coach in the NHL with zero head coaching experience at any level? Did they do enough to address their scoring woes? Will someone play like a starting-caliber goalie? Is Dundon breaking the mold of an NHL owner or will his meddling negatively impact the team? Will Hamilton adjust to his new team? Is Svetchnikov ready for a top-line role in his rookie season? Is Sebastian Aho a center?

If they can find positive answers to all of those questions, this is a team that could surprise. More likely, however, there are simply too many issues in Carolina right now for this team to make any real noise.

A new owner, new general manager, new head coach and a new-look roster are too much for one team to adjust to in one season.

2018-19 season prediction: The Hurricanes miss the playoffs and it's not close.