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Capitals fall to Flyers 2-1 in shootout


Capitals fall to Flyers 2-1 in shootout

PHILADELPHIA -- Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ agonizing 2-1 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center:

How it happened: Hours after saying it would be “cool” to score 50 goals this season, Alex Ovechkin rifled No. 44 past Steve Mason 1:28 into the third period to break a scoreless tie and give the Caps a 1-0 lead 1:28 into the third period. A hooking penalty on Marcus Johansson 12:57 into the final period put the Flyers on the power play and Brayden Schenn tied the score when he redirected a Claude Giroux shot past Braden Holtby with 5:28 remaining in the period. After a wild but scoreless overtime, T.J. Oshie was stopped by Mason; Nick Cousins scored five-hole on Braden Holtby; Evgeny Kuznetsov was stopped on a glove save by Mason; Sam Gagner ended it with a snap shot past Holtby.

What it means: The Capitals (54-16-6, 114 points) will need to wait another two days to break the franchise record for wins in a season (55, set by the 2009-10 Caps). The Flyers secured sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, two points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings and two behind the Islanders. The Flyers have six games left; the Red Wings five.

Holt-beast: Braden Holtby was nearly impenetrable, stopping 33 of 34 shots through 65 minutes. He remains two wins short of Martin Brodeur’s NHL record of 48 set in 2006-07.  Holtby is one win away from tying Bernie Parent (1973-74) and Roberto Luongo (2006-07) for second on the all-time list with 47 wins in a single season.  

Russian connection: Caps coach Barry Trotz said he wanted to reignite the offensive flames of Alex Ovechkin (2 goals in his previous 12 games) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (0 points in his previous five games) and although the two did not connect at even strength they did on the power play, with Kuznetsov finding Ovechkin in the left circle and Ovechkin cradling, then rifling a shot past Mason’s catching glove. OIvechkin’s goal came 2 seconds after a penalty to Brandon Manning.

Oshie in, Latta out: T.J. Oshie decided after warmups that he was well enough to play and he took a regular shift on a third line with Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle. 

Look ahead: The Caps will use Thursday as a travel day. They visit the Colorado Avalanche on Friday and the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. 

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz has an 'honest' talk with struggling Orlov

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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now


Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”


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NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

There was a lot of excitement to start the season for the Caps. First, there was the home-opener and the banner raising against the Boston Bruins. Then there was a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the rival Penguins. After that, it was a Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Vegas Golden Knights.

And all of that was followed up with a trip to Newark.


With all due respect to New Jersey, given the slate the Caps faced to start the season, it was no real surprise to see the team struggle to get up for Thursday’s game against the Devils, a game in which the Caps were blown out 6-0. Of all the games Washington faced to start the season, the trip to New Jersey was definitely the least exciting.

But not every game is going to be a big rivalry matchup or a playoff rematch. With every team gunning for the Caps, they better make sure they can get themselves ready for the grind of an 82-game season that won’t always feature a big-time matchup.

A trip to Newark may not be flashy or exciting, but it still counts as two points.

The Caps dropped the game in New Jersey and lost a tight contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Where do they stand now after two straight losses?