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Capitals fight off comeback attempt for narrow win over lowly Avalanche

Capitals fight off comeback attempt for narrow win over lowly Avalanche

Final score: Washington Capitals 5, Colorado Avalanche 3

How it happened: John Carlson opened up the scoring by finishing off an odd-man rush in the first period. Mikko Rantanen responded as the Caps got caught puck watching in their own zone, but Jay Beagle tipped in a Kevin Shattenkirk shot just 37 seconds later. Washington established control in the second period with goals from Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov to make it 4-1, but Matt Nieto added a goal before the end of the frame. Nathan MacKinnon dropped jaws with his goal in the third to pull Colorado within one, but Lars Eller put the finishing touch on the win with an empty-net goal late.

What it means: Washington has won six straight games and seven of its last eight. They now have a five-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets and a seven-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.

Goals

Caps goal: John Carlson (power play) from Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov at 4:00 in the 1st period. Three Avalanche got caught deep in the Caps’ zone on a shorthanded opportunity opening them up for the counter attack from Washington. Justin Williams went up to Burakovsky, who went cross-ice to Kuznetsov who dropped it back to the trailing Carlson. Carlson then wristed it home. Caps 1, Avalanche 0

Avalanche goal: Mikko Rantanen from Sven Andrighetto and Nathan MacKinnon at 11:11 in the 1st. MacKinnon took it into the zone and faced a wall of three Caps and dropped the pass back to Rantanen. The Caps defense got caught watching as no one stepped up to him leaving Rantanen plenty of time to get the shot off and score. Caps 1, Avalanche 1

Caps goal: Jay Beagle from Kevin Shattenkirk and Tom Wilson at 11:48 in the 1st. A centering attempt from Wilson was deflected back to the blue line where Shattenkirk unleashed a blistering slap shot. Beagle managed to get a piece of the puck and deflect it in. Caps 2, Avalanche 1

Caps goal: Marcus Johansson (power play) from Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Oshie at 4:57 in the 2nd. Good things happen when you shoot. Shattenkirk had the puck at the blue line on the power play and wristed one at the net. Oshie got a piece of it and it bounced off of Johansson and in the net. Caps 3, Avalanche 1

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson at 11:03 in the 2nd. Justin Williams sent the breakout pass into the neutral zone where Johansson pounced on it. He fought off Nieto on his way to the net and backhanded a pass to Kuznetsov who scored. Caps 4, Avalanche 1

Avalanche goal: Matt Nieto from Rene Bourque and Mikhail Grigorenko at 13:50 in the 2nd. With the puck in the offensive zone, Dmitry Orlov pinched too far into the attack leaving the Caps exposed after a turnover from Williams. That started a two-on-one with Grigorenko leading the way. Matt Niskanen slid to block the pass, but Grigorenko curled around him with the backhand and passed it over to Nieto for the goal. Caps 4, Avalanche 2

Avalanche goal: Nathan MacKinnon from Sven Andrighetto and Tyson Barre at 4:29 in the 3rd. MacKinnon had the goal of the game as he broke the puck out of his own zone, turned Orlov inside-out with the deke and threaded the needle between him and Niskanen, then tucked the puck into the net. Caps 4, Avalanche 3

Caps goal: Lars Eller (empty net) from Daniel Winnik at 18:38 in the 3rd. Caps 5, Avalanche 3

3 stars

1. Kevin Shattenkirk: It doesn't look like any more adjustment is necessary. Shattenkirk looks right at home with the Caps, especially playing the point on the power play.

2. Nathan MacKinnon: MacKinnon had the goal of the night in the third period as he deked and dangled his way through Orlov and Niskanen for the goal. He also added an assist with a drop-back pass to Rantanen in the first.

3. Marcus Johansson: Johansson earned a goal with the strong net-front presence, then added an assist on a fantastic individual effort to fight off Nieto and set up Kuznetsov.

Look ahead: The Caps continue their road trip with a game in Arizona on Friday. Then they head to Columbus for a pivotal Metropolitan matchup with the Blue Jackets. They wrap-up the trip in Toronto on Tuesday and then return home for the quick turnaround with the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

Tell us what you think: There was going to be an adjustment period for Shattenkirk when he was acquired at the trade deadline. He now has 11 points in 13 games with the Caps. Do you think he has settled in with this new team or do you think he still needs more time to learn?

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Capitals prospect report: Hershey climbs into a playoff spot with a 15-game point streak

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@TheHersheyBears

Capitals prospect report: Hershey climbs into a playoff spot with a 15-game point streak

For much of the season, it did not look like the Hershey Bears were going anywhere. In mid-January, they sat with a 15-20-0-2 record and the playoffs all but out of the question. If they had any hope of reaching the postseason, they would need to make a serious push.

Fifteen games later, the Bears have completely resurrected their season and sit in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Hershey needed to make a serious run and they did just that with points in 15 straight games going 14-0-0-1 over that stretch. This run ties the longest streak in franchise history set by the 1942-43 Bears who went 11-0-4.

Even with their 15-game streak, however, Hershey still has more work to do to reach the playoffs. The AHL playoff format is similar to the NHL’s, but with no wild card. The top four teams from each division make the playoffs with no cross over.

Hershey’s early struggles really put them back in the playoff race. Even with a 15-game point streak, they still trail first place Charlotte and second place Bridgeport by 14 and six points, respectively. The Bears sit tied with Providence for third place with 61 points while Lehigh Valley sits in fifth place with 60 and rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is not too far behind with 57.

Hershey must find a way to hang on to third or fourth place, but they still have 24 games remaining in the season including three against Providence, one against Lehigh Valley and two against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Bears have earned their spot in the playoffs as of today, but the playoffs don’t start today. If they hope to stay in playoff position, it will mean beating the teams chasing them in the standings.

Hershey will look to extend their point streak to a franchise record 16th game on Friday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Other prospect notes:

  • One major reason for Hershey’s turnaround has been the improved play of goalie Ilya Samsonov. After a 5-10-0-0 start to the season, his numbers were atrocious with a 3.88 GAA and .863 save percentage. Once the calendar changed to 2019, however, he has been lights out with an 8-1-0-1 record, 1.49 GAA and .937 save percentage. The transition to North America seems to be going just fine.
  • Beck Malenstyn has also played a major role in the Bears’ turnaround. In his first professional season, Malenstyn has only 12 points, but eight of those points have come in 2019. Two of those points came Sunday as he scored twice in the win over Lehigh Valley. It was his first professional multi-goal and multi-point game. He seems to be someone who is starting to figure things out in the AHL.
  • Aaron Ness (seven assists) and Jayson Megna (three goals, two assists) both have five-game point streaks. Mike Sgarbossa (two goals, two assists) sits right behind them with a four-game point streak. Ness is tied for fourth in the league with 35 assists. That’s not fourth among defensemen, that’s fourth in the entire AHL.
  • It appears Mathias Bau’s 2018-19 season may be over without playing a single game. He suffered an injury prior to the season that has kept him out of action and it appears the injury is serious enough that he will not be able to play at all. A Hershey team official confirmed to NBC Sports Washington that Bau has returned to his native Denmark to continue his recovery and remains out indefinitely. Though I could not get confirmation on the specific nature of the injury, the Danish National team announced in July that he had suffered some broken ribs and tear in his spleen. The Danish team announcement was found by the blog Chocolate Hockey.
  • Defenseman Colby Williams has not played since Jan. 6 and remains week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
  • It seems safe to say this season has not gone the way Axel Jonsson-Fjallby had hoped, either in Hershey or in Sweden. Since his return to his home country, Jonsson-Fjallby has no goals and seven assists in 27 games with his SHL team. His struggles have earned him a demotion to healthy scratch. Nova Caps has more.
  • Eric Florchuk earned first star honors on Friday as he led Saskatoon to an 8-3 win over Kootenay in the WHL. Florchuk scored two goals and one assist on the night.

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Capitals at Maple Leafs: Time, TV Channel, Live

Capitals at Maple Leafs: Time, TV Channel, Live

The Washington Capitals headed up north to face the Maple Leafs on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. The Caps are second in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 33-20-7, while the Maple Leafs fourth in the Atlantic Division with a record of 36-19-4. This season, the Capitals lost to the Maple Leafs 4-2 in October

The Maple Leafs are hoping to end their two-game losing streak during Thursday evening’s game.

Here is everything you need to know about Thursday’s game, which will begin at 7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 61 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Canada
When: Thursday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Capitals at Maple Leafs game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link)
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Maple Leafs on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Capitals at Maple Leafs
9:30 P.M.: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 P.M.: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS INJURY REPORT

Capitals: 
T.J. Oshie -- upper body as of Feb. 18

Maple Leafs: 
Nazem Kadri -- concussion as of Feb. 18
Nathan Horton -- back injury as of Sept. 16

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jakub Vrana, C, Capitals (18 goals, 19 assists, 37 points): Vrana has been “flying recently,” NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Reagan wrote in Wednesday’s Capitals mailbag. He’s consistently had one assist per game, contributing to the Caps’ on-and-off wins throughout February. 

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (42 goals, 27 assists, 69 points): Ovi scored two power play goals on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings. Additionally, the team captain scored twice in 20 seconds, Reagan wrote following the game. The last time the Caps played the Leafs, however, Toronto blocked seven of Ovi’s shots and 12 from other Capitals, Reagan wrote. 

CAPITALS vs. MAPLE LEAFS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 152
All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead 77-65-10
Last Meeting: Toronto won 4-2 (10/13/18)

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