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Capitals' Shattenkirk has turned his game around after a rough playoff start

Capitals' Shattenkirk has turned his game around after a rough playoff start

PITTSBURGH— Over the past three games, Kevin Shattenkirk has been one of the Caps’ most productive players.

The defenseman scored the overtime winner in Game 3, then he recorded assists in Games 4 and 5, including the primary helper on Andre Burakovsky’s strike Saturday night at Verizon.

The three-game point streak equals the longest of Shattenkirk’s playoff career, while his six points (one goal, five assists) lead all Caps’ blue liners.

Shattenkirk’s recent run stands in stark contrast to his play in the Caps’ first eight postseason games. In those contests, the 28-year-old had three points and a NHL worst plus/minus rating of -7. He’s a combined + 5 in Games 3, 4 and 5.

MORE CAPS: Pens lose another defenseman for Game 6

So what’s changed? Quite a bit, actually.

“I’ve added a little more physicality to my game,” said Shattenkirk, who noticeably targeted Penguins forward Chris Kunitz with a series of hits on a shift in the second period in Game 5. “That seems to get you involved. It gets your senses kind of heightened and your blood rushing. And I think for me, it was making a couple of simple passes, getting a few shots on net, really just doing a few little things that are important in my game and then you start feeling a little more comfortable.”

Shattenkirk also simplified things mentally.

“I was putting too much pressure on myself,” the high-profile trade deadline addition added. “If I’m trying to play outside of what I’m capable of, I’m no good to this team. And I think that was a big problem for me.”

Coach Barry Trotz credited Shattenkirk with figuring out how to hit the reset button mid-round, which is often easier said than done.

“He sort of went into a reset mode,” Trotz said. “The biggest thing is that he’s moving his feet. He’s making the right play, whatever the play is for that situation.”

Trotz added: “He’s not trying to force things. I think was trying to force some things that weren’t there. He was not playing that game that was presented to him.”

Shattenkirk also credited his turnaround to a coaching adjustment. Since Game 4 of this series, he’s been paired primarily with smooth-skating Nate Schmidt. Shattenkirk opened the postseason skating with the more physical Brooks Orpik.

“In Game 4, I got to play more of a regular shift with Schmitty and that really drove my game,” Shattenkirk. “He’s someone who gets involved offensively. It forced me to keep up with him, get up in the rush and keep my gaps tight.  Really, I think he’s the one that’s helped me out the most.”  

MORE CAPS: Backstrom saved the series in Game 5

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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

Down 4-1, the Capitals scored five goals in the third period for the incredible 6-4 comeback win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick pulling him in a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals.

Here is how the Caps won.

Ovechkin

Ovechkin was hot coming in with five goals in his past two games. He scored midway through the first period, getting a great pass in stride from Nicklas Backstrom to launch him behind the defense. Just as the defense closed in he fired a wrister past Semyon Varlamov to make it 1-0.

There is...pretty much nothing positive to say after that until the third period. There was a great 5-on-3 penalty kill, but it was essentially negated as they allowed a goal soon after. The Islanders built a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes and it looked all but over.

But after Carl Hagelin made it 4-2, Ovechkin pulled the Caps to within one, pulling the vintage back-to-front Ovechkin curl-and-drag before passing to the front where the puck deflected off the boot of Ryan Pulock and in.

After Jakub Vrana made it 5-4, Ovechkin added the empty-netter for the knockout punch.

With three goals, Ovechkin now has 34 on the season. He passed Mario Lemieux and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals. Incredibly, this is the first time in his career Ovechkin has three straight multi-goal games.

Motivation

Just what exactly lit the fire under the Caps butts for that third period will probably be a talking point after the game. Was it Devon Toews doing the bird celebration after he scored to make it 4-1? Was it pulling Braden Holtby and starting Ilya Samsonov in the third period? Was it something Todd Reirden or one of the players said?

Whatever it was, it was a different Caps team that took the ice for the third period.

Hagelin's turnaround

As great as Ovechkin's performance was -- and it was epic -- it might not happen without the Carl Hagelin's early third-period tally.

The comeback was sparked by Hagelin's goal that came less than three minutes into the final frame. A great pass by Richard Panik set Hagelin up on the doorstep and he hit it home.

That goal made it 4-2 and a two-goal deficit seems a lot less daunting than a three-goal one.

Shaky Varlamov

Once Ovechkin made it 4-3, you could smell the blood in the water. Washington had gotten to Varlamov and the flood gates were open.

Dmitry Orlov took the puck up to the top of the faceoff circle and fired a slap shot that Wilson managed to get a stick to and deflected it through Varlamov to tie the game.

About three minutes later, Vrana intercepted a pass and fired a quick shot to beat Varlamov far-side for the 5-4 lead.

Varlamov faced 10 shots in the third period and allowed four goals. The fifth came on an empty net.

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