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Capitals sign Carlson for six more years

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Capitals sign Carlson for six more years

With just one day remaining on the NHLs expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Capitals have signed restricted free-agent defenseman John Carlson to a six-year, 23.8 million contract extension.

Carlson, 22, will earn 3.8 million in 2012-13 and 4 million per year from the 2013-14 season through 2017-18.

John is a talented young defenseman who has played very well for the Capitals and still has room to grow, said McPhee. He wanted to make a long term commitment to the team and we are delighted that this young man who is an important part of our future will be a member of the club for many years to come."

Carlson recently completed a three-year, 2.625 millionentry -level contract that averaged 845,833 a season. Taken by the Caps withthe 27th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Carlson has 17 goals and 58assists in 186 games with the Caps over three seasons.He said a big reason for his decision to stay in Washington is the teamscommitment to its young players.I think theyve done a magnificent job, he said. Look atthe team last year. I dont know the exact number, but I think there were sevenor eight guys who did the same kind of thing I did coming up through theorganizations farm system. I think thats cool. You create a special bondwith those guys.Carlson recorded 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) and 22 penalty minutes in 82 games last season with Washington, setting a career high in goals scored. He finished the season ranked second among Capitals blueliners in goals, points and shots (152) and tied for the team lead among defensemen in power-play goals (4).

He ranked second on the Capitals in ice time per game (21:51) and led the team in blocked shots (153). Carlson finished the postseason tied for fifth on Washington in points (two goals, three assists) and was tied for the lead among Capitals defensemen in goals, assists and shots (27). His 24:02 of ice time per game was second on the team and his 38 blocked shots led all Capitals players.

The Natick, Mass., native matched a Capitals single-season record for most points by a rookie defenseman (37) during the 2010-11 season and led all rookies in ice time per game (22:38), blocked shots (160) and ranked fourth among rookie blueliners in points. He was named to the 2010-11 NHL All-Rookie Team. In 186 career NHL games with Washington, Carlson has tallied 75 points (17 goals, 58 assists) and a plus-17 rating.

The 6-foot-3, 212-pound defenseman helped Hershey, the Capitals American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, win the 2010 Calder Cup championship, collecting seven points (two goals, five assists), including the cup-clinching goal in Game 6, in 13 playoff games. That same year, Carlson scored the overtime, game-winning goal to help the United States win the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship (WJC) against Canada.

He posted three goals and four assists in seven tournament games as an alternate captain and was named to the WJC All-Star Team. In addition, Carlson helped Hershey win the 2009 Calder Cup championship, collecting three points (one goal, two assists) in 16 playoff games.

Carlson was originally drafted by Washington in the first round (27th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

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Even with everything going right for the Capitals, the penalty kill continues to struggle

Even with everything going right for the Capitals, the penalty kill continues to struggle

It’s hard to punch holes in a team that has won five straight and 12 of its last 14, but if there is one cause for concern in recent days for the Capitals it is the penalty kill.

Washington gave up three power play goals to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday and another two to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. In fact, Buffalo’s power play actually scored three times, but the first penalty to Michal Kempny on Saturday expired just as the goal was scored, literally exactly two minutes after the penalty was called. Officially, it was not considered a power play goal, but with the door just opening for Kempny to return, the Caps were still obviously shorthanded when the goal was scored.

Washington struggled on the penalty kill at the start of the season, but things improved dramatically when Tom Wilson returned from suspension. From Nov. 13 – when Wilson made his season debut – to Dec. 14, the penalty kill managed to kill off 85.-4 percent of the power plays it faced. The last two nights, however, the PK managed only 44.4-percent and that’s not counting the Sabres’ third goal that came as the penalty expired.

“We’ve got to continue to get better there,” Reirden said. “We had a stretch where we were doing a better job and then now it's finding its way, multiple ways, different ways into our net. That's not a winning recipe for success.”

So concerned about the penalty kill was Reirden after Friday’s game that he broke up the team’s red-hot fourth line in an attempt to add in another penalty killer. Reirden said before the game that the team’s metrics indicate Chandler Stephenson – who was a healthy scratch on Friday – is one of their better penalty killers. In order to get him back into the lineup, Reirden scratched Dmitrij Jaskin despite the incredible stretch he, Nic Dowd and Travis Boyd have enjoyed in recent days.

Washington may have gotten the win on Saturday, but in terms of improving the penalty kill, the move did not work.

The numbers from Saturday may be bad, but if you are looking for a silver lining, it is the fact that none of Buffalo’s three goals seem to have come as a result of a defensive breakdown. Jack Eichel netted the kinda-sorta power play goal when goalie Pheonix Copley gave up a rebound right to him on the far-side. Eichel then made a great individual effort to score the second goal, victimizing Dmitry Orlov with some fancy stick work and tucking the puck into the net just over the shoulder of Copley. Rasmus Dahlin scored the third goal when a Jeff Skinner shot from the slot was blocked and came straight to the rookie defenseman.

“They weren't exactly tic-tac-toes,” Devante Smith-Pelly said. “It happens. We’ve just got to stay the course and continue to get better.”

Of those three goals, the only one that looked like a bad play was the third as two Caps collapsed on Skinner leaving Dahlin open, but the point remains that the penalty kill did not appear to be egregiously bad.

Regardless of whether the goals are the result of breakdowns or bad luck, however, the fact is that the penalty kill is charged with keeping the puck out of the net it is has not been able to do so of late.

The Caps are off on Sunday, but will have two days of practice before Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, plenty of time to shore things up on a suddenly leaky PK.

Said Reirden, “It's an area that we've got to work on here while we've got some practice time this week before we play Pittsburgh.”

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Ovechkin scores again, Capitals win fifth straight 4-3 over Buffalo

Ovechkin scores again, Capitals win fifth straight 4-3 over Buffalo

CAPITAL ONE ARENA — To hear Alex Ovechkin tell it, Saturday night was a rough one for him.

“I have pretty good chances, but today, it was not my day,” Ovechkin said. “You can't score every night."

You wonder if Ovechkin watched the contest he just played in. He scored a goal for the sixth game in a row in a 4-3 shootout win against the Buffalo Sabres. He had a game-high eight shots on goal. He set a new career-high point scoring streak (14 games). He had the goal that proved to be the winner in the shootout. He leads the NHL with 29 goals and no one else is even close. Things are going pretty well. 

“Such a threat, especially when he’s confident and he’s shooting the puck where he wants,” teammate Brett Connolly said. “[Ovechkin is] a bull out there, it seems like he keeps getting better and better every year. Such a hungriness to score goals. He’s having a hell of a season and it doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down. We’ve got to as a team really rally around that. When he’s playing that well you want to have guys really look at that and take it another level and fall in behind that.” 

Only five players age 33 or older have had a longer point streak than Ovechkin’s 14 games. His next goal will secure his 14th 30-goal season. He has 23 points during this stretch (17 goals, six assists). You run out of superlatives. 

The same goes for his team. On the heels of a hat trick in Carolina on Friday, Ovechkin helped Washington to its fifth win in a row. The Capitals are 13-3 in their past 16 games and swept a back-to-back set with the Hurricanes and Sabres. Washington is 20-9-3 and with 43 points is six up on second place Columbus in the Metropolitan Division and seven ahead of third-place Pittsburgh. 

Things weren’t perfect on Saturday. The Sabres scored twice on the power play to make it 3-2 before Ovechkin tied it with a booming slap shot after a turnover at 13:46 of the second period. Pheonix Copley stopped 25 of 28 shots subbing for No. 1 goalie Braden Holtby, but the penalty kill continues to tank. 

Buffalo scored twice on the power play to take the lead and the first goal of the game by rising star Jack Eichel came exactly two minutes after a Michal Kempny penalty. You can count that as another if you’d like. Close as it gets. Considering Washington coach Todd Reirden put Chandler Stephenson back into the lineup Saturday because of his prowess on the PK, that’s a bad sign. 

So there are things to work on. But the Capitals are in a good position in the standings. Their stars are scoring. Their injury situation has improved somewhat with defenseman Brooks Orpik on the way by the end of the month. It’s only mid December and there are 50 games to go and things can change in a heartbeat and the playoffs seem forever away. But, for now anyway, life is good.      

“It wasn’t an easy night, but definitely we worked for those last two win,” Connolly said. “It’s a lot of fun right now. Everyone is having fun, everyone is positive and happy. It’s always so much better when you’re winning.” 


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