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Capitals snap curse of the Dallas Stars with overtime thriller

Capitals snap curse of the Dallas Stars with overtime thriller

It took a two-goal comeback and overtime, but the Caps walk away the 4-3 winners over the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

How it happened: Andre Burakovsky and Adam Cracknell traded goals in the first period, but things seemed to get away from the Caps in the second. Patrik Nemeth backhanded an innocent looking shot on net, but Phillip Grubauer fumbled it leaving a juicy rebound at the top of the crease which Patrick Eaves roofed. Jamie Benn then put the Stars up by two with a controversial goal that was reviewed for goalie interference. Washington responded in the third period, however, as both Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie struck on the power play to force overtime. Jay Beagle finished the game off just 19 seconds into overtime with his 10th goal of the season.

What it means: The win was Washington’s first over Dallas since 2008, snapping a nine-game losing streak to Dallas. The Caps have now won 11 in their past 12 games. Washington also maitained their two-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets after Columbus' win over Carolina earlier Saturday.

Starting strong: It should come as no surprise that Burakovsky got the scoring started on Saturday since he’s made a habit of that lately. Since getting scratched three games for his lack of production, Burakovsky has scored seven goals. Five of those were the first goal of the game. Burakovsky now has scored the first goal in four straight games and the Caps have scored first in 10 straight.

First period fisticuffs: Things got chippy in the first period as Tom Wilson dropped the gloves with Brett Ritchie and just three seconds later, Daniel Winnik was locked in a fight with Dallas agitator Antoine Roussell.

Goal or no goal?: Dallas' third goal came in controversial fashion. As Grubauer shifted to his right, his left skate was clipped by the skate of Benn that appeared to briefly knock Grubauer off balance. Grubauer recovered to make a save on an Eaves deflection, but the puck bounced to Benn for the easy tap in. The goal was waved off immediately, but after a review, the goal was awarded to Dallas. The issue is whether Grubauer had enough time to reset after the initial contact from Benn. At least, that's what we thought the issue was. The NHL's explanation of the review stated, "After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed no goaltender interference infractions occurred before the puck crossed the goal line."

Clutch save: Locked in a tie game in the third period, Tyler Seguin had what looked like an easy goal, but Grubauer got over just in time for the incredible blocker save. Watch it here.

The curse continues: Despite the win, Washington still has not won in regulation in Dallas since Oct. 17, 1995. They will have to wait until next season to get another shot.

Look ahead: Washington returns home for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday before heading out on another road trip starting Tuesday. On that trip, the Caps will visit the Ottawa Senators and  New Jersey Devils before breaking for the All-Star break.

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What's next for Barry Trotz?

What's next for Barry Trotz?

Barry Trotz is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals and, after resigning Monday afternoon, he is officially free to pursue other opportunities.

So what's next for the now former Capitals head coach?

For those who believe Trotz will simply retire, that seems unlikely. Trotz is only 55 years old.

General manager Brian MacLellan indicated the main issue in the contract negotiations between him and Trotz was term. If Trotz was, in fact, seeking a five-year contract, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready to walk away from the game.

There is only one head coaching vacancy left in the NHL, that of the New York Islanders. New President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello cleaned house after getting hired and fired both general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight earlier in June.

Now, suddenly, there is a Stanley Cup-winning coach on the market.

While it certainly makes sense for the Islanders to pursue Trotz, there's one big reason why Trotz, or anyone, would likely be hesitant to accept the job on Long Island and that is John Tavares.

New York's franchise player is a pending free agent and, until his contract situation is resolved, convincing anyone to take the head coaching job with the Islanders is a tough sell. If the Islanders re-sign Tavares, improve the defense and bring in a dependable starting goalie, then there is no reason to think they cannot be a playoff team.

But those are a lot of "ifs" and Tavares is a big one. If he goes, suddenly the situation on Long Island is much different. Tavares' decision could be the difference between the Islanders being a playoff team or getting a high lottery pick.

For Trotz to walk away from a team that just won the Stanley Cup to go to a New York team that may or may not have its best player back next season does not make a lot of sense.

But just because there may be only one head coaching vacancy open doesn't mean Trotz does not have any options.

The 2017-18 season saw no head coaching changes made during the season for the first time since the league expanded in 1967. Chances are jobs will begin to open up during the season especially if those teams believe they can land a Cup-winning coach as a replacement.

If you're Trotz, you just won a Stanley Cup. There is no reason to rush into another opportunity. Trotz will instantly be near or at the top of every wish list for teams in need of a head coach.

Don't just assume that Trotz will be on Long Island to start the 2018-19 season just because it is the only opportunity currently available. He can wait for the perfect opportunity to come to him.

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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