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Capitals take down scorching hot Calgary Flames, 4-2

Capitals take down scorching hot Calgary Flames, 4-2

Final score: Washington Capitals 4, Calgary Flames 2

How it happened: The Caps and Flames traded first-period goals as Evgeny Kuznetsov finished off a slick pass from Andre Burakovsky, but Calgary responded with a rush goal by Sean Monahan. Things looked even in the second period until T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the lead, and Kevin Shattenkirk added another goal with less than three seconds left in the second to put the Caps up by two. Troy Brouwer pulled Calgary within one in the third, but Alex Ovechkin provided the insurance tally on the power play for the win.

What it means: The Capitals extended their point streak to four games including three wins. This is just the second loss Calgary has suffered in the past 14 games. With the win, Washington maintained its hold over first place of the Metropolitan Division.

Goals

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Andre Burakovsky at 6:47 in the first period. Lars Eller harassed Johnny Gaudreau in the neutral zone until Burakovsky stole the puck and started the rush. He then found Kuznetsov with pass who slickly slid the pass into the net. Caps 1, Flames 0

Flames goal: Sean Monahan from Alex Chiasson and Johnny Gaudreau at 10:06 in the first period. Kevin Shattenkirk pinched deep into the offensive zone to grab the puck along the wall, but Chiasson beat him to it and chipped it up to Monahan. He passed to Gaudreau to start the two-on-two rush. Brooks Orpik pinched too far over to Gaudreau leaving Monahan wide open for the pass which he deposited into the top corner. Caps 1, Flames 1

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie from Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin at 15:51 in the 2nd period. Backstrom retreated to the top of the right circle and found Ovechkin through traffic with the cross-ice pass. Ovechkin made the quick pass to the slot and Oshie finished off the tic-tac-toe play by burying the puck into the net. Caps 2, Flames 1

Caps goal: Kevin Shattenkirk (power play) from Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin at 19:57 in the 2nd period. An Ovechkin shot deflected off of Deryk Engelland allowing Shattenkirk to step up for the close shot. Elliott looked like he had it tucked in his armpit, but the puck dropped and began to trickle past the line. Caps 3, Flames 1

Flames goal: Troy Brouwer from Kris Versteeg and Deryk Engelland at 15:04 in the 3rd period. Engelland decided to join the rush and just as he was being forced into the corner by Karl Alzner, he spun around for the pass that found Brouwer open in the slot for the tip-in. Caps 3, Flames 2

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Nicklas Backstrom and Kevin Shattenkirk at 17:09 in the third. Ovechkin took the pass from Shattenkirk in the office and was given plenty of time to place the puck into the corner. Caps 4, Flames 2

3 stars

1. Alex Ovechkin: The Great 8 got the power play goal, plus registered an incredible 11 shots on goal to keep the pressure up on Elliott all night.

2. Nicklas Backstrom:  Ho-hum, just another three-assist night for Backstrom.

3. Brian Elliott: Don't let the score fool you. This game was close because Elliott had a fantastic night. He was very solid in the net despite giving up four goals as he turned aside 36 of the shots he faced on the night.

Look ahead: Washington hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday in a critical game for control of the Metropolitan Division. They then close out their three-game home stand on Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.

Tell us what you think:  This is the first time the Flames have lost with Brian Elliott in net since Feb. 18 and just their second loss in 14 games. After the win, do you think the Caps are now completely back on track after that four-game skid?

More Capitals: Wendy's Frozen moments: Capitals season in pictures

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Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s semifinal matchup:

Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

2018-19 stats

Joonas Donskoi (27 years old): 80 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 13:25 TOI

Playoffs: 12 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 12:26 TOI

Carl Gunnarsson (32 years old): 25 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, 15:15 TOI

Playoffs: 19 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 14:57 TOI, won Stanley Cup

Hockey-Graph contract projections 

Joonas Donskoi: 3 years, $2,847,521 cap hit

Carl Gunnarsson: 1 year, $731,159 cap hit

The case for Joonas Donskoi

Maybe Andre Burakovsky’s qualifying offer of $3.25 million means he’s back with the Capitals for another year. But it doesn’t preclude a trade and in Donskoi you’d have a similar option at a cheaper price, which matters if you only have $9.2 million in cap space left for now.

Donskoi made the offense better in San Jose in whatever role he was asked to play. He can go up and down the lineup and had a consistency to his game that Burakovsky at times lacks. Donskoi’s stats may not always reflect that, but making his teammates around him better is a valuable asset. Either way, depth scoring is important and a priority for the Capitals. 

Donskoi has every bit the Stanley Cup playoff experience as Burakovsky does if that matters to you. Donskoi has nine goals and 12 assists in 50 playoff games and Burakovsky has nine goals and nine assists in 56 playoff games. Not much to chose between the team except Donskoi would be cheaper if Washington decided to trade Burakovsky. 

The case for Carl Gunnarsson

The Caps will need a No. 6/7 defenseman after Brooks Orpik retired on Tuesday. Yes, they gave a qualifying offer to RFA defenseman Christian Djoos and they have Jonas Siegenthaler under contract, too. Both are natural left side defensemen. Going with the kids is an option. But both of them? That becomes problematic when someone gets hurt in your top two pairings and players have to bump up. 

Gunnarsson was the hero of the “Boston Pee Party” when he scored the overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after declaring to head coach Craig Berube at the urinal he just needed one more opportunity. Gunnarsson had just seven points in the regular season so no one should expect a ton of offense, but the point is he delivered when it mattered most.

When he is not playing the overtime hero, he is a third-pairing, stay at home defenseman who can play on the penalty kill which is pretty much exactly what the Caps need in a depth defenseman.

Take a look at Gunnarsson’s contract projection. You can’t beat that price. Sure, those projections came out before he won the Stanley Cup, but even if his price goes up, it will not be significant. You’re tinkering at the margins of the roster here and championship experience matters. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here:

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

The Capitals tendered qualifying offers to six of their seven restricted free agents at Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, including forward Andre Burakovsky. 

Burakovsky, 24, had been the subject of trade rumors up until the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25 and also in the days leading up to last week’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. Nothing came of them. Washington general manager Brian MacLellan made it clear that while teams were calling, he wasn’t about to just give away a 2013 first-round draft pick. 

“We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player,” MacLellan said last Thursday. “We'd like to keep him around but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him. But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back.”

But the Capitals are still in a salary cap crunch and that could still land Burakovsky elsewhere in the coming days. His qualifying offer is $3.25 million. Washington is only $9.235 million below the salary cap of $81.5 million. If Burakovsky signs, he would provide scoring depth. He has a career-high 17 goals and has scored 12 each of the past two seasons.

The Capitals do need to see more from Burakovsky. He has struggled with confidence and consistent production over the years. But if he returns, he would be a good option to replace the expected-to-depart Brett Connolly at right wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin. Connolly is an unrestricted free agent and likely out of Washington’s price range. 

By tendering a qualifying offer, the Capitals ensure that they will keep Burakovsky’s rights. If they had not then he’d be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team. That’s not a smart use of an asset that could still help in 2019-20. They could, of course, still trade him at any time. 

Meanwhile, forward Dmitry Jaskin was not tendered a qualifying offer. He is a free agent now. Jaskin never gained the trust of the coaching staff last season. He appeared in just 37 games despite analytics that showed he had a positive impact on the fourth line. Jaskin picked up on waivers from the St. Louis Blues in October, had two goals and four assists. He did not play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Winger Jakub Vrana also received a qualifying offer, but that’s not expected to matter much as the two sides try to put together a long-term contract extension after his breakthrough 24-goal season in his second NHL year. 

The Capitals did tender a qualifying offer to defenseman Christian Djoos. An ugly thigh injury that turned into compartment syndrome and limited him to 45 games. But with Brooks Orpik retiring on Tuesday, Washington could go with Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler as their No. 6/7 defensemen on their natural left sides. 

Fourth-line winger Chandler Stephenson also received his qualifying offer. AHL Hershey forward Colby Williams and goalie Vitek Vanacek also received qualifying offers from Washington.  

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