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Capitals wrap up 2016 with satisfying 6-2 win in New Jersey

Capitals wrap up 2016 with satisfying 6-2 win in New Jersey

On Thursday in Washington, the Capitals couldn't solve the puzzle that was Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid. On Saturday in New Jersey, however, they had no such issues, as they racked up six goals in an easy victory to close out 2016.

How it happened: In a wild afternoon affair filled with goals, crazy bounces and a ton of whistles, the Capitals prevailed thanks to a relentless attack.

Brett Connolly got things rolling about three minutes after the first puck drop, when he flipped in a backhand off of a sweet backdoor feed from Andre Burakovsky. Jay Beagle bookended Washington's first period with a tip-in goal of his own after Brooks Orpik lofted a wrister from just in front of the blue line. It was the second frame, though, that contained the most action; there, the Caps scored thrice more but also saw players take five separate trips to the penalty box (the same amount they took in the opening 20 minutes, as a matter of fact), while the Devils took three trips but were held scoreless.

In the third, with the outcome decided, Philipp Grubauer let in a second New Jersey goal, but held strong overall to improve his overall record to 6-1-1. Marcus Johansson was the last Washington player to tally a goal, his 14th.

What it means: Washington's record against fellow Metropolitan Division peers bumps back up to 5-5-4, and their overall record sits at 21-9-5 as the calendar turns to 2017. 

Turning point: The Devils turned an Evgeny Kuznetsov turnover into a Kyle Palmieri goal in the early stages of the second period as they tried to recover from a lackluster first. But T.J. Oshie whizzed a rebound past a flailing Kinkaid less than five minutes later to give Washington their two-goal lead back, and 33 seconds later, Alex Ovechkin deposited a scoring strike of his own. Palmieri's effort temporarily gave the Devils life, but Oshie and Ovi's answers snuffed out any potential rally.

Closing in on a thousand: Alex Ovechkin's two-point day (one goal, one helper) has him now just six away from 1,000 for his career. Matt Niskanen, meanwhile, notched his 200th career assist on Ovechkin's second-period finish.

Making themselves at home: Before Saturday, the Devils were 9-3-2 at home, but the Caps were rude house guests in the Prudential Center from the get-go.

Scary moment early on: John Moore was taken off on a stretcher after a first period hit by Tom Wilson. On the play, Wilson checked Moore as he was working the boards behind his own net, and the collision caused Moore's neck to whip and his head to crash into the glass. It was reported on the game broadcast that Moore was taken to an area hospital for observation. Wilson and Luke Gazdic later dropped the gloves in the second period as the Devils tried to defend their teammate.

Looking ahead: While most people will, the Caps won't get any rest to start off 2017. They'll return home and face the Ottawa Senators at the Verizon Center at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday and then will play twice more in Washington during the work week.

MORE CAPITALS: FB LIVE - WHY ARE CAPS LESS PHYSICAL THIS YEAR?

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Capitals turn experimental as Stanley Cup playoffs approach

Capitals turn experimental as Stanley Cup playoffs approach

WASHINGTON – The Capitals are sick and they are tired and they are injured and they are experimenting.

That’s the takeaway with six games left to go in the regular season after a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at Capital One Arena. Todd Reirden mixed his defensive pairs routinely and did the same in the third period with his forward lines, which led to a goal for Jakub Vrana.

Washington extended its lead in the Metropolitan Division to three points over the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. But they have been forced to look at different options thanks to an injury to defenseman Michal Kempny and illness spreading through the forward ranks at a bad time.

And so that’s how John Carlson started the game on the right side of the top pairing as usual, but was soon on the left side of the ice, with Nick Jensen moving up to replace Christian Djoos. At various times, Brooks Orpik played with Jensen and Djoos on the third pair. Kempny is out indefinitely, so Reirden doesn’t have much time to configure his ideal pairings. And trying to win a division title while doing so is problematic. 

“I feel perfectly comfortable playing with any of our D,” said Jensen, who was acquired just before the NHL trade deadline in late February. “I think they're all capable of playing great defense, and I think they're all really great D and we tend to all be on the same page a lot of the time. When we're switching up D-pairings there, it might be a little bit of an adjustment period, but we'll get used to it as it goes down the line as we keep playing with each other.”

They’d rather have Kempny, of course. Washington had turned the tide on shot attempts during the 10 games after Jensen was acquired and the lineup was stable. It was a good sign heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Unfortunately, Kempny is out indefinitely and no one is sure if or when he will return.    

“We're looking for the right combinations that work for us that can set us up for future success,” Reirden said. “Just some guys that aren't 100-percent in terms of lets say sickness wise that are low on energy so you have to manage those minutes as well. So there's a lot of things in play that cause for that type of mix and match stuff both with up front and on our blue line.” 

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Capitals' significant others show off puppies, announce Homeward Trails donations

Capitals' significant others show off puppies, announce Homeward Trails donations

If you didn't think you could love the Caps more, think again.

With an assist from some puppies, Caps' significant others Katrina Connolly, Paige Dowd, Tasha Maltman and Taylor Pischke announced a $177,000 donation to Homeward Trails Animal Rescue on the jumbotron during Sunday's 3-1 win over the Flyers.

All of the proceeds came from the Caps' 2019 canine calendars and were donated on behalf of the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation. Since 2014, the foundation has donated over $400,000 to Homeward Trails through the Capitals' annual canine calendars.

The puppies featured on the jumbotron are all available for adoption.

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