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Caps' Andre Burakovsky 'shocked' to score Wednesday

Caps' Andre Burakovsky 'shocked' to score Wednesday

PHILADELPHIA—Andre Burakovsky responded to his benching exactly how Coach Barry Trotz hoped he would—by producing his best performance in weeks.

The 21-year-old winger scored his first goal in 27 games and registered a secondary assist on Lars Eller’s tally in Wednesday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Flyers.

“Once I saw the puck go in,” Burakovsky said, “I was kind of shocked.”

Burakovsky had been a healthy scratch the previous three games. During that time out of the lineup, he said he worked on getting his shots off faster and getting better at detecting soft spots in the D-zone coverage.

RELATED: Burakovsky scores, but Caps fall in shootout to Flyers

That work, it seems, paid off at Wells Fargo Center, where Burakovsky finished with a team-high five shots on goal. The total marked the most he’s logged in a single game since he took seven at Arizona last April 2.

“Yeah, it was good to get back in and finally get a goal again,” he said. “It’s been a while. It’s about time and I thought I played a very good game today. I had a lot of opportunities to get [the puck] in. I was really confident with the puck and it was fun to get back in [the lineup].”

Eller said he hopes it’s the start of something for the young winger.

“It’s good,” said Eller, who scored his first goal since Nov. 5, a span of 19 games. “It’s a good confidence booster for him. And it’s good for the team. When Andre is good, we’re a better team. He has a big capacity to score a lot of goals.”

Trotz has acknowledged in recent days that he’s still searching for the right mix for the third line. He liked what he saw Wednesday night from the combination of Burakovsky, Eller and Jakub Vrana but wouldn’t commit to it going forward. The trio accounted for both goals, four points and eight shots on net.

“Big picture, Lars and Burakovsky were very good,” Tritz said. “Same with Vrana. That line got us two goals. I thought that was great for both of them. You can see Lars’ game coming [and] with Burakovsky we’re hoping it would come. That line was good for us tonight.”

Trotz added: “All three of them have been pretty good. [But] we have Brett Connolly who has been on that line. He was pretty good and I took him out because we were trying to find something that works. We’ll see what we do here the next couple of days.”

Burakovsky said he liked the line’s chemistry.

“I think our whole line was playing really solid today,” he said. “I thought Vrana was skating and winning battles. Lars, as well. I think Lars is one of the hardest guys on the puck, he protects the puck really good and he gets the puck back a lot for me and Vrana. I think it’s a good line combination and we had a really strong game.”

As much as Burakovsky liked the way his line played, he liked seeing his wrist shot beat Steve Mason’s blocker even more.

“It was just one game [but] I’m just going to keep doing the same job I did tonight,” Burakovsky said. “I think I had a really good game and it was a lot of fun to finally get one.”

MORE CAPITALS: Joe Biden in attendance at Caps-Flyers game

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Capitals service dog Captain wins Sports Dog of the Year

Capitals service dog Captain wins Sports Dog of the Year

As if any other candidate would even come close, Captain was named Sports Dog of the Year on Friday afternoon.

The four-legged phenom has been everywhere this fall, making his presence felt all over the DMV, and his popularity has extended nationwide.

Captain doesn't take days off and is always ready to have some fun.

He was there to maintain the peace during the biggest shopping day of the year and he made sure your Cyber Monday gifts arrived on time. 

He inspires greatness and has been a driving force behind the Mystics' WNBA Title as well as the Nationals' World Series victory.

He knows when its time to put in the work as well. He's always on time for meetings, and he has never missed a practice.

He's preparing to assist a Veteran or First Responder one day, and he's already making progress.

And he's always ready to celebrate.

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D.C. youth coaching legend Neal Henderson gets his due with U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction

D.C. youth coaching legend Neal Henderson gets his due with U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction

WASHINGTON — For 40 years Neal Henderson has given underprivileged kids the chance to play hockey at Fort Dupont Ice Arena.

On Thursday, Henderson was honored for his life’s work with induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Henderson was inducted along with NHL greats Tim Thomas and Brian Gionta, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and U.S. Olympian Krissy Wendell. He heard kind words spoken about his program, the Fort Dupont Cannons, from the likes of Bettman, Alex Ovechkin and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and also received a video tribute. 

It’s been quite a week for Henderson, who drew a sustained ovation from the crowd at Tuesday’s Capitals-Boston Bruins game when acknowledged on the big video board at Capital One Arena. 

“It’s amazing. Something I never believed I could be a part of,” Henderson said. “It’s the zenith of my life other than being married and having a son. I’ve enjoyed what I have done. I didn’t do it for the reasons of being here. I did it for the love of kids and the parents who trusted me with their children.”  

Henderson said he “became completely numb” when he got the phone call learning he’d be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The Cannons developmental program, based at Fort Dupont, is designed to help local underprivileged kids play an expensive sport that is out of reach for many. Fort Dupont features the oldest minority hockey league in North America. 

It’s not a route to the NHL. But Henderson has helped kids play high school and college hockey, passing on the lessons he’s learned over decades: That hard work and character matter. That education is crucial. He believes hockey helps forge those traits. The Cannons give kids a chance to travel to other cities to play games. They were an integral part of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone campaign, which seeks to broaden the sport, make it more inclusive, help better communities.

A clip showed during Ovechkin’s tribute video after being named the Wayne Gretzky International Award recipient at Thursday’s induction dinner, showed the Stanley Cup at Fort Dupont with the Cannons. That was Ovechkin’s idea, according to Leonsis.

“I asked Alex ‘Where do you want to go?’ He said ‘I want to see kids at Georgetown Cancer Center.” And we went there. And then he wanted to pay homage to Coach Neal,” Leonsis said. “And so we went to Fort Dupont. It’s great that he’s here.”

Henderson said he hoped his induction would help encourage more people of color to embrace hockey. He started the program in the late 1970s thinking he’d simply get his son through the program, which works with kids ages 8 to 18. But he just kept going – in part because kids kept coming to the Cannons and in part because he just couldn’t refuse them. Decades later he’s still here working with them. 

“A lot of people don’t feel that they have the opportunity when it’s right at their back door,” Henderson said. “If they take just one more step they’ll find that there are people out there that’s willing to help them. All you have to do is be there willing to make sure they get the chance.”

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