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Caps beat Red Wings 6-3 for 11th straight home win

Caps beat Red Wings 6-3 for 11th straight home win

Final score: Washington Capitals 6, Detroit Red Wings 3

How it happened:  It looked from the start like Washington was on its way to another blowout win as Marcus Johansson put the Caps up 1-0 just six minutes into the game. Andreas Athanasiou, however, responded with two quick first period goals to take the lead. Brett Connolly struck to tie the game at two and cap off a crazy, four-goal first period. T.J. Oshie scored in the second period to give the Caps back the lead, but Detroit struck early in the third with a beautiful goal from Henrik Zetterberg to tie it at 3. The Caps took over from there, however, as Oshie set up the game-winner for John Carlson and then scored a power play tally for the knockout punch.

What it means: The win is Washington’s 11th in a row at home and fifth in a row overall. It is also the tenth straight home game in which the Caps have scored at least five goals. Washington remains undefeated at home in 2017. 

Goals

Capitals goal: Marcus Johansson from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams at 5:57 in the first. Williams left the puck sitting just past the blue line for a streak Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov skated to Petr Mrazek’s right then tried to feed Johansson on the back door. Athanasiou almost intercepted the pass on the back check, but Johansson deftly took the puck back and fired it over the sprawled Mrazek. Caps 1, Red Wings 0

Red Wings goal: Andreas Athanasiou from Thomas Vanek and Ryan Sproul at 13:30 in the first. Athanasiou took the puck from behind the Caps net, then wheeled all the way around the face-off circle with the puck on his backhand. When he finally found a seam, he charged, putting the puck back on the  forehand and ripping a shot from the high slot past Braden Holtby. Caps 1, Red Wings 1

Red Wings goal: Andreas Athanasiou (power play) from Thomas Vanek at 16:23 in the first. Both teams battled for a loose puck in the Caps’ defensive zone, before Vanek finally tapped it loose to Athanasiou who found himself open for the shot and the goal. Caps 1, Red Wings 2

Capitals goal: Brett Connolly from Lars Eller and Karl Alzner at 18:30 in the first. Mrazek kicked out the pad to save a shot from Alzner sending the puck to his right on the red line to Connolly. Despite getting shaken up on a check behind the net, Connolly was able to shoot the puck into the net from almost zero angle to tie the game. Capitals 2, Red Wings 2

Capitals goal: T.J. Oshie from John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom at 1:16 in the second. After Backstrom broke up a Red Wing drive in the neutral zone, the puck found its way to Carlson who quickly passed the puck up to Oshie for the counterattack. Oshie went far-side with the wrister to beat Mrazek. Caps 3, Red Wings 2

Red Wings goal:  Henrik Zetterberg from Anthony Mantha and Gustav Nyquist at 1:25 in the third. Mantha entered the zone on a two-on-two with Zetterberg and pulled up allowing Zetterberg to get in behind Kuznetsov who was trapped in the defensive zone. Mantha found Zetterberg with a beautiful pass and Zetterberg showed incredible patience before beating Holtby with the backhand to the top shelf. Caps 3, Red Wings 3

Capitals goal: John Carlson from T.J. Oshie at 4:15 in the third. Oshie picked the pocket of Danny Dekeyser in the offensive zone then teed up Carlson for the slapshot on top of the face-off circle. Caps 4, Red Wings 3

Capitals goal: T.J. Oshie (power play) from Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom at 14:18 in the third. Backstrom and Johansson played keep away behind the net before Backstrom fed Oshie for the one-timer. Caps 5, Red Wings 3

Capitals goal: Nicklas Backstrom (empty netter) from Jay Beagle at 18:28 in the third. Caps 6, Red Wings 3

3 stars

1. T.J. Oshie: Not only did Oshie score twice, his pickpocket steal of Dekeyser and led to an assist of the game-winning goal for Carlson.

2. Andreas Athanasiou: It's not everyday you see someone beat Holtby clean with a snapshot, but Athanasiou managed to do it twice Thursday.

3. Marcus Johansson: Johansson opened the scoring with his third goal in three games. He also added an assist in the third period on Oshie's power play tally.

Look ahead: Washington hosts the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday in the last game before the Caps’ bye week. They will be off until Fri. Feb. 17 when they return to practice. Then it’s off to Detroit for a rematch with the Red Wings on Sat. Feb. 18.

Tell us what you think: The Capitals have been the healthiest team in the NHL this season by a wide margin. Does Andre Burakovsky leaving Thursday's game early with an upper-body injury change your thinking before the NHL trade deadline?

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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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