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Caps blank Canucks for fourth straight win

Caps blank Canucks for fourth straight win

The Caps won their fourth game in a row as they held the Vancouver Canucks off the scoreboard in a 3-0 victory on Sunday.

How it happened: Washington took the lead in the first period thanks to a power-play goal from Alex Ovechkin. John Carlson found Ovechkin in his office from the point, but the pass came in too far behind Ovechkin for the one-timer. Instead he took the pass and fired off a wrister that beat Markstrom and put the Caps up 1-0. The goal snapped a seven-game drought for the Great 8. The Caps added an insurance marker in the third period as Evgeny Kuznetsov passed up a golden opportunity in front of the net to Justin Williams who finished off the play anyway. Tom Wilson added an empty-netter in the third period and Braden Holtby did the rest.

What it means: The win was the fourth straight for the Capitals who look back on track after dropping three straight earlier in the month. Washington also now has four straight wins over Vancouver.

Goalie duel: Holtby turned aside 20 shots to earn his second shutout of the season and the 25th of his career. He was largely untested for much of the game. Jacob Markstrom looked shaky in the first period and seemed to struggle tracking the puck initially, but rebounded for some very big saves in the second period to keep the Canucks in the game. He did not get much help from his offense, however, and took the loss despite 26 saves saves on 28 shots.

Another milestone for Ovechkin: Ovechkin’s first-period power play goal was the 200th of his NHL career. He is now only one of 18 players in NHL history to reach that number. Former Caps Mike Gartner (217) and Dino Ciccarelli (232) also surpassed 200 power play goals in their career. Ovechkin now sits just one goal shy of passing Mark Recchi and four goals from Wayne Gretzky. Ovechkin still has some work to do to catch the all-time leader Dave Andreychuk’s mark of 274.

Staying hot: When the Caps were struggling to find offense, Nicklas Backstrom stepped up and carried the team. Now that the offense is starting to wake up, however, Backstrom remains red hot. With his assist Sunday, the veteran center has four points in his last three games and 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in his last 13 games.

They're back: Carlson had a slow start to the season offensively, but he seems to have put those struggles behind him. With his first period assist, Carlson now has four points in his last five games, including the first goals of the season which he scored Friday in Buffalo. Kuznetsov's struggles of late have also been well documented, but he also seems to be getting hot offensively. He now has four assists in the past three games and a season-best four-game point streak.

Earning his spot: Jakub Vrana liked scoring his first NHL goal so much, he tried everything he could Sunday to earn another. Vrana fired four shots on goal, good for the second most among either team. That does not even include blistering one-timer that just missed the net. The shot was so hard all Markstrom could do was watch and hope it wasn't on target. Vrana was a constant offensive threat with seven shot attempts for the game.

Canuck killer: Tom Wilson's goal was his second of the season. His last goal came on Oct. 29 against...Vancouver. Wilson no doubt will be disappointed Sunday's game marks the last time these two teams will meet this season.

Look ahead: Washington hits the road for a two-game swing against Metropolitan Division foes away from Verizon Center starting on Tuesday. The Caps will be in Brooklyn to take on the Islanders then face the Hurricanes in Carolina on Friday. The Caps return home Saturday as they host Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens.

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin starts scoring with goal vs. Vancouver

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

las_vegas-sign-no_caps-stanley_cup_final.jpg
Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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