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Caps' Brett Connolly matches last season's goal total -- with room to spare

Caps' Brett Connolly matches last season's goal total -- with room to spare

Brett Connolly was a healthy scratch the first time his new team played his old one.

But he got the chance to face Boston on Wednesday night—and the veteran winger made up for lost time, scoring the Capitals’ fourth goal in an eventual 5-3 victory at Verizon Center.

From his first shift of the night, it was obvious that Connolly had a little extra juice. And why not? It was the first time he had faced the Bruins, the club that declined to retain his contractual rights last summer.

“I was obviously excited for it ready for it,” Connolly said. “Anytime you get a chance to play against your old team, you want to play well and to get one. And when it comes at a big time in the game, it’s always fun. But we got the win and that’s most important.”

Coach Barry Trotz said everyone on the Caps’ bench knew how much the game meant to Connolly, who has overcome an uneven start to become one of Washington’s key depth players.

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“No question,” Trotz said, “everybody wants to score against their old team. He had a little extra incentive.”

A lot has changed for Connolly since the Caps last hosted the Bruins on Dec. 7. Back then, the 24-year-old was in and out of Trotz’s lineup as the coach mixed and matched his forward combinations, searching for the right mix. And on that night, he was out, again.

Trotz, however, found that mix about a month ago—and it included Connolly skating on the third line with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky. Since that trio was put together, Connolly has scored six goals.

In all, he now has nine tallies on the season—the same total he produced in 71 games with the Bruins a year ago. 

Connolly’s career-high for goals is 12, set as a member of the Lightning 2014-15.

As for his goal against Boston on Wednesday, it was a big one for the player’s pride and the Caps' odds of holding on for the ‘W’. Washington was clinging to a 3-2 lead early in the third period when Connolly finished a deft touch-pass from defenseman Dmitry Orlov by deking the puck around all-star goalie Tuukka Rask.

“There’s a lot of firepower on this team; everybody can make plays,” Connolly said. “Orly just one-touched it to me and that was an easy one, just put it around [Rask] and put it into an empty net.”

Trotz said he likes Connolly's skill set and what he brings to the lineup. 

“I didn’t like the penalty he took, obviously, but he’s playing and skating really well,” Trotz said, referring to an interference infraction Connolly was assessed in the first period. “He’s got hockey I.Q., he can make plays, he’s got a great release. There’s a lot of things to like about Brett’s game. It took him a while to assimilate to our organization [but now] he has.”

“And that line—him and Lars and Burakovsky—you got to feel pretty good about them,” the coach added. 

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Capitals defensive prospect Aaron Ness stable after scary injury in Hershey playoff game

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Capitals defensive prospect Aaron Ness stable after scary injury in Hershey playoff game

In their first game against the Bridgeport Tigers to kick off the 2019 Calder Cup playoffs, the Hershey Bears lost blueliner Aaron Ness to a serious injury in the third period.

After Travis St. Denis put pressure on Ness from behind, Ness lost an edge and slid into the goal post and then crashed head-first into the boards, where he was seemingly knocked unconscious. He laid motionless for a few moments as he received attention from medical personnel.

The 28-year-old was stretchered off the ice and transported to Bridgeport Hospital, where he underwent further evaluation. Bears play-by-play announcer Zack Fisch later reported through Dan "Beaker" Stuck that Ness was awake and alert at the hospital and getting x-rays, according to Chocolate Hockey.

The Bears posted an update on Twitter Saturday in regards to his status, saying that he is in stable condition and is expected to be released. It's unclear when he will return to action, but it likely won't be anytime soon.

Ness, one of Hershey's six alternate captains, had 50 assists and 55 points in 71 games with the Bears in the regular season. He has three points in 18 games up in the NHL with Washington.

After the Sound Tigers tied the game following the Ness injury to force OT, Kieffer Bellows scored in double overtime to lift Bridgeport to a 3-2 win to take Game 1 of the series. St. Denis has been suspended one game for the hit, according to NHL.com's Tom Gulitti.

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'Canes Svechnikov says Ovechkin asked him to fight first in Game 3

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'Canes Svechnikov says Ovechkin asked him to fight first in Game 3

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Game 3 fight between Hurricanes rookie Andrei Svechnikov and Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. On Saturday, before Game 5, Svechnikov said it was Ovechkin who challenged him to the fight.

The Russian forward returned to the ice for the Hurricanes' morning skate prior to Game 5, then told the media that Ovechkin was the first to ask him to fight before the two dropped the gloves. They exchanged a couple of punches before Ovechkin knocked out Svechnikov, which ultimately put him in concussion protocol and kept him out of the lineup.

"He ask me first for fight," Svechnikov told Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. "I'm not a superhero, ask first for fight... I said yes. I just want to stand up for myself."

Sara Civ, The Athletic's Hurricanes beat reporter, also wrote that Ovechkin apologized to Svechnikov after the game. Ovechkin told reporters last week that Svechnikov was the one who started it.

“First of all, I hope he's OK,” Ovechkin told reporters after the game. “I'm not a big fighter and he's same way. He asked me to fight and I said, let's go. Yeah.”

Svechnikov is hopeful to return to Game 6, but will not return to the lineup Saturday. Gulitti reported that he was in a yellow (probably non-contact) jersey and was sporting a full cage at practice.

Washington and Carolina square off for Game 5 at 8 p.m. Saturday on NBC.

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