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Caps continue Bell Centre dominance with 3-2 win over Canadiens

Caps continue Bell Centre dominance with 3-2 win over Canadiens

Final score: Washington Capitals 3, Montreal Canadiens 2

How it happened: Jay Beagle scored three minutes into the game to give the Caps an early lead, but Washington's hot start was cooled by an 11-minute delay in the first period to fix a hole in the baseboard. When play resumed, Alexander Radulov tied the game at one in the first. Andre Burakovsky restored Washington's lead in the second off a three-on-two rush. Radulov thought he had tied the game, but the goal was waved off for goalie interference as Max Pacioretty dove into Braden Holtby. Nicklas Backstrom extended Washington's lead to 2 in the third. Pacioretty would pull Montreal back within 1, but that would be as close as they would come.

What it means: The win extends Washington’s dominance in Montreal. The Caps have now earned at least a point in 14 straight games at Bell Centre and have not lost in regulation in Montreal since Jan. 10, 2009.

Goals

Capitals goal: Jay Beagle from Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson at 3:02 in the 1st. Winnik entered the offensive zone and drew two Canadiens with him as he skated left. Winnik then dropped a perfect pass off to Beagle in the center at the top of the circles. Beagle ripped a perfect shot right off the crossbar and into the net. Caps 1, Canadiens 0

Canadiens goal: Alexander Radulov from Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault at 7:32 in the 1st. Nate Schmidt tried to corral the puck after a battle along the boards, but he was a bit lax with the pass allowing Max Pacioretty to get in the way of it and knock it back to Danault. Danault found Radulov who had way too much room to work with and fired a great shot to beat Holtby. Caps 1, Canadiens 1

Capitals goal: Andre Burakovsky from Brett Connolly and Lars Eller at 9:26 in the 1st. Connolly rocketed into the offensive zone on the three-on-two and went cross ice to find Burakovsky. Burakovsky picked his corner and wristed it far side to beat Price. Caps 2, Canadiens 1

Capitals goal: Nicklas Backstrom (power play) from Matt Niskanen at 5:16 in the 3rd. Backstrom and Niskanen played keep away on the power play until Backstrom decided to call his own number and fired a long-range shot that found that back of the net. Caps 3, Canadiens 1

Canadiens goal: Max Pacioretty from Alexander Radulov at 7:49 in the 3rd. Radulov held the buck behind the net and skated out to Holtby's right, then sent a backhand pass to Pacioretty on the left. His initial shot was blocked by Beagle, but Pacioretty corraled the puck and scored on the second opportunity. Caps 3, Canadiens 2

Three stars

1. Alexander Radulov: Montreal could not generate much offense, so Radulov did it all by himself. He was the most dnageorus player on the ice. He scored the Canadiens' first goal of the game and nearly had a second before it was waved off for goalie interference. Both goals were of beautiful wrist shots. Radulov also added an assist on Pacioretty's goal.

2. Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik: The penalty kill was clutch Saturday for once as the Caps killed off all three power plays they faced. Considering Beagle and Winnnik were the team's two best penalty killers and also combined for Washington's first goal, it seems unfair to separate the two. Winnik set up Beagle's goal with the nice drop back pass and Beagle finished it off with the nice shot off the crossbar. This is his first game since shaving off the beard and so beardgate continues.

3. Braden Holtby: He wasn't tested often as Montreal managed only 22 shots for the game, but they made those shots count. Holtby was very strong when called upon especially in a few nervous moments in the third period.

Look ahead: The Caps will provide some Super Bowl pregame entertainment as they return home to face the Los Angeles Kings Sunday at 12 p.m. It is the first of a four-game home-stand for the Caps that will see Carolina, Detroit and Anaheim come to town.

Tell us what you think: Radulov thought he had tied the game at 2 in the second period, but his goal was quickly waved off for goalie interference as Max Pacioretty essentially jumped into Holtby. The goal was correctly waved off, but Pacioretty was not given a penalty for goalie interference. Not every goalie interference call warrants two minutes in the box, but it's hard to get more blatant than Pacioretty. Did the refs make the right call? Was waving off the goal enough or should Pacioretty have gotten two minutes in the sin bin?

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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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