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Caps earn first win over Rangers with second period surge

Caps earn first win over Rangers with second period surge

Final score: Washington Capitals 4, New York Rangers 1

How it happened: After a slow start, the Caps responded in a big way in the second period. Sparked by a Daniel Winnik fight, Marcus Johansson and Brett Connolly scored in the second period to put the Caps up 2-1.The Caps took control down the stretch as Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom both added insurance tallies in the third.

What it means: The win is Washington’s first over the Rangers this season in three games. It was also career win No. 700 for head coach Barry Trotz. The Caps are now 13-7-5 against Metropolitan teams and have erased the sour taste left by their last loss to the Rangers and Saturday’s loss to the Predators. Amazing what you can do when you don’t have to play a team 22 hours after another game.


Rangers goal: Brady Skjei from Adam Clendening and J.T. Miller at 5:08 in the first period. Skjei went directly to the front of the net off the rush and the Caps’ left him all alone allowing the easy layup fro the opening goal. Caps 0, Rangers 1

Capitals goal: Marcus Johansson from Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov at 7:28 in the second period. Johansson and Orlov passed back and forth on the rush. Orlov then wristed a shot off the pad of Henrik Lundqvist. The kick out save sent the puck right to a waiting Johansson for the goal. Caps 1, Rangers 1

Capitals goal: Brett Connolly from Matt Niskanen and Lars Eller at 16:26 in the second period. Niskanen found a seam in the defense and drove to the net, but lost the puck. Lucky for him, Connolly was in front of the net and the puck rolled right to him. Connolly then spun around for the quick shot and the goal. Caps 2, Rangers 1

Capitals goal: Marcus Johansson from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen at 1:15 in the third period. Johansson sent a slick backhand pass from Kuznetsov to the top shelf with a fantastic deflection to the top shelf to beat Lundqvist. Caps 3, Rangers 1

Capitals goal: Nicklas Backstrom (power play) from John Carlson and Marcus Johansson at 17:57 in the third period. Backstrom got a fortuante defelction off the stick of Skjei that completely handcuffed Lundqvist. Caps 4, Rangers 1

3 Stars

1. Marcus Johansson: Johansson always seems to score in bunches. After being held off the scoresheet for five games, the Swedish forward scored twice including a fantastic deflection to the top-shelf to help lead the Caps to the win. Johansson's two goals now give him a career-high 21 for the season.

2. Kevin Shattenkirk: The Caps' newest acquistion's debut was a good one. He registered four shots on goal including three in the first period. He looked right at home on the power play, feeing Alex Ovechkin right in the office. Matt Niskanen and John Carlson have struggled at times giving him perfect setups on the power play. That was not the case on Tuesday for Shattenkirk.

3. Daniel Winnik: Winnik's fight with  Adam Clendening in the second period was the turning point of the game. Winnik took exception to a big hit from Clendening and dropped the gloves with the Rangers' defenseman. That moment seemed to spark the Caps. When Winnik went into the penalty box, the Caps were down 1-0. Just 11 seconds later, Johansson tied the game at one.

Look ahead: The Caps return to Washington for a three-game home stand starting on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils. They will also host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and the Dallas Stars on Monday.

Tell us what you think: Kevin Shattenkirk got his first game as a Cap on Tuesday, registering four shots on goal and playing the point on the power play. What were your first impressions of the team's new blue liner? Do you think he provides what the Caps needed?

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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.