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Caps end Columbus' bid at history with dominant win

Caps end Columbus' bid at history with dominant win

Just one win short of NHL history, the Columbus Blue Jackets saw their 16-game win streak emphatically snapped Thursday in a 5-0 loss to the Washington Capitals.

How it happened: The Caps got off to a great start with two goals in the first period. Daniel Winnik put Washington up 1-0 early in the first period as he crashed the net to clean up a scrum in front of Sergei Bobrovski started by Jay Beagle. Just over six minutes later the Caps extended their lead to 2 as a Marcus Johansson pass deflected off the skate of John Carlson and past Bobrovski. Nate Schmidt added another goal in the third period, as he collected his own rebound and fired a shot that deflected off a sprawling Brandon Dubinsky and into the net. Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams would add insurance tallies to complete the rout.

What it means: The win snaps a 16-game win streak for Columbus, the second-longest streak in NHL history, one shy of tying the record of 17 set by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1992-93 season. It is the Blue Jackets’ first loss since Nov. 26. Washington has earned a point in seven of its last eight games against Columbus and has improved its season record against the Blue Jackets to 1-1-1. The Caps have now won four straight and own a five-game point streak. The win also improves Washington’s record within the Metropolitan Division to 6-5-4.

Turning point: The Capitals dictated their will in the first period thanks in large part to the early goal by Winnik. Whenever a team can get offensive production from its fourth line, that’s a huge momentum boost and that proved to be the case on Thursday. Winnik gave Washington the lead and the team never looked back.

Blue line bombers: The Caps have been getting major offensive contributions from the defense of late and that continued Thursday with goals from both Carlson and Schmidt. Carlson has now scored goals in two straight games and has earned 13 points in his last 16 games. The goal was the 58th of his career, tying him with Al Iafrate for 8th place in Caps history in goals by defensemen. Schmidt's goal ends what was nearly a year-long drought as his last goal came on Jan. 7, 2016. Washington has now gotten 11 goals from the defense in the last 13 games and six goals from five different defensemen in the last three.

Bounceback for Braden: Braden Holtby was pulled from Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs after giving up three goals in the first period on just eight shots. He was back to his normal dominant self on Thursday as he turned aside 29 shots he faced en route to the shutout win. His best save of the night came in the second period. The Caps got drawn into the corner of the defensive zone leaving Markus Nulivaara wide open at the top of the circle. Holtby saved the first shot, but it deflected off the back wall and came right back to Nulivaara. He tried to catch Holtby off balance, but the netminder kicked out the left toe to turn aside the second shot and preserve the goose egg. The shutout is his fourth of the season and 27th of his career.

Penalty killers: Heading into Thursday's game, Columbus boasted the top power play in the NHL at 28.3 percent. Washington has struggled of late staying out of the penalty box so a strong penalty kill would be key. They got it Thursday. The Caps killed off all five power plays they faced while allowing four shots on goal. Giving up five power plays, however, is still high, but it didn't cost them Thursday.

Where there's a Williams, there's a way: With his third-period goal, Williams has three goals and four assists in his last four games. He now has earned 16 points in his last 15 games.

Within reach: Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin both recorded assists on Schmidt's goal in the second period. The assist was No. 499 for Backstrom, pulling him within one of the 500 mark. Ovechkin now has 496 career points, four shy of No. 1,000.

Look ahead: Washington now hits the road for two games in Canada. They will face the Ottawa Senators on Saturday and the Montreal Canadiens on Monday. The Caps then return to Washington on Wednesday for a game against rival Pittsburgh.

MORE CAPITALS: Watch Justin Williams finish off the Blue Jackets

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

ARLINGTON — Devante Smith-Pelly will skate onto the ice at Capital One Arena tonight and the crowd will roar. They will chant “D-S-P!” and give him an ovation and he will try to keep a stone-faced focus, though it will be hard.

Not bad for a player who was cut in February, passed on by 30 other NHL teams and banished to the minors after a disappointing season and a salary-cap crunch. But that is life as a Stanley Cup playoff folk hero. After scoring seven goals with 19 points during last year’s postseason, including the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the final series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Smith-Pelly bought himself a lifetime of good will. 

Now, an injury to T.J. Oshie gets him another chance with the Capitals. Smith-Pelly will be in the lineup tonight when Washington hosts the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series (8 p.m., NBC). 

“I don’t know if weird is the word. It’s a business,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s hard to go through something like that. I missed the guys a lot. I still kept in touch with pretty much everyone. It was just going there and doing what I had to do and waiting for a shot. It’s unfortunate that [Oshie] had to get hurt.”

Smith Pelly had just four goals and four assists in 54 games this season and was held out of several preseason games to get his conditioning where it needed to be. When the Capitals traded for forward Carl Hagelin on Feb. 21 they needed salary-cap space to make the move, according to general manager Brian MacLellan. He chose waiving Smith-Pelly over Dmitrij Jaskin. 

When Smith-Pelly cleared waivers, Washington sent him to AHL Hershey so he could play and be ready if needed again. That didn’t seem likely when the playoffs began and the salary cap was no longer an issue. MacLellan said the team had no immediate plans to recall Smith-Pelly just so he could sit. 

But the Capitals wanted him to stay in game shape in case injuries struck – and they finally did on Monday in Game 4. T.J. Oshie is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Smith-Pelly got the recall and is in the lineup tonight at right wing on the fourth line. It is another chance for a player who was once a second-round draft pick, but has been let go by three previous organizations (Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey) and found himself on tenuous ground with the Capitals. This isn’t how he wanted it to be. But now he’s back. 

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about it. I was watching the games and cheering the guys on,” Smith-Pelly said. “I wasn’t really sure. I definitely didn’t want to get a chance by someone else getting hurt. That’s for sure. So I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird spot. I’m focused on playing the playoffs there and helping the team there. I wasn’t really thinking about too much about what would happen.”

News and notes

Still no update on Oshie other than he’s out indefinitely, according to coach Todd Reirden. He will obviously not play in Game 5 after crashing into the boards following a nudge from behind by Carolina forward Warren Foegele. … Reirden’s lineup changes include Carl Hagelin moving to right wing on the second line and Chandler Stephenson joining Smith-Pelly and Nic Dowd on the fourth line. … After a nice first playoff game, rookie Jonas Siegenthaler will start with John Carlson, who moves to his natural right side. He'd been starting games on the left with Nick Jensen.  

Game 5 lineup

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Carl Hagelin

Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly

 

Jonas Siegenthaler – John Carlson 

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen 

 

Braden Holtby 

 

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

Thursday's games gave us another tied series with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, a slugfest between the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets, and the San Jose Sharks avoiding elimination at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Friday's games pushed the Boston Bruins to the brink of elimination, and the Colorado Avalanche eliminated the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome.

Here are all of Friday's results.

Maple Leafs take 3-2 series lead with 2-1 win over Bruins

Frederik Andersen and Tuukka Rask were sharp for the first two periods, but Auston Matthews broke the scoreless tie with a controversial goal 10 minutes into the third period. Boston challenged for goaltender interference, but the goal stood. Matthews now has four goals in the last three games of the series.

Kasperi Kapanen gave the Leafs the game winner on a 3-on-2 just two minutes later.

The Bruins battled back to make it 2-1 with a backdoor feed for David Krejci, but they couldn't force a tie to send the game to overtime. Should the Leafs hold on to win, not only would they reverse their two-year trend of losing in the first round of the playoffs, they would win a series for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Avalanche extinguish Flames, win series with 5-1 victory

The upstart Avalanche had four players hit three points in their Friday night upset over the Flames. Mikko Rantanen continued his punishing pace with two goals in the game, including the opening and closing goals.

Colin Wilson also notched a two-goal night, and Philipp Grubauer held steady with 28 saves.

This is Colorado's first series win since the 2007-08 season, and the Flames became the second first seed to be knocked out of these playoffs, as the Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week.

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