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Caps extend remarkable home dominance to 10 straight wins

Caps extend remarkable home dominance to 10 straight wins

Final score: Capitals 5, Hurricanes 0

How it happened: Alex Ovechkin and Brett Connolly both scored on Washington's first five shots of the game, giving the Caps the 2-0 first-period lead. After a scoreless second, the game went off the rails for the Hurricanes in the third period as Lars Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 27 seconds apart to make it 4-0. Marcus Johansson added the knockout punch about eight minutes later.

What it means: Washington has now won four straight games and 10 straight at home, five of them shutouts. The Caps are undefeated at Verizon Center in 2017 and have scored at leats five goals in nine straight at home. In that stretch, the Caps have outscored their opponents 50-12. Washington finished its season series with the Hurricanes with a 3-1-0 record.

Goals

Capitals goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Matt Niskanen and Nicklas Backstrom at 10:23 in the 1st. EDDIE Lack stopped Ovechkin’s first shot, but Backstrom fed the rebound back to the point for Niskanen who sent it back to Ovechkin. The shot was going wide, but hit off of Lack’s glove and into the net. Caps 1, Hurricanes 0

Capitals goal: Brett Connolly from Andre Burakovsky and John Carlson at 13:47 in the first. Connolly faked his initial shot which drew the defense out of position and bought him more room to work with. He used that room to fire the wrister into the net. Caps 2, Hurricanes 0

Capitals goal: Lars Eller from Nate Schmidt and Brett Connolly at 6:10 in the 3rd. Nothing complicated about this one. Eller entered the offensive zone on a three-on-two, wound up and ripped a slap shot past Lack. Caps 3, Hurricanes 0

Capitals goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Justin Williams and Marcus Johanson at 6:37 in the third. Johansson went in on net drawing Lack and the defense, then flicked a backhand pass to Kuznetsov who shot it in. Caps 4, Hurricanes 0

Capitals goal: Marcus Johansson from Matt Niskanen and Alex Ovechkin at 14:12 in the third. Ovechkin fired a shot from the office and the rebound went right to Johansson for the layup rebound. Caps 5, Hurricanes 0

3 stars

1. Braden Holtby: With the shutout, Braden Holtby is now tied for the NHL lead with seven on the season. As a team, the Caps have 10 which breaks a franchise record.

2. Alex Ovechkin: Not only did Ovechkin score the first goal of the game, but he was also strong on the forecheck, nearly scoring off a steal from behind the net. There were a few opportunities for the Great 8 to get an assist as well, with some great passes. He scores so much, it's easy to forget just how good of a passer he is.

3. Brett Connolly: Was there a better offseason signing in the entire NHL than Connolly? Based on what he cost to get and what was expected of him, I'm not sure any free agent has exceeded expectations more than Connolly this season.

Look ahead: The Caps host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday and the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday before the team leaves for its bye week.

Tell us what you think: It's time for the question no one wants to answer. With the ridiculous dominance this team is showing at the moment with 10 straight home wins with five shutouts and eight straight with five or more goals, is this the most dominant this team has looked ever?

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How the Caps are staying confident despite a serious shift in series momentum

How the Caps are staying confident despite a serious shift in series momentum

ARLINGTON – Things have not gone well for the Capitals the last few days. After taking a 2-0 series lead over the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington saw that lead evaporate with two losses in Raleigh as they were outscored 7-1 and lost T.J. Oshie to injury. But even as the series momentum has taken a serious shift in Carolina’s favor, the mood in Washington remains calm.

“You know it’s playoffs,” Jakub Vrana said. “You can’t ever get too low or too high. We’re going to try to manage as best we can in the situation that we are right now.”

The underlying calm and confidence the Caps feel comes from past experience. Having always been the team that came up short in the playoffs, now Washington is the defending Stanley Cup champion, and it is not as if their path to the Cup was without its challenges.

“We understand what we went through last year,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “This is part of the experience. We went through some difficult times last year whether it was injuries or suspensions or being down in series, whether it was 0-2 or 3-2 in different series and battling through some tough times. We managed as a group to come through it.”

The Caps went down 0-2 in the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets before rattling off four straight wins to advance. They lost three straight games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final and faced elimination in both Game 6 and Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. They responded with two perfect games, shutting out the Lightning in both. Washington lost Game 1 in three out of four playoff series in 2018 and trailed at some point in all four.

And yet, they still came out on top in the end.

Amid those struggles were a number of key losses on the roster. In the decisive Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps were without Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovksy and Tom Wilson. Backstrom and Burakovsky were out injured while Wilson was suspended. The team will need to lean on that experience now with Oshie out indefinitely.

“Obviously, that’s something that you never want to have is one of your top players going down,” Chandler Stephenson said, “But it shows that last year we had guys coming in and pulling their weight and doing a little more and it helped us a lot. It gave us a little extra spark and it’s just more opportunity for everyone and I think we’re ready for it. It’s obviously motivation in itself to do it for Osh now, too.”

This time, the team will be looking for a spark from Devante Smith-Pelly, a playoff hero from 2018 who was recalled from the Hershey Bears on Friday in response to Oshie’s injury.

“Yeah, it’s tough to not have Osh right now,” Vrana said. “He’s been a big part of this team but it is what it is and we’re going to try to fill the spot as best we can.”

Even Nic Dowd, in his first season with Washington, can feel the confidence in the room.

“That is why they make it best-of-seven,” Dowd said. “This is my first time doing this, but I've played in a lot of playoff hockey before this, American League, college, stuff like that. I think the confidence hasn't changed. I think we still are a calm team. Our guys are going to be ready. Like I said, it is the Stanley Cup playoffs. Every team that is left is a good team and every team wants to win."

While there are no such things as moral victories in professional sports, that does not mean good things cannot come from losses. The Caps have not played their best hockey in any of the four games in the series. Perhaps two losses in Carolina will provide the wake-up call Washington needs.

“Maybe that spurs us on to a different level of play because we need a different level of play from everybody,” Reirden said. “They pushed back and now it's our turn to return the favor when they come into our building. We worked hard and played hard all year to have this opportunity to have home ice in this round. Now it's our chance to see it through. It's something that we're going to need everybody and everybody's top game. Credit to them that they've played well, but I also know that there's another level our team can get to.”

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John Carlson's autograph the finishing touch to a Capitals fan's tattoo sleeve

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Leah Carey/Twitter

John Carlson's autograph the finishing touch to a Capitals fan's tattoo sleeve

It's been a long time in the making, but a local Washington fan finally put the finishing touches on his Capitals-themed tattoo sleeve on Thursday.

Maryland-based fan Leah Carey posted a picture of her father's tattooed arm on Twitter, showing off the finished product.

John Carlson is credited with the final assist, as his signature was the last thing Carey's father needed to complete the tattoo collection. He finally got the signaure when Carlson took the time to autograph his arm after a recent practice. Carey then got it tattooed the following day.

In addition to Carlson's autograph, the sleeve includes various Caps' logos over the years, including their Stanley Cup championship crest.

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