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Caps-Flyers could be a first-round playoff preview

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Caps-Flyers could be a first-round playoff preview

 PHILADELPHIA -- If the season ended today, even if it ended tomorrow, the top-seeded Capitals would play the eighth-seeded Flyers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I think the probability for us playing them is 48 percent. We were told that (Tuesday),” Capitals forward Jay Beagle said as the Caps prepared to face the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center (8 p.m., NBCSN). “So, it’s going to be a hard-fought playoff game. All year we talk about sending a message to our opponents and give them nothing.”

The Caps (54-16-5, 113 points) have won two of their three meetings against the Flyers (37-25-13, 87 points), who are tied with the ninth-seeded Detroit Red Wings in points but hold two games in hand. The Flyers are 11-3-2 in their last 16 games but they admit the Caps will be quite a test.

“It’s not one of the best teams in the league,” Flyers forward Jakub Voracek said of the Capitals, “it is the best team.  Everybody knows that. They play like it. We beat them on the road. There’s no reason we cannot beat them tonight. We’ve just got to make sure we do our things and focus on ourselves. We can beat any team.”

While not everyone agrees that a message can be sent by either team in tonight’s game, they all agree it should be an emotional and physical game. The Flyers rank sixth in the NHL in hits; the Caps rank 11th.

“I think if you go in there and leave a mark psychologically it could have a carryover if we started against them,” Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

Capitals center Mike Richards has been on the other side of a playoff series between the Caps and Flyers. He was a top-line center on the Flyers’ team that ousted the Caps in the first round of the 2008 playoffs on Joffrey Lupul’s overtime goal in Game 7.

“It’s a unique situation with us already having clinched and them battling, so you obviously want to throw your best effort out there and play the way you can,” Richards said. “You don’t want to be limping into the payoffs. You want to hit your stride.”
This will mark Richards’ first game in Philadelphia as a Capital and he says it carries no special meaning to him considering he was traded from Philadelphia five years ago in the deal that sent Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn to the Flyers.

“It will probably be a standard game,” he said. “We’re starting to play a little better and putting more focus on defensive hockey, which is what you need to win in the playoffs. I think everybody is excited to get that started, but we have to use the games we have left to our advantage.”

Alex Ovechkin, who has just two goals in his last 12 games, said he’s always enjoyed playing in Philadelphia. In 40 career games against the Flyers he has 30 goals and 17 assists.

“Tough building to play, obviously,” Ovechkin said. “Fans always support them. It’s a fun building. They’re in a tough situation, fighting for a playoff spot , and it’s good for us. It’s going to be a type pf playoff game.”

With Michael Neuvirth sidelined with a lower body injury, Flyers goaltender Steve Mason is expected to see make his 12th start in 13 games. He’s gone 7-2-2 in his last 11. The Flyers also signed goaltender Ray Emery to a professional tryout contract and could eventually give him a start instead of putting rookie Anthony Stolarz into his first NHL action in the midst of a playoff push.

“It’s a huge game for them,” Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “They’re playing for their playoff lives and that’s a good situation for us to help us get battle ready and get into that mode as well.”

RELATED: Lineup changes possible for Caps vs. Flyers 

  

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5 reasons the Capitals beat the Rangers in overtime

5 reasons the Capitals beat the Rangers in overtime

The Caps gave up a 2-1 and 3-2 lead, but ultimately came away victorious on Wednesday in a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers thanks to an overtime goal from Matt Niskanen.

Here are five reasons why the Caps won.

1. Djoos saves a goal

With the Caps already trailing 1-0 in the first period, they were about an inch away from going down by two. Luckily, Christian Djoos was there to make the save.

Yes, Djoos, not Braden Holtby.

A diving Jesper Fast got to a loose puck before any of the Caps defenders and beat Holtby with the shot. Djoos, however, was there to sweep the puck off the goal line and out, saving a goal.

That play turned out to be a two-goal swing as less than two minutes later, the Caps scored to tie the game at 1.

2. Carlson off the faceoff

The Caps emphasized the importance of the faceoff this week and worked on it specifically in practice on Tuesday. That practice turned out to be very prescient as Washington’s first goal of the night came right off the faceoff.

Nicklas Backstrom beat Ryan Spooner on the draw cleanly in the offensive zone, feeding the puck back to John Carlson. With the players all bunched up off the draw, Carlson benefitted from Brady Skjei standing right in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Carlson teed up the slap shot and beat Lundqvist who never saw the puck.

Of the five combined goals scored in the game, three were directly set up off a faceoff.

3. Hand-eye coordination

With the Caps on the power play, Fast tipped a pass meant for Carlson that looked like it was headed out of the offensive zone. Carlson reacted to the puck then stretched the stick and somehow managed to control the bouncing puck and keep it in the zone.

Fast charged Carlson at the blue line so he chipped the puck to Ovechkin in the office. Ovechkin managed to hit the puck just as it hit the ice and somehow beat Lundqvist with the shot.

Ovechkin was by the boards at the very edge of the circle. It was an amazing shot and it was set up by the great hustle play from Carlson. Both showed tremendous hand-eye coordination to control that puck.

4. Braden Holtby

Lundqvist entered this game with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage, but he was outplayed by his counterpart from Washington.

Holtby had himself a night. He was particularly strong down low with the pads as he made a number of key pad saves throughout the game, particularly in the second period when he recorded 17 saves including a shorthanded breakaway save on Kevin Hayes as time expired.

Of the three goals Holtby allowed, the first he made a great save on Chris Kreider who looked like he had an empty net to shoot at. Mike Zibanejad would score on the rebound. The second goal came as a shot deflected off Devante Smith-Pelly and went right to Jimmy Vesey for an easy tap-in. The third was a deflection goal from Kreider to redirect a shot that was going wide.

Can’t blame Holtby for those.

5. Working from the office

The Caps had three power play opportunities on the night. They scored on two of them and those two goals looked pretty darn similar.

There was the one described above in which a hustle play by Carlson at the point kept the puck alive and he fed to Ovechkin in the office. The second goal came with Carlson on the point feeding Ovechkin in the office.

Those two goals give Ovechkin 232 power play goals for his career, tying him with Dino Ciccarelli for ninth on the NHL’s all-time list.

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Capitals vs. Rangers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Rangers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Capitals (2-2-1) were dealt a herky-jerky schedule for the first month of the NHL season, already having logged two back-to-backs and two extended breaks.  But Washington finally gets a semblance of normalcy when they host the New York Rangers (2-4) on Wednesday night in the first of two home games before heading out west to end the month.

The Caps enter the Wednesday Night Hockey tilt with their longtime regional foes having dropped a thrilling weekend showdown against the Toronto Maple Leafs and their high-powered attack. The Rangers have long been a thorn in the side of the Capitals and fans alike. But the team that will hit the ice at Capital One Arena on Oct. 17 will be one that Capitals need to dispatch of with ease.

The team's first foray into defending a championship has been a wild ride with ceremonies, openers, rematches and a lot of time off. After dropping the first three games of the season, New York has won two of its last three,  with both games needing extra time.

Here is everything you need to know about Capitals vs. Rangers which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

CAPITALS vs. RANGERs HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers, Game 6 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals vs. Rangers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: Watch Capitals vs. Rangers on  the NBC Sports Washington live stream page and  the NBC Sports MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Capitals vs. Rangers on NBC Sports Network
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Braden Holtby, G. Capitals: Holtby has started four of the Capitals' first five games. He's allowed just two goals in the Capitals' two wins, but has given up 11 in the two losses. That being said, the Rangers do not have the caliber of fire-power possessed by the Penguins and Maple Leafs. Expect a big game from "The HoltBeast."

Mats Zuccarello, Rangers: The Rangers savvy veteran leads the team in assists (5) and points (50 through the first six games. While he's not the most dangerous threat on offense, he's the table setter and crafty elder statesman. 

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 273

All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead series 131–117–18–7

Regular Season Record: Capitals lead series 103–90–18–7

Playoff Record: Capitals lead series 28-27

Last Meeting: Capitals beat Rangers 3-2 OT (3/28/2018)

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