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Caps force Game 7 vs. Rangers

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Caps force Game 7 vs. Rangers

Now do you believe?

Forty-eight hours after being kicked in their collective guts with a crushing overtime loss in New York, the Capitals bared their playoff souls Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.

And what did the sellout crowd at the Phone Booth see?

A team hell-bent on going the distance -- again.

Alex Ovechkin and Jason Chimera provided the offense and rookie Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots of 31 shots to liftthe Capitals to a 2-1 win over the Rangers and forcing a decisive Game 7 in New Yorks Madison Square Garden Saturday night.

In their history, the Rangers are 4-5 all-time in Game Sevens, but 4-0 at the Garden, including their Game 7 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Round 1.

The Capitals are 3-7 all-time in Game Sevens and 1-1 on the road, including a Game 7 overtime victory in Boston in Round 1.

The Capitals are looking to pull off what the Rangers accomplished in the first round, when they won the final two games of their series against Ottawa after falling behind three games to two.

The Rangers failed on 10 minutes of power play time in the game, including a four-minute man-advantage in the second period. But they managed to close within one goal when Marian Gaborik scored with 50.5 seconds remaining and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist pulled for an extra attacker.

After blowing a one-goal lead in the waning seconds of Game 5 in New York, there was much debate over how the Capitals would respond to their second elimination game of the playoffs.

The Capitals responded well by wining Game 7 in Boston and they roared out to a 2-0 lead in Game 6 against the Rangers.
Ovechkin, who in Game 5 failed to record a shot for just the second time in his playoff career, got things started just 88 seconds into the game when he rifled a blistering one-timer past Henrik Lundqvists catching glove.

The Rangers Anton Stralman put the Capitals on the power play by tripping Jason Chimera just 1:13 into the game. On the power play the Capitals moved the puck quickly around the offensive zone, resulting in Nicklas Backstrom finding Ovechkin in the high slot for his team-high fifth goal of the playoffs and third of the series.

The team that has scored the first goal of the game has won every game in the series and the Capitals doubled their lead to 2-0 midway through the second period.

This time it was a shot by John Carlson that kicked off the skate of Backstrom right onto the blade of Jason Chimeras stick. The veteran left wing easily deposited the puck into the empty side of the net for his fourth goal of the post-season at the 10:59 mark.

It was the first two-goal lead by the Capitals in the series and just their second in the playoffs.

The Rangers had a golden opportunity to climb back in the game about a minute after Chimeras goal when Capitals center Jeff Halpern, who replaced injured center Jay Beagle, took a four-minute hick-sticking penalty on New York center John Mitchell, cutting him on the bridge of his nose.

The Rangers failed to mount much of an attack during the extended man-advantage and were actually outshot 2-1 by the Capitals, who failed to convert on a shorthanded blast by Mike Green.

Notes: Capitals checking line center Jay Beagle missed the game with an apparent left leg injury and was replaced in the lineup by little-used veteran Jeff Halpern. Beagle, who ranks fifth among Washington forward with an average of 18:25 of ice time in the playoffs, suffered the injury when he blocked a shot by Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman in the second period of Game 5 in New York. Halpern, who was a healthy scratch the previous 19 games, played on a fourth line with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin. The Capitals checking line consisted of Matt Hendricks, Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward. Entering Game 6, nine of the Rangers 12 playoff games had been decided by one goal. Eleven of the Capitals 12 games also were decided by one goal. The team that has scored the first goal in this series is undefeated. The Rangers entered Game 6 leading the NHL with 416 hits in the playoffs and had five players ranked in the top 15 Ryan Callahan (1st, 58), Michal Del Zotto (10th, 38), Brandon Prust (11th, 37), Dan Girardi (12th, 36) and Brian Boyle (15th, 35). The Capitals and Rangers entered Game 6 ranked first and second in blocked shots with 269 and 242, respectively. Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi (44) and Ryan McDonagh (35) ranked first and second, followed by Washingtons John Carlson (34).

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Ovechkin scores again, Capitals win fifth straight 4-3 over Buffalo

Ovechkin scores again, Capitals win fifth straight 4-3 over Buffalo

CAPITAL ONE ARENA — To hear Alex Ovechkin tell it, Saturday night was a rough one for him.

“I have pretty good chances, but today, it was not my day,” Ovechkin said. “You can't score every night."

You wonder if Ovechkin watched the contest he just played in. He scored a goal for the sixth game in a row in a 4-3 shootout win against the Buffalo Sabres. He had a game-high eight shots on goal. He set a new career-high point scoring streak (14 games). He had the goal that proved to be the winner in the shootout. He leads the NHL with 29 goals and no one else is even close. Things are going pretty well. 

“Such a threat, especially when he’s confident and he’s shooting the puck where he wants,” teammate Brett Connolly said. “[Ovechkin is] a bull out there, it seems like he keeps getting better and better every year. Such a hungriness to score goals. He’s having a hell of a season and it doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down. We’ve got to as a team really rally around that. When he’s playing that well you want to have guys really look at that and take it another level and fall in behind that.” 

Only five players age 33 or older have had a longer point streak than Ovechkin’s 14 games. His next goal will secure his 14th30-goal season. He has 23 points during this stretch (17 goals, six assists). You run out of superlatives. 

The same goes for his team. On the heels of a hat trick in Carolina on Friday, Ovechkin helped Washington to its fifth win in a row. The Capitals are 13-3 in their past 16 games and swept a back-to-back set with the Hurricanes and Sabres. Washington is 20-9-3 and with 43 points is six up on second place Columbus in the Metropolitan Division and seven ahead of third-place Pittsburgh. 

Things weren’t perfect on Saturday. The Sabres scored twice on the power play to make it 3-2 before Ovechkin tied it with a booming slap shot after a turnover at 13:46 of the second period. Pheonix Copley stopped 25 of 28 shots subbing for No. 1 goalie Braden Holtby, but the penalty kill continues to tank. 

Buffalo scored twice on the power play to take the lead and the first goal of the game by rising star Jack Eichel came exactly two minutes after a Michal Kempny penalty. You can count that as another if you’d like. Close as it gets. Considering Washington coach Todd Reirden put Chandler Stephenson back into the lineup Saturday because of his prowess on the PK, that’s a bad sign. 

So there are things to work on. But the Capitals are in a good position in the standings. Their stars are scoring. Their injury situation has improved somewhat with defenseman Brooks Orpik on the way by the end of the month. It’s only mid December and there are 50 games to go and things can change in a heartbeat and the playoffs seem forever away. But, for now anyway, life is good.      

“It wasn’t an easy night, but definitely we worked for those last two win,” Connolly said. “It’s a lot of fun right now. Everyone is having fun, everyone is positive and happy. It’s always so much better when you’re winning.” 


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4 reasons the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout

4 reasons the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout

Both Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals extended their streaks on Saturday in a 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres. Ovechkin's second period goal extended his point streak to 14 games, a career best, and Washington notched its fifth straight win.

Here are four reasons the Caps won.

A quick response

Similar to Friday’s game in Carolina, the Caps yielded the first goal very early into the game as Jack Eichel scored less than three minutes in. Just 58 seconds later, however, Brett Connolly erased the deficit with a goal set up by the hard work of Devante Smith-Pelly.

Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton went to retrieve a puck behind the net, but Smith-Pelly pressured him on the forecheck and stole it away. He passed it to Connolly in front and he had an easy layup with Hutton out of the net.

Alex Ovechkin

He did it again.

You would think at this point there was nothing more Ovechkin could do to wow us, but you would be wrong. Though he did not continue his hat trick streak, Ovechkin did in fact extend his point streak to a career-high 14 games with a second period strike that tied the game at three.

Orlov broke up a breakout by Buffalo in the offensive zone and Nicklas Backstrom uickly fired a beautiful pass through traffic to find a wheeling Ovechkin who had plenty of time and space for the wind up to beat Hutton.

Ovechkin now has 17 goals and six assists over the 14-game streak. His goal was his league-leading 29th of the season.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ovechkin also scored the game-winner in the shootout.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

All eyes are on Ovechkin and his point streak, but Kuznetov is putting together a nice little point streak of his own. With an assist on Jakub Vrana’s first period goal, Kuznetsov extended his point streak to eight games. He has one goal and nine assists in that stretch. Kuznetsov also scored in the shootout.

A horrible miss

With about a minute left in the game and the score tied at 3, Sam Reinhart had the game on his stick. Jeff Skinner skated in to a sharp angle and fired a shot up high on Copley. Copley stopped it, but couldn’t control it and the puck rebound fell to Reinhart in the slot with an empty net yawning. Reinhart tried to fire the bouncing puck into the net, but instead hit it off the post behind a helpless Copley. Vrana got his stick down in a desperate attempt to block the shot, but it looked like he did not get a piece of it, Reinhart just could not control the puck enough to hit it home and score what would have almost certainly been the game-winning goal.

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