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Caps go wild on Minnesota to snap four-game skid

Caps go wild on Minnesota to snap four-game skid

Final score: Washington Capitals 4, Minnesota Wild 2

How it happened: This one had all the makings of a goalie duel in the first period as Braden Holtby and Devan Dubnyk traded great save after great save. Nate Schmidt broke open the scoring with just 12 seconds left in the first period, however, and the Caps never looked back. Alex Ovechkin snapped his 10-game goal drought in the second period and Evgeny Kuznetsov added goal No. 3 just 2:16 later. Matt Dumba gave the Wild life with his goal less than a minute into the third period. Eric Staal scored four minutes later to pull Minnesota within one, but that would be as close as they would come as Jay Beagle put the exclamation point on the win.

What it means: The win snapped a four-game losing streak, the longest for the Caps since Barry Trotz’s first season in Washington. The Caps remain in first place of the Metropolitan Division with a two-point lead over Pittsburgh and three-point lead over Columbus, both of whom were idle Tuesday.

Goals

Caps goal: Nate Schmidt from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at 19:48 in the first period. Backstrom backhanded a pass from behind the net into the slot looking for Ovechkin. Ovechkin missed and the puck went to a waiting Schmidt who fired a quick shot at the net. The shot deflected off a defender past Dubnyk. Caps 1, Wild 0

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom at 14:52 in the second period. Backstrom backhanded a pass to the blue line which Carlson fed over to Ovechkin in the office. Ovechkin fired the shot into the net just after the power play expired. Caps 2, Wild 0

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov (power play) from John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom at 17:08 in the second period. Backstrom pulled up just as he entered into the zone which drew the nearest defenseman to him. That allowed Kuznetsov to split  the defense. Backstrom fed him the pass and Kuznetsov had an open lane on Dubnyk. Caps 3, Wild 0

Wild goal: Matt Dumba from Mikael Granlund at 0:37 in the third period. Ovechkin tried to corral a puck in the defensive zone, but accidentally sent to behind the net to Granlund. Granlund fed Dumba in front of the net who had room to deke around and over the outstretched pad of Holtby. Caps 3, Wild 1

Wild goal: Eric Staal (power play) from Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter at 4:37 in the third period. The Caps killed off the first penalty of a five-on-three power play for the Wild, but as Brett Connolly rushed into the play, Staal buried the rebound of a Zach Parise shot to pull Minnesota within one. Caps 3, Wild 2

Caps goal: Jay Beagle from Dmitry Orlov at 14:19 in the third period. Orlov retrieved the puck at the Caps' blue line on a soft dump-in by Minnesota who was looking for the line change. He fired the puck up to Beagle quickly to start the rush and Beagle snapped a beauty past Dubnyk. Caps 4, Wild 2

3 stars

1. Nicklas Backstrom: Backstrom had a hand in all three of the Caps' goals and each assist was a good one. This was his third three assist game of the season.

2. Braden Holtby: Dubnyk may well win the Vezina Trophy this year, but Holtby was the better netminder on the night. He was unbeatable for the first 40 minutes of the game. In the two goals he allowed, one came off a defensizve zone turnover and the other was at the tail end of a two-man advantage. Everything Holtby could save, he did.

3. Alex Ovechkin: Mired in the worst goal slump of his career, Ovechkin fired a goal from the office in the second period to snap a ten-game drought. It wasn't the best shot, but it was good enough to beat Dubnyk and put the Cpas in complete control of what had been a tight game.

Look ahead: The Caps host the Nashville Predators on Thursday and then head to Tampa Bay to play the wild card hopeful Lightning. They then return to Washington for a three-game home stand.

Tell us what you think: The losing streak is over and the Caps' beat the top team in the west to break it. Are you still concerned or did Tuesday's win allay your fears?

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On the move? Why moving up or down in the 1st round of the draft is a realistic possibility for the Caps

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On the move? Why moving up or down in the 1st round of the draft is a realistic possibility for the Caps

The NHL draft is fast approaching. The first round will take place on Friday and it could be a busy night for the Capitals.

Washington currently holds the 25th pick in the draft. It will be the highest pick this team has had since taking Ilya Samsonov 22nd overall in the 2015 draft. The question, however, is will they stay there?

The more you look at the team’s situation, the more a move in either direction looks like a realistic possibility for the Caps. Here’s why.

Why the Caps could move up

In most situations, an NHL team should pick the best player available. Since most NHL prospects, including most players taken in the first round, will take years to develop before they see NHL action, it does not generally make sense to draft for an immediate need. When teams become fixated on drafting a certain position, it can lead to those teams passing on elite talent at other positions.

For Washington, however, they no longer can afford to ignore the team’s need for a difference-maker at forward.

You have to go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time the Caps drafted a forward in the first round when they drafted Jakub Vrana. Since then, however, they have drafted a goalie, two defensemen and have traded out of the first round completely.

The dearth of forward talent among the team’s prospects is starting to catch up to it. In a year in which the Caps need forward depth but have very little money to fill it, an ideal solution would be to plug any holes on the bottom six with cheap prospects.

Without any top-end forwards in the system, however, that is not really an option.

Riley Barber (sixth-round pick) is an unrestricted free agent and said he does not see himself re-signing with Washington. Nathan Walker (third-round pick) is also a UFA and, though he sounded more open to re-signing with the Caps than Barber, there is no guarantee he does not leave in free agency. Shane Gersich (fifth-round pick) and Garrett Pilon (third-round pick) still look like they need another year in Hershey. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby (fifth-round pick) has a whopping 16 games of North American experience and it is hard to know what exactly to expect from him. Kody Clark (second-round pick) and Riley Sutter (third-round pick) still need time to develop.

This team needs a high-end forward prospect, if not for this year then for the near future. It needs that guy who can infuse a bit of youth and excitement, as well as skill, back into the lineup when he gets a call-up. We are not talking about the next Connor McDavid here, just a top-six forward to add to the system because right now it does not appear Washington really has any top-six forwards besides the guys already in the NHL.

That needs to change.

There is value to be found late in the first round of the draft—Marcus Johansson was taken 24th overall in 2009, Evgeny Kuznetsov was 26th overall in 2010 and Andre Burakovsky was 23rd overall in 2013 just to name a few—but waiting for a good forward to drop into their laps this year may not be the ideal strategy knowing they need to pick a forward in the first round.

Moving up the draft will ensure they can grab one of the top forwards available. If they move up high enough, perhaps they could even snap someone who could potentially be ready to help the team in the latter half of the season, though that is a lot to ask of a young forward.

The point is Washington cannot afford to go with the usual “best available” mentality and see who falls to 25. General manager Brian MacLellan will have to get proactive and move up to ensure he gets the best available player at the position of need. We may not be talking Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, but even moving up to the mid-round can dramatically affect the quality of prospects available.

Why the Caps could move down

Elliotte Friedman had an interesting note on the Caps in his latest 31 Thoughts column. He listed Washington among one of the most aggressive teams in trade talks saying generally of the NHL “we could see some frenetic attempts to move up and down.”

Friedman also wrote, “Other teams believe the Capitals are in total ‘go for it’ mode.”

When a team is in “go for It mode” and trying to win a Cup, the first-round draft pick can be useful trade bait to help bring in a significant piece and bolster the roster. Granted, Washington has very little cap room available so any trade would likely include sending salary with the pick which would, in turn, lower the value of return, but this team is just one year removed from winning the Cup. It is not as if they need to make a major addition to be a contender.

Trading away a first-round pick would be the exact opposite of addressing the team’s need for high-end prospect forward talent as written above, but it is hard to build a team for now and for the future. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Co. all in their 30s, it would be understandable why MacLellan would choose to go all-in on winning another Cup in the next few years.

Whether the Caps move up, down or stand pat, we will have all the latest analysis on NBC Sports Washington’s coverage of the draft starting at 8 p.m. on Friday.

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The Capitals were mentioned on Jeopardy! and of course we're proud of it

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The Capitals were mentioned on Jeopardy! and of course we're proud of it

The Stanley Cup no longer resides in Washington, and all eyes have shifted toward the offseason as the Capitals look to retool for next season. But, that doesn't mean we can't stop and appreciate the magical 2018 season now and again.

A week after reminiscing about the championship run and ensuing parade, the famous game show "Jeopardy!" gave us one more moment of glory on Monday night.

One of the clues featured in the latest episode had the Capitals as the answer and even featured Alexander Ovechkin.

It appears that one of the contestants did answer it correctly. More importantly, according to the replies, it was also cleared up that no one brought up the Pittsburgh Penguins during that round. 

While it may be somewhat hard to cope with the fact that the Capitals will not be enjoying another offseason of championship partying in 2019 we can take pride in the fact that the question was about the Caps winning the Stanley Cup, and not centered around a dreaded title drought.

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