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Caps move one step closer to Presidents' Trophy with dominant win over Toronto

Caps move one step closer to Presidents' Trophy with dominant win over Toronto

Final score: Washington Capitals 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

How it happened: The Capitals dominated the opening frame, outshooting the Leafs 13-3 and outscoring them 1-0 thanks to a Lars Eller goal off a great cycle play by the third line. Kevin Shattenkirk scored his first goal as a Cap on a power play in the second period. Nate Schmidt added Tom Wilson added exclamation points in the third period. Mitch Marner ended the shutout bid late in the third.

What it means: The win is Washington’s ninth in their last 11 games. The Caps maintained a five-point lead over Pittsburgh for the top spot in the Metropolitan. They did not clinch the division or the Presidents’ Trophy, however, because of Pittsburgh’s win over Columbus. The magic number for Washington clinch is one.

Goals

Caps goal: Lars Eller from Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky at 14:34 in the 1st period. Burakovsky turned on the jets to beat out an icing call behind the net and tapped it along the boards to Eller. The cycle was on as Eller passed to Connolly who passed to Burakovsky who backhanded a pass that Eller one-timed into the back of the net. Caps 1, Maple Leafs 0

Caps goal: Kevin Shattenkirk (power play) from Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin at 10:00 in the 2nd period. The Caps gave the Leafs a different look on the power play with a lot of player movement. As Backstrom held the puck, Shattenkirk and Ovechkin switched positions with Shattenkirk heading to the circle and Ovechkin going to the point. That drew a penalty killer too high to Ovechkin, leaving an open lane for the cross-ice pass to Shattenkirk. From there, the goal was practically a layup. Caps 2, Maple Leafs 0

Caps goal: Nate Schmidt from Justin Williams and Brett Connolly at 8:11 in the 3rd period. An aggressive forecheck generated a turnover in the Leafs' zone. Williams pounced on it and gave it to Connolly. Connolly skated to the corner to draw the defense, then backhanded a pass to the high slot and a wide open Schmidt. Schmidt wristed the puck home. Caps 3, Leafs 0

Caps goal: Tom Wilson from Daniel Winnik and Jay Beagle at 16:46 in the 3rd. Winnik chipped the puck into the Leaf's zone as a dump-in, but Wilson caught the Leafs on a horrendous change and was in all by himself. He cut inside then slid the puck through the five-hole for the goal. Caps 4, Leafs 0

Leafs goal: Mitch Marner (power play) from James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak at 18:52 in the 3rd period. Van Riemsdyk pulled off a great pass through the legs to setup a wide open Marner for the easy goal. Caps 4, Leafs 1

3 stars

1. Lars Eller: How good did that goal feel? Eller scored his first non-empty net goal since Feb. 7 thanks to a great cycle play. He also drew two penalties on the night and was relentless on the forecheck. His effort level was fantastic all game long.

2. Alex Ovechkin: Columbus may have awoken something in Ovechkin in Sunday's game because he was a one-man wrecking ball to start this game. He finished with a team-high four hits on the night and also registered an assist on On Shattenkirk's goal.

3. Philipp Grubauer: Grubauer nearly earned his fourth shutout of the season turning aside 27 of the 28 shots he faced. The Leafs did not manage to get many pucks on net, but he was up to the task whenever they did.

Look ahead: The Caps return home on Wednesday to host the New York Rangers. They then wrap-up the regular season with another back-to-back on Saturday and starting in Boston and then ending in Washington against Florida.

Tell us what you think: After Tuesday's results, Washington and Toronto were slated at first round opponents for the playoffs. The standings are not yet final and bearing in mind that a postseason series is very different than Game 79 of the regular season, how do you think the Caps would fare in a seven-game series against the Leafs?

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Capitals vs. Lightning Game 7 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, time, TV Channel, live stream

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 7 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, time, TV Channel, live stream

Game 7.

It's the best phrase in all of hockey, and on Wednesday, May 23, Game 7 of the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and Lightning will go down in Tampa, Fla.

The Capitals' path to Game 7 was less than ordinary. After racing to a 2-0 series lead with back-to-back road wins in Tampa, the Lightning responded with three straight wins, forcing the Capitals' to the brink of the 2017-18 season.

But in Game 6 on Tuesday night, the team put on their best performance of the season, blanking the Lightning and forcing Game 7 at Amalie Arena.

The winner of Game 7 advances to the Stanley Cup Final, where the Vegas Golden Nights await, having defeated the Winnipeg Jets to advance to the championship round in the team's inaugural season.

Game 7 Capitals at Lightning
Date: Wednesday, May 23
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Amalie Arena. Tampa, Fla.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 7 OF THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING SERIES?

Game 7 of the Capitals-Lightning 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final takes place on Wednesday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 7 OF THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 7 Capitals vs. Lightning
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 7?

Game 7 of the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and Lightning is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 7 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.