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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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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

Down 4-1, the Capitals scored five goals in the third period for the incredible 6-4 comeback win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick pulling him in a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals.

Here is how the Caps won.

Ovechkin

Ovechkin was hot coming in with five goals in his past two games. He scored midway through the first period, getting a great pass in stride from Nicklas Backstrom to launch him behind the defense. Just as the defense closed in he fired a wrister past Semyon Varlamov to make it 1-0.

There is...pretty much nothing positive to say after that until the third period. There was a great 5-on-3 penalty kill, but it was essentially negated as they allowed a goal soon after. The Islanders built a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes and it looked all but over.

But after Carl Hagelin made it 4-2, Ovechkin pulled the Caps to within one, pulling the vintage back-to-front Ovechkin curl-and-drag before passing to the front where the puck deflected off the boot of Ryan Pulock and in.

After Jakub Vrana made it 5-4, Ovechkin added the empty-netter for the knockout punch.

With three goals, Ovechkin now has 34 on the season. He passed Mario Lemieux and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals. Incredibly, this is the first time in his career Ovechkin has three straight multi-goal games.

Motivation

Just what exactly lit the fire under the Caps butts for that third period will probably be a talking point after the game. Was it Devon Toews doing the bird celebration after he scored to make it 4-1? Was it pulling Braden Holtby and starting Ilya Samsonov in the third period? Was it something Todd Reirden or one of the players said?

Whatever it was, it was a different Caps team that took the ice for the third period.

Hagelin's turnaround

As great as Ovechkin's performance was -- and it was epic -- it might not happen without the Carl Hagelin's early third-period tally.

The comeback was sparked by Hagelin's goal that came less than three minutes into the final frame. A great pass by Richard Panik set Hagelin up on the doorstep and he hit it home.

That goal made it 4-2 and a two-goal deficit seems a lot less daunting than a three-goal one.

Shaky Varlamov

Once Ovechkin made it 4-3, you could smell the blood in the water. Washington had gotten to Varlamov and the flood gates were open.

Dmitry Orlov took the puck up to the top of the faceoff circle and fired a slap shot that Wilson managed to get a stick to and deflected it through Varlamov to tie the game.

About three minutes later, Vrana intercepted a pass and fired a quick shot to beat Varlamov far-side for the 5-4 lead.

Varlamov faced 10 shots in the third period and allowed four goals. The fifth came on an empty net.

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