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Caps put some distance between them and divisional foes in pivotal win

Caps put some distance between them and divisional foes in pivotal win

While the Caps established themselves as the top team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins have managed to keep pace with them leading to a three-team race for supremacy of the division. On Thursday, the Caps managed to give themselves a little breathing room.

Washington defeated Columbus 2-1 in a shootout. While it was not the "four-point" game the Caps perhaps had hoped, it still extended their lead over the Blue Jackets by a point.

The Ottawa Senators also did Washington a favor on Thursday by downing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ironically enough, the score of that game was also 2-1 in a shootout.

RELATED: Caps win goalie duel in shootout

While all three Metropolitan leaders did manage to get points on the night, Washingotn was the only one to get two, meaning they extended their lead over both teams by one. It also means neither Columbus or Pittsburgh registered a regulation or overtime win (ROW). ROW is the first tiebreaker in the standings which could prove critical in such a tight race.

After Thursday's games, here is what the top three of the Metropolitan looks like:

1. Washington: 48-17-8, 104 points, 46 ROW
2. Pittsburgh: 46-17-10, 102 points, 43 ROW
3. Columbus: 47-19-7, 101 points, 45 ROW

With eight games remaining, that's not much breathing room for the Caps. Considering, however, that Washington could have left Thursday tied for second in the division, they certainly will take Thursday's result.

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals are trying to get their game to an elite level

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Caps cut an additional nine players, but keep all four goalies in the midst of fierce competition for backup role

Caps cut an additional nine players, but keep all four goalies in the midst of fierce competition for backup role

The Capitals reassigned nine players from its roster to the Hershey Bears on Sunday, sending Kristofers Bindulis, Tobias Geisser, Connor Hobbs, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Brett Leason, Philippe Maillet, Bobby Nardella, Garrett Pilon and Joe Snively to its AHL affiliate.

Training camp for Hershey begins on Monday making Sunday a convenient time to update the roster.

The latest round of cuts contains no major surprises. Jonsson-Fjallby is likely the most NHL ready of the group, but after returning to Sweden he is not quite used to the North American game as he needs to be. After a disappointing showing in the Prospects Showcase and in training camp, he now finds himself headed to Hershey. He has committed to remaining in North America this season regardless of where he plays and given the Caps’ salary cap constraints and depth, he will likely spend most if not all of the 2019-20 season in the AHL.

Leason was a second-round draft pick by Washington in 2019 and scored a goal in Saturday’s preseason contest. As a 20-year-old, however, he is headed to Hershey instead of to a junior team.

The Caps elected to keep both rookie netminders Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov which will leave the Bears a bit shorthanded as camp opens. Both goalies are competing with Pheonix Copley for the backup role behind Braden Holtby this season.

The Caps are expected to make additional cuts prior to their preseason road trip beginning Wednesday in Chicago.

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3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

3 players who stood out in playoff rematch against the Hurricanes: Samsonov gets the full game and the win

WASHINGTON -- In a reversal of last season’s playoff, the Capitals dominant forecheck suffocated the Carolina Hurricanes for much of the game on Friday in a 3-2 preseason win. The game was the final preseason game in Washington as the Caps’ three remaining contests all will come on the road.

Here are three players who impressed in the home preseason finale.

Ilya Samsonov

Samsonov faced only 15 shots from a clearly outmatched Hurricanes roster, but he looked impressive in the few times he was tested. The save of the night came in the second period when he denied Julien Gauthier on a breakaway.

Gauthier attempted the old Peter Forsberg move and skated to his right while trying to craftily tuck the puck in to the left. Samsonov slid with Gauthier, but stuck out his stick to deny the shot and make the tremendous save.

Samsonov continued to demonstrate his comfort playing the puck with his stick as he also denied a scoring opportunity with a well-timed poke check and was always quick to play the puck when it came behind the goal line.

One area in which he was not comfortable was the glove. There were multiple occasions in which he was able to get a glove on the puck, but was not able to catch it creating dangerous opportunities for Carolina’s offense.

The Hurricanes managed only seven shots on goal through the first two periods, but managed some more pressure in the third. The shutout bid was ended in the third when Brock McGinn followed up his own rebound to score Carolina’s first goal of the game. The second goal came on a fluky bounce off the backboards that Janne Kuokkanen was able to whack behind Samsonov before he could get a glove to it.

While Todd Reirden likely hoped Samsonov would be more tested than he was, he was up to the task with 13 saves.

Brian Pinho

The Caps recorded three goals on the night and Pinho had two of them.  In the first period, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby created a turnover on the forecheck. Feeling the pressure, Fredrik Claesson tried a hopeful clear that was cut off at the blue line by Pinho who skated in and tucked the puck through the 5-hole of goalie Anton Forsberg. He scored again in the third period on the power play when his shot deflected off of Jake Bean and took a favorable bounce up before dropping into the net.

Pinho led the Capitals with five points in three games at the 2019 Prospect Showcase, but at 24 years old, he would be expected to play well. He faced slightly better competition on Saturday and still was able to produce with two goals on the night.

Richard Panik

One of the newest Caps, Panik has looked extremely comfortable in both of his preseason games thus far. He was again strong on the penalty kill where he logged 1:35 of ice time. He also looked strong offensively.

Panik played very heavy below the goal line which suits the Caps’ offensive cycle the team likes to utilize. He also showed good vision as, in the third period, he was able to fight off a check and literally kicked the puck out to a wide-open Tavis Boyd in the slot.

With Panik and Carl Hagelin together, the Caps should have a much more formidable penalty kill this season.

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