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Caps score 6 unanswered goals to crush the Canes

Caps score 6 unanswered goals to crush the Canes

The Carolina Hurricanes struck first, but the Washington Capitals responded with six unanswered goals including two from Dmitry Orlov in a 6-1 win on Monday.

How it happened: Jordan Staal put Carolina up early with a power play goal, but it was all downhill from there for the Hurricanes. Dmitry Orlov took a slap shot that deflected off the stick of Staal and into the net to tie the game. The Caps were in the face of Carolina goalie Cam Ward the rest of the night and he struggled against the screen. A long-range wrister from Justin Williams found the back of the net thanks to a screen from Marcus Johansson and Orlov scored his second of the game in the second period with Lars Eller right in Ward's face. Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller all would tack onto the lead.

What it means: The Capitals extended their point streak to 14 games and earned their 12th win in 13 games. It is their first regulation win over Carolina in three games this season and improves their record within the Metropolitan Division to 9-5-5. The win also gives Washington a two-point lead over Columbus for the top of the division.

Hosting dads: The Caps just wrapped up their mentor’s trip, but there were still plenty of dads on hand as the Hurricanes brought theirs. This was the third time this season the Washington played host to another team’s dads’ trip. The other two teams were the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Caps are now 2-0-1 with the other team’s dads in attendance.

Rough start: Coming into Monday’s game, the Caps had scored first in 10 consecutive games, the last four of which came off the stick of Andre Burakovsky. That streak came to an end as Staal scored just 4:39 into the game. Washington responded nicely, however, as they led 2-1 at the end of the first period. When leading after the first, the Caps are now 21-2-3 this season.

Restoring power: Washington finished the game with one power play goal on two opportunities. The Caps have struggled on the power play for much of the season, but they seem to be turning things around. With Orlov's goal Monday, Washington now has at least one power play goal in five straight games and in eight of their last 11. The Caps have scored nine power play goals in the last eight games.

Hockey smile: If you play hockey long enough, you're bound to lose some teeth. Burakovsky nearly did on Monday. In the first period, Andre Burakovsky fell to the ice while skating with the puck. Defenseman Noah Hanifin tried to sweep check the puck, but his stick connected with the face of the falling Burakovsky. You can see the play here. He was later seen bleeding and handing a folded piece of gauze to the training staff so it was speculated that he had perhaps lost a tooth. He later told Al Koken that the grill was fine and he had just suffered a cut in the mouth.

Big guns: Washington's offense just keeps right on rolling. The Caps have now scored at least four goals in eight straight games. It is also the fourth time in the past six games Washington has scored at least six goals.

Until we meet again: Washington and Carolina will meet again on Tuesday, Feb. 7. That game will also be at Verizon Center.

Look ahead: The Caps have a quick turnaround with a game in Ottawa on Tuesday. They will then play the Devils in New Jersey on Thursday in the final game before the All-Star break.

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Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

Free Agency Bracket: Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

It is almost time for NHL free agency to begin and the Capitals certainly have needs to fill and a limited budget. Who would be the best fit? Who would be the best free agent target for Washington to pursue? That’s what NBC Sports Washington wants to find out!

Our experts got together and made a bracket of the 16 best free agent fits. The bracket is divided into four regions: Third line forward, fourth line forward, depth defenseman and Caps’ free agent. Now we want you to tell us who you want to see rocking the red next year!

Every weekday we will match two free agents up against one another and present a case for each player. Then you get to vote and decide who advances!

Check out today’s semifinal matchup:

Joonas Donskoi vs. Carl Gunnarsson

2018-19 stats

Joonas Donskoi (27 years old): 80 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points, 13:25 TOI

Playoffs: 12 games played for the San Jose Sharks, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 12:26 TOI

Carl Gunnarsson (32 years old): 25 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, 15:15 TOI

Playoffs: 19 games played with the St. Louis Blues, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 14:57 TOI, won Stanley Cup

Hockey-Graph contract projections 

Joonas Donskoi: 3 years, $2,847,521 cap hit

Carl Gunnarsson: 1 year, $731,159 cap hit

The case for Joonas Donskoi

Maybe Andre Burakovsky’s qualifying offer of $3.25 million means he’s back with the Capitals for another year. But it doesn’t preclude a trade and in Donskoi you’d have a similar option at a cheaper price, which matters if you only have $9.2 million in cap space left for now.

Donskoi made the offense better in San Jose in whatever role he was asked to play. He can go up and down the lineup and had a consistency to his game that Burakovsky at times lacks. Donskoi’s stats may not always reflect that, but making his teammates around him better is a valuable asset. Either way, depth scoring is important and a priority for the Capitals. 

Donskoi has every bit the Stanley Cup playoff experience as Burakovsky does if that matters to you. Donskoi has nine goals and 12 assists in 50 playoff games and Burakovsky has nine goals and nine assists in 56 playoff games. Not much to chose between the team except Donskoi would be cheaper if Washington decided to trade Burakovsky. 

The case for Carl Gunnarsson

The Caps will need a No. 6/7 defenseman after Brooks Orpik retired on Tuesday. Yes, they gave a qualifying offer to RFA defenseman Christian Djoos and they have Jonas Siegenthaler under contract, too. Both are natural left side defensemen. Going with the kids is an option. But both of them? That becomes problematic when someone gets hurt in your top two pairings and players have to bump up. 

Gunnarsson was the hero of the “Boston Pee Party” when he scored the overtime winner in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final after declaring to head coach Craig Berube at the urinal he just needed one more opportunity. Gunnarsson had just seven points in the regular season so no one should expect a ton of offense, but the point is he delivered when it mattered most.

When he is not playing the overtime hero, he is a third-pairing, stay at home defenseman who can play on the penalty kill which is pretty much exactly what the Caps need in a depth defenseman.

Take a look at Gunnarsson’s contract projection. You can’t beat that price. Sure, those projections came out before he won the Stanley Cup, but even if his price goes up, it will not be significant. You’re tinkering at the margins of the roster here and championship experience matters. 

Who’s your pick? Vote here:


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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

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Burakovsky receives qualifying offer from Capitals

The Capitals tendered qualifying offers to six of their seven restricted free agents at Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, including forward Andre Burakovsky. 

Burakovsky, 24, had been the subject of trade rumors up until the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25 and also in the days leading up to last week’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. Nothing came of them. Washington general manager Brian MacLellan made it clear that while teams were calling, he wasn’t about to just give away a 2013 first-round draft pick. 

“We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player,” MacLellan said last Thursday. “We'd like to keep him around but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him. But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back.”

But the Capitals are still in a salary cap crunch and that could still land Burakovsky elsewhere in the coming days. His qualifying offer is $3.25 million. Washington is only $9.235 million below the salary cap of $81.5 million. If Burakovsky signs, he would provide scoring depth. He has a career-high 17 goals and has scored 12 each of the past two seasons.

The Capitals do need to see more from Burakovsky. He has struggled with confidence and consistent production over the years. But if he returns, he would be a good option to replace the expected-to-depart Brett Connolly at right wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin. Connolly is an unrestricted free agent and likely out of Washington’s price range. 

By tendering a qualifying offer, the Capitals ensure that they will keep Burakovsky’s rights. If they had not then he’d be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team. That’s not a smart use of an asset that could still help in 2019-20. They could, of course, still trade him at any time. 

Meanwhile, forward Dmitry Jaskin was not tendered a qualifying offer. He is a free agent now. Jaskin never gained the trust of the coaching staff last season. He appeared in just 37 games despite analytics that showed he had a positive impact on the fourth line. Jaskin picked up on waivers from the St. Louis Blues in October, had two goals and four assists. He did not play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Winger Jakub Vrana also received a qualifying offer, but that’s not expected to matter much as the two sides try to put together a long-term contract extension after his breakthrough 24-goal season in his second NHL year. 

The Capitals did tender a qualifying offer to defenseman Christian Djoos. An ugly thigh injury that turned into compartment syndrome and limited him to 45 games. But with Brooks Orpik retiring on Tuesday, Washington could go with Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler as their No. 6/7 defensemen on their natural left sides. 

Fourth-line winger Chandler Stephenson also received his qualifying offer. AHL Hershey forward Colby Williams and goalie Vitek Vanacek also received qualifying offers from Washington.