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Caps snap losing streak behind Marcus Johansson's two goals

Caps snap losing streak behind Marcus Johansson's two goals

Marcus Johansson scored the game-tying and game-winner to lead the Caps to the 3-2 overtime win over the Buffalos Sabres on Monday.

How it happened: Zemgus Girgensons gave Buffalo the early lead thanks to a nice pace from Derek Grant. Rasmus Ristolainen swatted the puck out of the defensive zone to Grant who saw Girgensons turn on the jets on the far side. Grant found him with the one touch pass to launch him in on net. Girgensons finished the play with a nice forehand-backhand move to beat Braden Holtby.

The Caps pulled even in the second period on Jay Beagle's fifth goal of the season. Daniel Winnik kicked the puck out to Brooks Orpik who sent a pass right to the tape of Beagle in front of the net and he tipped the puck past the helpless Robin Lehner. The tie lasted exactly 10 minutes as William Carrier found Ryan O'Reilly all alone in the slot. It took three shots to get it past Holtby, but Kyle Okposo finally put it into the back of the net.

In the third period, the power play finally registered for the Caps as Marcus Johansson deflected a point shot from John Carlson to tie the game at 2. Johansson struck again in overtime with a blistering one-timer to finish off the game.

What it means: The win snaps a three-game losing streak for Washington as the Caps avoid their first four-game skid since January 2015. Washington is now 5-1-1 against the Atlantic Division this season.

Missed turning point: The turning point of the game came in the second period. With the score tied at one, a scrum broke out in front of the Caps' with the puck loose in the slot. The puck finally squirted past Holtby...and stopped right on the red line. Just 28 seconds later, Johan Larsson scored to give Buffalo the lead, but Barry Trotz challenged that the play was offside and won. The Caps were handed two lifelines in a matter of seconds, but it was not the momentum swing you would expect. Instead of taking advantage, Okposo scored the go-ahead goal 39 seconds later.

Slow start: At the start of the season, the Caps emphasized fast starts. In their first 20 games, they gave up the first goal only three times. With Girgensons' goal Monday, the Caps have now given up the first goal in each of their last four games..

Power on: Buffalo entered Monday's game with the 29th penalty kill in the NHL with only a 77.2-percent success rate. They also played without four of their regular defensemen as Taylor Fedun, Josh Gorges, Zach Bogosian and Dmitry Kulikov all were scratched due to injury. And yet, the Caps' power play still could not produce with two first period chances. Washington finally struck when it mattered, however, as Johansson scored the game-tying goal on the team's third power play of the night.

Breaking the law: Alex Ovechkin was whistled in the second period for slashing, his fifth minor penalty in three games. He leads the team with 11 on the season. Not what you want to see from your top offensive player and the team captain.

Look ahead: The Caps host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday before heading to Buffalo to face the Sabres yet again on Friday.

MORE CAPS: Jay Beagle ties it up for Caps against Sabres

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3 reasons the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks

3 reasons the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks

The Capitals got their Canadian road trip off to a good start with a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The stars came to play as Alex Ovechkin scored twice and added two assists while both John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom recorded three point nights to lead Washington.

Here are three reasons why they won the game.

John Carlson

Carlson was easily the best player on the ice for either team. He has shown tremendous offensive instincts this season and that was on display in the first period when he snuck behind the defense to receive a pass from Jakub Vrana and chipped the puck past goalie Anders Nilsson. You don’t usually see a defenseman as the first player in on an offensive play, but Carlson saw a lane and he took it to put Washington up 1-0.

The Caps’ blue liner also added two assists on the power play. This was Carlson’s fifth multi-point game and it is only the Caps’ eighth game of the season.

You can read more on Carlson’s big night here.

Evgeny Kuznetsov from the office

The Caps scored a power play goal in the second period from the office, but the shot came from the right faceoff circle, not from Ovechkin’s spot on the left.

So much of Washington’s power play is built around setting up Ovechkin on the left and that gives players like Kuznetsov a lot more room than they normally would have.

Ovechkin had the puck at the top of his office, but the Canucks had his shooting lane covered. Instead of shooting, Ovechkin fed it back to Carlson at the point. The penalty killers did not want to get drawn away from Ovechkin and just leave him over for the return pass, but that left Kuznetsov wide open in the opposite faceoff circle. Carlson fed him the puck and he did his best Ovechkin impression with the one-time goal.

Kuznetsov now has five goals on the season and all five have come on the power play.

A broken stick

Trying to slow down the NHL’s top power play is hard enough. When one penalty killer loses a stick, however, it becomes that much more difficult

Already up 3-2, the Caps got a third period power play after Troy Stecher was caught for tripping Dmitrij Jaskin. While on the power play, a shot by Carlson broke the stick of Markus Granlund.

You may not realize just how small a player becomes when he loses his stick. Most importantly for a power play, it means the penalty killer cannot stay in front of the puck to block a shot while also covering a passing lane with his stick. With no stick for Granlund, that gave Ovechkin and Carlson plenty of room to exchange passes. Carlson only had to wait for Ovechkin to get into position before setting him up for the one-timer from the office.

Ovechkin’s second goal of the night extended the Caps’ lead to two and shut the door on any possible Canucks comeback.

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It's early, but John Carlson is easily living up to his new contract

It's early, but John Carlson is easily living up to his new contract

Whenever a player has a career year in the last year of his contract, there is always some trepidation the next season. Was he really worth all those years or all that money that come with his new deal or did he just cash in on one great season?

John Carlson got the big contract and now is silencing all the doubters with his outstanding play.

Carlson scored his fifth goal of the season Monday as he chipped in a great feed from Jakub Vrana past Vancouver Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson (see above).

He later assisted on two more goals in the contest, giving him his fifth multi-point game of the year.

On the final year of his deal in 2017-18, Carlson was brilliant with 15 goals, 53 assists and 68 points, all of which were career highs.

It’s rare to see a bonafide No. 1 defenseman hit the open market, meaning there would have been plenty of teams lining up to pay him the big bucks. The Caps never let it get that far and they re-signed Carlson to an eight-year deal worth $64 million before free agency opened. His $8 million cap hit ties him for second among all defensemen.

That’s a whole lot of money to spend on a player whose previous career high was 55 points. Carlson would not have been the first player to regress in the first year after signing a big deal and he certainly would not be the last.

For now, however, he looks like he is worth every penny.

Carlson’s 68 points last season led all defensemen and he looks like he’s on pace to shatter those numbers. His goal Monday was his 11th point on the season. It took him 15 goals to reach that mark last season and 43 games to reach five goals.

Despite a career year, Carlson was not invited to the All-Star Game, he was not a finalist for the Norris Trophy and he was not named a first or second-team All-Star at season’s end. At his current rate of play, however, he will be impossible to ignore. 

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