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Caps tie series at 2-2 behind Tom Wilson's heroics

Caps tie series at 2-2 behind Tom Wilson's heroics

Final score: Washington Capitals 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 4

How it happened: The Caps jumped out to another strong start with early goals from T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin. Zach Hyman responded 42 seconds after the Caps took a 2-0 lead, however, giving Washington fans a feeling of déjà vu from Game 3. Tom Wilson then made a game, and perhaps series saving play as he swept a trickling puck off the goal line and then sprinted to the offensive zone to deflect in a Lars Eller shot. In just a few seconds, Wilson had prevented the Leafs from tying the game at 2, then gave the Caps a 3-1 lead. He would add his second goal of the game just 2:23 later to give Washington a 4-1 lead. 

And that was just the first period.

Toronto pulled one back with a power play goal from James van Riemsdyk in the second period. The Caps killed off  1:57 of a 2-man advantage to hold on to the lead, but Auston Matthews would strike in the third to pull the Leafs within one. Oshie would score his second of the game to try to sald the game away, but Tyler Bozak would score with less than 30 seconds remaining to make the Caps sweat. Washington, however, would hold on for the win.

What it means: With the win, the Caps earned a 2-2 series split and regained home-ice advantage. The Caps are now just two wins away from winning the series and two of the remaining three games will be in Washington.

Goals

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie from Nicklas Backstrom and Nate Schmidt at 2:58 in the 1st period. A Schmidt shot hit off the boards and took a nice bounce towards the front of the cage where Backstrom was able to tip it to Oshie for the open net. Caps 1, Maple Leafs 0

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Kevin Shattenkirk at 4:34 in the 1st period. The Caps kicked the puck back to the blue line on the power play where Shattenkirk corralled it and fed Ovechkin for the one-timer from the top of the office. Caps 2, Maple Leafs 0

Maple Leafs goal: Zach Hyman from Jake Gardiner and William Nylander at 5:16 in the 2nd period. A falling Gardiner fired a shot from the blue line that was deflected in by Hyman just 42 seconds after Ovechkin’s goal. Caps 2, Maple Leafs 1

Caps goal: Tom Wilson from Lars Eller and Dmitry Orlov at 13:41 in the 2nd period. A shot from Morgan Rielly trickled past Braden Holtby but Wilson made the diving save with his stick before the puck could cross the line. Wilson then sprinted down the offensive zone trailing Eller. Eller wheeled around the net and fired a shot that Wilson deflected in for the goal. Caps 3, Maple Leafs 1

Caps goal: Tom Wilson from Andre Burakovsky and Brooks Orpik at 16:04 in the 2nd period. A simple pass along the boards from Orpik in the defensive zone trickled through the Leafs to spark a two-on-one with Burakovsky and Wilson. Burakovsky passed it off to Wilson who buried the goal. Caps 4, Maple Leafs 1

Maple Leafs goal: James van Riemsdyk (power play) from Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly at 5:39 in the 2nd period. The Leafs worked the perimeter on the power play and van Riemsdyk called his own number. The shot deflected off the stick of Dmitry Orlov and into the net. Caps 4, Maple Leafs 2

Maple Leafs goal: Auston Matthews from Connor Brown and Matt Hunwick at 12:00 in the 3rd period. Holtby shifted left to save an innocent looking shot, but it deflected and landed at the feet of Matthews on Holtby's right. That left the net wide open for Matthews to score. Caps 4, Maple Leafs 3

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie from Nicklas Backstrom at 12:59 in the 3rd period. Burakovsky took the puck into the offensive zone by himself and was swarmed by Leafs. But no one could corral the bouncing puck and the Caps forecheck took possession with Backstrom feeding Oshie all alone for the five-hole goal. Caps 5, Maple Leafs 3

Maple Leafs goal: Tyler Bozak from Williams Nylander and Mitch Marner at 19:33 in the 3rd period. Washington failed to clear the puck leading to added pressure fromt he Leafs. A shot by Marner deflected to the slot where Nylander tapped it to Bozak who netted the goal. Caps 5, Maple Leafs 4

3 Caps stars

1. Tom Wilson: Wilson had the game of his life in his hometown. Not only did his diving save prevent Toronto from tying the game at 2, he also scored twice. He has been the best player on the ice in both of Washington's wins this series.

2. T.J. Oshie: The top line was great on the forecheck and provided plenty of offense. Oshie himself tallied two goals.

3. Alex Ovechkin:  Ovechkin continued his nearly point-per-game playoff pace with a first period goal to put the Caps up 2-0. He registered five hits, was relentless on the forecheck and was always around the crease looking for deflections and rebounds.

Look ahead: The series heads back to Washington for Game 5 on Friday and then will head back to Toronto for Game 6. Should both teams split those games, Game 7 will be in Washington on Tuesday.

Watch the game? Tell us what you thought!

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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.  

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