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Caps tie up series with Rangers 2-2

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Caps tie up series with Rangers 2-2

From the day he stepped behind the bench as Capitals coach Dale Hunter has established clear and defined roles for his players.

The scorers would score, the shot blockers would eat rubber and the goaltender would make the timely saves.

Of course, it doesnt always work that way in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but on Saturday it did.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green took care of the offense; Matt Hendricks, Jay Beagle, Joel Ward, Brooks Laich, Karl Alzner and John Carlson swarmed the Rangers shooters; and Braden Holtby stopped all seven shots he faced in the third period to lead the Capitals to a thrilling 3-2 win inside a rocking Verizon Center Saturday afternoon.

Greens power-play goal with 5:48 remaining in the third period stood up as the game winner, sending the best-of-seven series back to New York knotted at 2-2. Game 5 is slated for Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

Its one of those pivotal games that I think changes the whole look of the series, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. If they had gone up 3-1 it would have been extremely tough. It was as close to a must-win as you can get.

Greens goal came 27 seconds after Carl Hagelin took a slashing penalty on Capitals defenseman John Carlson. Hagelin took a chop at Carlsons stick and Carlson dropped it.

He slashed my stick and it broke, Carlson said. We made them pay with that one. It feels good.

On the man-advantage, Green took a cross-ice pass from Dennis Wideman and had plenty of time to wind up and fire a low shot from the top of the right circle past Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and through goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who said he was also screened on Backtsroms second-period goal

I didnt see the puck so I was pretty much just guessing where it was going, Lundqvist said. Its unfortunate, but I move on.

Greens goal was his second of the playoffs. He netted just three in the regular season.

Its good to know I can still score, said Green, who leaped into the glass as the sellout crowd rocked the Red. Its good to get the win, bottom line, whether it was me or someone else.

Holtby made the one-goal lead stand up and finished with 18 saves on 20 shots. He also benefitted from the Capitals blocking 26 shots, led by defenseman Jeff Schultz, who had nine.

There were a lot of red spiders in front of me, that was a good thing, Holtby said, noting last-minute blocks by Henderson and Ward. We read their plan of what they wanted to do and our forwards really executed.

With two days off after their triple overtime marathon in Game 3, both teams seemed to have plenty of jump in Game 4. The Capitals took a pair of one-goal leads in the first two periods, only to see the Rangers come back to tie each time.

While Ovechkin and Backstrom scored for the Capitals, Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik scored for the Rangers.

Lundqvist dominated the first 10 minutes of play, robbing Ovechkin of a goal with a nifty glove save. The Capitals strategy of shooting high on Lundqvist paid off later in the first period when a giveaway by Rangers rookie Chris Kreider gave Ovechkin a clear path to the net.

Ovechkin snapped a shot off Lundqvists left shoulder and into the top right corner of the net for his second goal of the series and fourth of the playoffs at the 12:43 mark. The goal was Ovechkins 29th career playoff goal, moving him within one of Peter Bondra for the most in Capitals history.

The Rangers answered 70 seconds into the second period when Anisimov, who was harshly reprimanded on the bench by coach John Tortorella in the first period, scored his second goal of the playoffs to tie the score.

Anisimov was left alone on the doorstep and when Dan Girardis shot kicked off the skates of Capitals center Brooks Laich, Anusimov was there to lift it over Holtby.

The Capitals again took a one-goal lead at the 11:54 mark when Backstrom shouldered Ansimov to the ice, then ripped a Jason Chimera pass high over Lundqvists right shoulder for his first goal of the series and second of the playoffs.

The Capitals looked like they might carry that 2-1 lead into the third period, but Anisimov beat Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman to the puck to wave off an icing, then fed the puck to Gaborik for a goal almost identical to the one he scored in triple overtime of Game 3.

The guy was calling icing, Holtby said. I had my hand up and I guess the linesman behind the play waved it off. It confused me and Wides on the play and they scored a goal.

With the win the Capitals are now 3-0 following overtime losses during the playoffs. Holtby has now gone 27 straight starts in the NHL including 11 in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs without suffering back-to-back setbacks. Holtby has gone 5-0 following a loss during these playoffs.

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5 things to know about the newest Capital Radko Gudas

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NBC Sports Washington

5 things to know about the newest Capital Radko Gudas

Most fans know little about Radko Gudas other than the fact that he has a reputation for being a dirty player. Here are some facts to help you get to know the newest Capital a little better.

1. Gudas has been suspended four times in his career

First the bad news. Gudas has a lengthy suspension history and is one hit away from getting a significant suspension from the Department of Player Safety. Here’s a look at all four of his suspensions:

Dec. 2, 2015: Check to the head of Mike Zibanejad, suspended two games

Oct. 10, 2016: Late check to the head of Austin Czarnik, suspended six games

Nov. 19, 2017: Slash to the head of Mathieu Perreault, suspended 10 games

Feb. 20, 2019: High-stick to the head of Nikita Kucherov, suspended two games

These plays are why Gudas has the reputation that he does.

Fans will want to compare Gudas with Tom Wilson, but really there is no comparison here. If you watch these plays from Gudas they certainly seem much more intentional than anything Wilson does.

The good news is that Gudas is working on playing a cleaner game.

“I worked on it in the summer and I thought I adjusted the game enough to still be able to play physical, just not be a liability out there for me team,” Gudas told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday. “It's always something hard to adjust, but we still have to do it. It's our job. If you don't hurt the team that you're playing for while doing it, that's where you can find (the line) as a player.”

This is not just lip service as Gudas’ penalty numbers have gone in each of the past three seasons, going from 116 in 2015-16 to 93, to 83 to 63 in 2018-19.

2. Gudas has had two fights against the Caps

Gudas has not been shy about dropping the gloves in his career and has done so twice against Washington.

The first instance came back on Nov. 11, 2014 while he was playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning. A scrum broke out after Eric Fehr barreled into goalie Ben Bishop and Gudas and Wilson became engaged leading to both players dropping the gloves.

The second fight came this past season. In a game between the Caps and Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 8, Gudas laid a big hit on Nic Dowd and Devante Smith-Pelly immediately came to his teammate’s defense. The fight was more of a tussle than anything else as neither player could get their hands free.

3. Gudas was voted as Philadelphia’s best defenseman in 2018-19

Now on to the good news. The Caps have actually gotten a good defenseman.

When it was announced that the Caps had traded Matt Niskanen for Gudas, the initial reaction was that Washington’s defense had gotten worse, but that was a necessary price to pay considering the team needed to clear cap space. That may not be the case.

Gudas had a very good 2018-19 season for the Flyers, so much so that he was given a team award as the most outstanding defenseman as voted on by sportswriters and broadcasters.

Did it help that pretty much everyone on Philadelphia’s blue line had a bad year? Yes, there is no denying that. Gudas is not the caliber player that he should be an NHL team’s best defenseman. But he is a lot better than most people give him credit for.

Make no mistake, this was not a simple salary dump by Washington. Brian MacLellan very shrewdly freed up some cap space by bringing in a defenseman who can play at a level that is just as good if not better than Niskanen can at this point.

4. Gudas has experience playing with Michal Kempny and Jakub Vrana

Gudas is from the Czech Republic and has some experience with some of his new Czech teammates. He and Kempny played on the U18 and 20 Czech teams together. Gudas and Vrana were teammates over the summer in the World Championships which Kempny could not participate in because he was injured.

“I played with a lot of the guys throughout the years that I play in the league, but with Michal, I used to play on the national team (with him),” Gudas said. “We're the same age. We played some important games together in youth. And with Jakub, I know him from the world national team a little bit now and I think we hit it off pretty well. Looking forward to work with them, too.”

5. Gudas is family with former Cap Michal Neuvirth

Neuvirth and girlfriend Karolina Gudasova had a baby girl in September 2017. As you can guess from Karolina’s last name, she is the sister of Radko thus making him the uncle to their girl, Emilka. Now Gudas is officially Neuvirth’s brother-in-law after Neuvirth and Karolina were married which led to hilariously random pictures like this.

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Free Agency Bracket: Brett Connolly vs. Brooks Orpik

Free Agency Bracket: Brett Connolly vs. Brooks Orpik

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 matchup:

Region: Capitals free agents

Brett Connolly vs. Brooks Orpik 

 

2018-19 stats 

Brett Connolly (27 years old): 81 games played with the Capitals, 22 goals, 24 assists, 46 points, 13:20 TOI

Playoffs: 7 games played with the Capitals, 2 goals, 0 assists, 4 points, 13:50 TOI

 

Brooks Orpik (38 years old): 53 games played with the Capitals, 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points, 15:40 TOI

Playoffs: 7 games played with the Capitals, 1 goal, 1 assist, 18:12 TOI

 

Hockey-Graph contract projections

Brett Connolly: 3 years, $3,536,091 cap hit

Brooks Orpik: 1 year, $1,150,064 cap hit

 

The case for Brett Connolly 

The Capitals have already re-signed one of their third-line free agents with Carl Hagelin’s new deal. Is there room left for Connolly? There is an argument to be made here. Connolly has made himself comfortable in Washington. He tied his career highs in goals twice (15) and then broke through with a career-best 22. And he is one of the league’s most productive players given his limited ice time. 

There are just too many big names in front of Connolly to get him much power-play time. Those 22 goals wouldn’t be easy to replace and GM Brian MacLellan said scoring depth is a concern this offseason. If he is again willing to sacrifice role for a bump in pay and some security then maybe Connolly returns to a place he re-ignited his career. The talent is certainly there as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft and Connolly is headed into his age-27 season so a three or four-year deal takes care of his prime years. 

It might be out of Washington’s hands anyway. Even if the Capitals want to keep him, other teams could use money AND ice time to entice Connolly. But can they strike gold again with another cheap third-line winger as they did with Connolly? That’s not easy to replicate. They could simply sign Connolly and take care of it, but the salary cap is tight.    

The case for Brooks Orpik

A leader, a winner, a three-time Stanley Cup champion. Hard to measure what Brooks Orpik has done for the Capitals in his five years with the team. Did the Capitals overpay an aging defenseman when they signed Orpik before the 2014-15 season? Maybe. But it worked out for everyone even after last summer’s buyout and subsequent return. Orpik contributed again last season – though a knee injury limited him and bothered him most of the season. He even scored a game-winning overtime goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Some of this will depend on what Orpik wants to do. He said it would be later in the summer before he makes a firm decision on whether to play at age 39. 

But while the Capitals have solidified their blueline with the trade for Radko Gudas and have two young players – Jonas Siegenthaler and Christian Djoos – available to play the left side, it’s always nice to have a veteran there. Orpik might not want to play a limited No. 6/7 role even if Washington wants him back. And maybe the Capitals want to give those young players ice time. But Orpik won’t cost much more than they do. Do you bring him back? 

Who’s your pick? Vote here. 

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