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Caps' win streak clipped by Canadiens in narrow loss

Caps' win streak clipped by Canadiens in narrow loss

The Washington Capitals fell to the Montreal Canadiens in a narrow 2-1 loss on Saturday.

How it happened: Artturi Lehkonen got inside positioning on Matt Niskanen in the corner to take possession of the puck. Seeing a clear lane behind the net, Lehkkonen called his own number and caught Braden Holtby by surprise with the quick wraparound that went five-hole to put Montreal up 1-0. The Caps took advantage of a two-man advantage in the second period as Justin Williams found Nicklas Backstrom for the sharp angle shot on the wide open net, but Montreal responded just 2:23 later.

With Max Pacioretty driving into the Caps' zone, Karl Alzner called for Marcus Johansson to cover the trailing Jeff Petry, but Johansson lost his man and Petry was all alone in front of the net for the easy tip in.

What it means:  The loss snaps what was a six-game win streak and a seven-game point streak. The Caps are now 5-3-0 against Canadian teams this season and 7-2-1 against teams from the Atlantic Division. The loss is also the first regulation loss of Braden Holtby's career against Montreal. His career record coming into Saturday's game was 8-0-2.

RELATED: Sanford shows flashes in loss to Montreal

Turning point: The game was close for much of the game, but trailing 2-1 heading into the third period, Washington did not register a shot on goal until there was less than seven minutes remaining in the game. Washington put on a good push at the end of the period, but goalie Carey Price was up to the task. Had the Caps been able to generate that kind of pressure throughout the period, perhaps it would have had a different outcome.

Slow start: Saturday’s game was the third straight in which the Caps gave up the first goal. Starting strong was a focus of the Caps coming into the season and, for the most part, they have done well, scoring first in 20 of their 30 games so far. The difference in win percentage is significant. When scoring first, the Caps are 15-3-2. After Saturday's loss, Washington is 4-5-1 when yielding the first goal.

Weber scare: Montreal's workhorse defenseman, Shea Weber, left the game in the second period after taking a puck to the knee on a blocked shot. Weber played nearly half of the first period with 9:38 of ice time. Luckily for Montreal, he returned for the start of the third period.

Staying special: When you get a two-man advantage against Carey Price, considering how tough an opponent he is, you have to score. The Caps did just that in the second period. With the goal, Washington has now scored a power play goal in seven of its last eight games and has 14 power play goals in its last 15 games.

We're going streaking: Backstrom's second-period goal gives him six points in his last six games (2 goals, four assists) and 18 in his last 16 games (8 goals, 10 assists). Williams and Alex Ovechkin picked up assists on the play. The assist extends Williams' point streak to four games. He now has seven points (5 goals, 2 assists) in his last seven. Ovechkin, meanwhile, has four points in his last four games. He now sits just 11 points shy of 1,000.

Look ahead: The Capitals get a few days off before they return to action on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers who just saw their 10-game win streak snapped on Saturday. Washington then returns home to host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday in the last game before the NHL’s winter break.

MORE CAPS: Capitals Twitter trolls their own fans

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Capitals vs. Lightning Game 7 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, time, TV Channel, live stream

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 7 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, time, TV Channel, live stream

Game 7.

It's the best phrase in all of hockey, and on Wednesday, May 23, Game 7 of the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and Lightning will go down in Tampa, Fla.

The Capitals' path to Game 7 was less than ordinary. After racing to a 2-0 series lead with back-to-back road wins in Tampa, the Lightning responded with three straight wins, forcing the Capitals' to the brink of the 2017-18 season.

But in Game 6 on Tuesday night, the team put on their best performance of the season, blanking the Lightning and forcing Game 7 at Amalie Arena.

The winner of Game 7 advances to the Stanley Cup Final, where the Vegas Golden Nights await, having defeated the Winnipeg Jets to advance to the championship round in the team's inaugural season.

Game 7 Capitals at Lightning
Date: Wednesday, May 23
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Amalie Arena. Tampa, Fla.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 7 OF THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING SERIES?

Game 7 of the Capitals-Lightning 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final takes place on Wednesday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 7 OF THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 7 Capitals vs. Lightning
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 7?

Game 7 of the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and Lightning is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 7 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.