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Carlson's big night power Caps past Lightning

Carlson's big night power Caps past Lightning

The Caps scored early and never looked back against the Tampa Bay Lightning on their way to the 4-0 win on Friday.

How it happened: It didn’t take very long for the Caps to get on the board. Hampered by a screen from Jay Beagle, Andrei Vasilevskiy went for the glove save on a slap shot from John Carlson, but the puck bounced off the glove and into the net just 55 seconds into the game. Carlson would strike again in the first period, scoring on a one-time set up by Marcus Johansson from behind the net. Alex Ovechkin added to the lead in the third period with a breakaway goal thanks to a phenomenal pass by Dmitry Orlov.

The exclamation point came in the third period as Marcus Johansson launched out of the penalty box and fired a wrister past Vasilevskiy to make it 4-0. At that point, the Lighting threw in the towel, pulling Vasilevskiy and replacing him with AHL callup Kristres Gudlevskis.

What it means: The win snaps a two-game skid for Washington and ties them with the idle Philadelphia Flyers for the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Washingotn is now 18-0-0 when scoring three or more goals this season.

Turning point: The Capitals were dominant both offensively and defensively in the first period. Not only did they score twice, they also limited the Lighting to only nine total shot attempts. Carlson finished the first period with as many goals as Tampa had shots on goal (two). That is the tied for the fewest shots the Caps have allowed in a period this season. They also held the St. Louis Blues to two shots in the first period on Nov. 23.

Making up for lost time: Carlson is one of the Caps' top offensive weapons on the blue line, but the points have been hard to come by this season. Heading into Friday's game, Carlson had only one goal. With his two goals against the Lightning, Carlson now leads the Caps defensemen in goals with three. Friday was the second multi-goal game of Carlson's career. The last time he managed two goals was Dec. 2, 2014 against the Vancouver Canucks.

You shall not pass: Though he wasn't tested early, Braden Holtby was strong in net for the Caps turning aside 23 shots in a shutout performance. It was his third shutout of the season, tying him for third in the NHL. That also ties Holtby's total for last season in what was a Vezina-winning campaign for the Caps netminder.

Milestones approaching: With two assists, Nicklas Backstrom now has 20 on the season and sits just three assists shy of 500 for his career. Ovechkin’s breakaway goal in the second period pulled him to within 10 points of 1,000 career points. The goal was his third in six games and 15th of the season.

A helping hand: Tom Wilson recorded an assist on the first goal of the game. That marks the first assist of the season for Wilson. Wilson’s first assist of the season. That is a bit off the pace he set in 2015-16 in which he recorded 16 assists.

Look ahead: In observance of the Christmas holiday, no NHL games will be played Dec. 24-26. The Caps will be back in action on Dec. 27 in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders.

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Russians lead the way in Caps' simulated win over Maple Leafs

Russians lead the way in Caps' simulated win over Maple Leafs

Alex Ovechkin scored twice, Ilya Kovalchuk provided another and Ilya Samsonov did the rest in net on Tuesday to lead the Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL 20 simulated game.

Result: Caps 3, Maple Leafs 2

1st period

1-0 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Evgeny Kuznetsov

1-1 Maple Leafs goal (power play): Zach Hyman from Denis Malgin

2nd period

2-1 Caps goal: Ilya Kovalchuk from Richard Panik and Nic Dowd

3rd period

3-1 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Tom Wilson and John Carlson

3-2 Maple Leafs goal: Auston Matthews from Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman


How the Caps won

1. Ovechkin is back

Alex Ovechkin did not score in any of the first three games since NBC Sports Washington began broadcasting the NHL 20 simulations beginning on March 24. He finally broke through with a goal Monday against the Buffalo Sabres and the flood gates were open. He scored twice on Tuesday giving him three goals in two games.

Evgeny Kuznetsov cut off a breakout pass from Jake Muzzin and set up Ovechkin on the backdoor for Washington's first goal. In the third period, Kuznetsov won a puck battle and the Caps pulled off a nice passing play from Carlson to Wilson to Ovechkin for the one-timer. That goal proved to be the game-winner.

2. Kovalchuk breaks the tie

The Caps and Maple Leafs battled to a 1-1 tie through the first period.  Kovalchuk made sure the game would not be tied again in the second with a heads-up play to the net.

Locked in a board battle in the corner of the offensive zone, the puck was kicked back to Panik near the blue line. For some reason, Kovalchuk was the only player in the corner who wasn't caught watching the puck. He made a quick cut to the middle out of the scrum and Panik returned the puck back to him. Kovalchuk had a step on defenseman Martin Marincin and beat goalie Frederik Andersen glove-side.

3. Ilya Samsonov

Washington was the better team in this game, but Toronto is a skilled enough team that they can strike quickly if there is no cushion on the scoreboard. The last several simulated games have been blowout wins for Washington, but this one was not. The Caps needed every last save from Samsonov and he delivered with an outstanding performance.

Next game

The Caps were scheduled to play the Minnesota Wild at home on Thursday. The game will be simulated with NHL 20 on NBC Sports Washington at 7 p.m.

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Alex Ovechkin and his son Sergei team up for a Capitals simulation game

Alex Ovechkin and his son Sergei team up for a Capitals simulation game

The only thing better than watching Alex Ovechkin actually play hockey is watching him virtually play with his son Sergei.

During the NHL's hiatus, Ovechkin is keeping the family fun going, as this video from his wife's Instagram account shows him playing NHL 20 with his son Seregi on his lap. 

Ovi and Ovi Jr. are both dialed into the TV screen, which shows the Caps simulation game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

In fact, even as the camera pans to their faces, they both only take a quick glance before returning their focus to the action on the ice. 

With this duo manning the controls, the Caps no doubt secured a virtual win. 

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