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Halpern makes 'difficult' return

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Halpern makes 'difficult' return

Jeff Halpern had become the forgotten Capital.

After playing in 62 of the teams first 63 games, he was a healthy scratch for 12 of the clubs final 15 games and had watched all 12 playoff games from Dale Hunters doghouse.

But when Jay Beagle showed up for Wednesday nights Game 6 limping badly with a leg injury, Hunter tapped Halpern on the shoulder and told the 36-year-old center to play on a fourth line with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin.

Its not easy, Halpern said after logging 10:23 of ice time in the Caps 2-1 win, which forces a Game 7 in New York Saturday night at 7:30. The most difficult part is not being in the game.

No matter what anyone says you dont feel part of the team. Mentally, youre trying to keep that game intensity somehow, whether its 3-on-3 games with the coaches or something.

Halpern said he asked his linemates to be patient with him as he tried to shake off the rust of not playing in 19 straight games and said he felt stronger as the game wore on. But midway through the second period Halpern clipped Rangers center John Mitchell on the bridge of his nose with a high stick and was sent to the box for four minutes.

It was another accident, Hunter said. He won big draws for us. Hes a veteran. Hes been through the wars of playoff hockey. I expected a strong game from him and thats what I got.

Halpern won seven of his 13 faceoffs but said he was disappointed in losing a draw in the final minute that allowed Marian Gabrik to score the goal that made it 2-1 with 51 seconds remaining.

I lost a big one, he said. You want to win all of them, especially when one ends up in the back of the net. You want to win those so that was disappointing for them to make it close.

With Beagles availability for Saturday uncertain, Halpern said hell keep himself ready for action in Game 7 if needed.

Hes been great, defenseman Karl Alzner said. Hes been working really hard waiting for that chance to get in and he played really well. He was great for us on the draws. He was a little nervous coming in but he did a great job.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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