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Hot start turns into disastrous finish as Caps drop second at home to Penguins

Hot start turns into disastrous finish as Caps drop second at home to Penguins

Final score: Washington Capitals 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 6

How it happened: The Caps thoroughly domianted the first period in just about every category, but were unable to get a goal past Marc-Andre Fleury through the first 20 minutes. Matt Cullen opened the scoring with a shorthanded breakaway in the second period, but Matt Niskanen scored on the same penalty to tie it at 1. Then things went off the rails.

Sidney Crosby tallied two pretty assists to set up the Penguins' next two goals — one from Phil Kessel, another from Jake Guentzel — as they took a 3-1 lead after the second period. Philipp Grubauer came on in relief of Braden Holtby to start the third period, but it made little difference as Kessel scored his second of the night just 2:19 into the third. Nicklas Backstrom scored soon after to keep the Caps somewhat in the game, but Evgeni Malkin added another Pittsburgh tally to increase the lead to three again.

What it means: The Caps now find themselves in a massive hole after dropping both of their games in Washington. Not only are they down 2-0, the series now shifts to Pittsburgh for two games where they have not won a game all season. Teams that lose the first two games at home to start a series have an all-time record of 18-69.

Goals

Penguins goal: Matt Cullen (shorthanded) at 1:15 in the 2nd. Kevin Shattenkirk fired a shot from the point that was blocked by Cullen. The puck trickled to the neutral zone with both Shattenkirk and Cullen fighting for position. Cullen won that battle, chipping the puck past Shattenkirk for the breakaway. Despite getting hooked by Shattenkirk, Cullen was able to tuck the puck through the five-hole of Braden Holtby. Caps 0, Penguins 1

Caps goal: Matt Niskanen (power play) from Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin at 2:09 in the 2nd. The Caps entered the offensive zone and went to the corner where all four penalty killers followed. Niskanen saw a wide open net in front of him and snuck into the slot. Once Backstrom won the puck out of the corner, he passed back to Ovechkin who immediately passed to Niskanen for the wide-open one-timer. Caps 1, Penguins 1

Penguins goal: Phil Kessel from Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel at 13:04 in the 2nd. Guentzel made a neutral zone pass to a streaking Crosby that came in a bit behind him so Crosby used his stick to tap the puck between his own legs to gain possession. As the Caps collapsed on him, he passed to an open Kessel who roofed the shot past Holtby. Caps 1, Penguins 2

Penguins goal: Jake Guentzel from Sidney Crosby at 16:14 in the 2nd. A Justin Williams shot was blocked by Crosby who then dove to tap the puck to Guentzel for the breakout and the 2-on-1. Guentzel skated in and called his own number firing a wrister that beat Holtby cleanly. Caps 1, Penguins 3

Penguins goal: Phil Kessel (power play) from Justin Schultz and Evgeni Malkin at 2:19 in the 3rd. The Penguins cycled the puck on the power play until Kessel decided to fire a shot from the faceoff circle that snuck in underneath the pads of Grubauer and in. Caps 1, Penguins 4

Caps goal: Nicklas Backstrom from Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie at 3:44 in the 3rd. The Caps broke into the Penguins' zone on the odd-man rush. Ovechkin's initial shot was saved by Fleury, but Backstrom crashed the net for the open rebound. Caps 2, Penguins 4

Penguins goal: Evgeni Malkin from Phil Kessel and Ian Cole at 5:31 in the 3rd. A wrister from the point from Cole deflected took a couple of deflection before hitting off the stick of Malkin and into the net. It was originaly waved off for incidental contact with the goalie, but it was called a good goal for Malkin after a coach's challenge as the contact occurred well before the goal. Caps 2, Penguins 5

Penguins goal: Jake Guentzel (empty net) from Matt Cullen finished off the Caps with 43 seconds left.  Caps 2, Penguins 6

3 Caps stars

1. Nicklas Backstrom: Backstrom assisted Niskanen's goal for the quick response to make it 1-1. He then added a goal of his own to make the score 4-2 and at least give some hope that the Caps would be able to make a third period comeback.

2. Matt Niskanen: That was a heads up play by Niskanen to realize the penalty killersr were all in the corner. He was up very high in the offensive zone, but with no defenders in the same stratosphere as him, it was the right call and it lead to a goal.

3. Lars Eller: The third line was the Caps' best in the first period. Eller also won 10 of the 12 faceoffs he took for the game.

Look ahead: The series now shifts to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday. Game 5 will be in Washington on Saturday if it is necessary.

MORE CAPITALS: BRADEN HOLTBY BENCHED

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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

Down 4-1, the Capitals scored five goals in the third period for the incredible 6-4 comeback win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick pulling him in a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals.

Here is how the Caps won.

Ovechkin

Ovechkin was hot coming in with five goals in his past two games. He scored midway through the first period, getting a great pass in stride from Nicklas Backstrom to launch him behind the defense. Just as the defense closed in he fired a wrister past Semyon Varlamov to make it 1-0.

There is...pretty much nothing positive to say after that until the third period. There was a great 5-on-3 penalty kill, but it was essentially negated as they allowed a goal soon after. The Islanders built a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes and it looked all but over.

But after Carl Hagelin made it 4-2, Ovechkin pulled the Caps to within one, pulling the vintage back-to-front Ovechkin curl-and-drag before passing to the front where the puck deflected off the boot of Ryan Pulock and in.

After Jakub Vrana made it 5-4, Ovechkin added the empty-netter for the knockout punch.

With three goals, Ovechkin now has 34 on the season. He passed Mario Lemieux and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals. Incredibly, this is the first time in his career Ovechkin has three straight multi-goal games.

Motivation

Just what exactly lit the fire under the Caps butts for that third period will probably be a talking point after the game. Was it Devon Toews doing the bird celebration after he scored to make it 4-1? Was it pulling Braden Holtby and starting Ilya Samsonov in the third period? Was it something Todd Reirden or one of the players said?

Whatever it was, it was a different Caps team that took the ice for the third period.

Hagelin's turnaround

As great as Ovechkin's performance was -- and it was epic -- it might not happen without the Carl Hagelin's early third-period tally.

The comeback was sparked by Hagelin's goal that came less than three minutes into the final frame. A great pass by Richard Panik set Hagelin up on the doorstep and he hit it home.

That goal made it 4-2 and a two-goal deficit seems a lot less daunting than a three-goal one.

Shaky Varlamov

Once Ovechkin made it 4-3, you could smell the blood in the water. Washington had gotten to Varlamov and the flood gates were open.

Dmitry Orlov took the puck up to the top of the faceoff circle and fired a slap shot that Wilson managed to get a stick to and deflected it through Varlamov to tie the game.

About three minutes later, Vrana intercepted a pass and fired a quick shot to beat Varlamov far-side for the 5-4 lead.

Varlamov faced 10 shots in the third period and allowed four goals. The fifth came on an empty net.

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