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Johansson makes a triumphant return for Caps

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Johansson makes a triumphant return for Caps

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena:

How it happened: Marcus Johansson returned to the lineup with a bang, scoring one goal and assisting on two others as the Caps notched their fourth straight victory in Barry Trotz’s first win in Nashville as the Caps’ coach. Tom Wilson and Justin Williams picked up a goal and an assist and Jason Chimera and Alex Ovechkin also scored for the Caps, who withstood a furious third-period rally by the Preds.

What it means: The Caps improved their league-leading record to 39-9-4 to move 17 points ahead of the New York Rangers with one game in hand. The 39 wins are one more than the Caps had two years ago, when they missed the playoffs with a 38-30-13 record, resulting in the purging of head coach Adam Oates and general manager George McPhee.

Mojo rising: Thanks the return of Johansson the Caps’ third line was their best all night, recording three goals, three assists and five shots. Johansson used his speed to drive the net on the Caps’ first goal, allowing Wilson to find Chimera for a tap-in. Johansson then threaded a pass for a Wilson one-timer to give the Caps a 2-0 lead.

Ovi ends power-play drought: The Caps failed on two power plays before Alex Ovechkin snapped an 0-for-19 drought with a power play empty-netter with 1:23 remaining. Ovechkin was on the ice with a 4-3 lead and Pekka Rinne pulled for an extra attacker when he drew a tripping penalty. Trotz alertly sent two defensemen onto the ice for the man-advantage and the strategy paid off when Ovechkin came up with the puck and shot it into an empty net for his 31st goal, one behind league-leader Patrick Kane.

Forsberg: Former Caps first-round draft pick Filip Forsberg had a strong night with two goals on four shots.  He was also a minus-1 to fall to minus-7.    

If the season ended tonight …: The top-seeded Caps would face the eighth-seeded Penguins.

What’s ahead: The Caps were scheduled to leave for Minnesota following Tuesday night’s game, where they will practice on Wednesday in preparation for Thursday night’s game against the Wild, who have one win in their last 12 games. Defenseman Brooks Orpik, sidelined since Nov. 10 with a lower body injury, is expected to take part in the practice and could be cleared 

RELATED: Gretzky weighs in on whether Ovi can catch him

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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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