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Maple Leafs stun Capitals with overtime shocker to pull even in series

Maple Leafs stun Capitals with overtime shocker to pull even in series

Final score: Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Washington Capitals 3

How it happened: Washington got out to a much better start than in Game 1, but the result was similar as James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal of a penalty-filled first period to put the Caps down by 1. Washington responded with power play goals from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson in the second to take a 2-1 lead, but the plucky Leafs battled right back as Kasperi Kapanen and Morgan Rielly gave Toronto the 3-2 lead heading into the third. After a furious rally by Washington, Nicklas Backstrom finally netted the game-tying goal to force overtime, but Kasperi Kapanen scored the game-winner in double-overtime to tie the series at one.

What it means: The Maple Leafs earned the series split with Saturday’s win, taking away home ice advantage from the Caps as the series heads to Toronto. That sets up an all-important Game 3 on Monday as, per Elias Sports Bureau, 67.6-percent of teams that win Game 3 after splitting Games 1 and 2 go on to win the series.

Goals

Maple Leafs goal: James van Riemsdyk from Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner at 17:34 in the 1st period. Gardiner held the puck at the blue line, pulled off the gorgeous spin move to get away from Tom Wilson, tried to turn into the slot where he was met by Matt Niskanen who forced the puck loose. Jay Beagle could not corral it and van Riemsdyk swooped in and fired the quick shot for the goal. Caps 0, Maple Leafs 1

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin (power play) from Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie at 3:47 in the 2nd period. Based on the first period, it looked as if the Leafs’ penalty kill strategy was going to be to park a man right on Ovechkin. With the puck in the right corner, however, Zach Hyman left the Great 8 alone in the office. Big mistake. When Oshie finally found some room to work with, he found Ovechkin with the pass and Ovechkin did what he does from the office. Caps 1, Maple Leafs 1

Caps goal: John Carlson (power play) from Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky at 11:06 in the 2nd period. On the power play, Williams fed the puck back to the blue line and the penalty killers gave Carlson too much space. He brought it to the top of the face off circle and fired a slap shot into the net. Caps 2, Maple Leafs 1

Maple Leafs goal: Kasperi Kapanen from Matt Martin and Brian Boyle at 14:25 in the 2nd period. With the puck behind the Caps' net, Martin took the puck and tried to feed it to the front. It bounced off the skate of Daniel Winnik and no one could seem to corral it until Kapanen took it and backhanded a shot through the five-hole of Braden Holtby. Caps 2, Maple Leafs 2

Maple Leafs goal: Morgan Rielly (power play) from Mitch Marner at 19:46 in the 2nd period. Toronto went on the power play with just over 30 seconds remaining, but were allowed to set up in Washington's zone thanks to a lost faceoff by Beagle. The play itself was nothing special as Rielly skated along the blue line and fired a wrister that somehow avoided all traffic and hit the top corner past a screened Holtby. Caps 2, Maple Leafs 3

Caps goal: Nicklas Backstrom from Dmitry Orlov at 12:39 in the 3rd period. In a monster shift in which the Caps would simply not give up possession of the puck, they finally struck as an Orlov shot deflected right to Backstron who had an empty net yawning. Caps 3, Maple Leafs 3

Maple Leafs goal: Kasperi Kapanen from Matt Martin and Brian Boyle at 11:53 in the 2nd overtime. Caps 3, Maple Leafs 4

3 Caps stars  

1. Braden Holtby: Washington's steady Eddie. He almost always has a great game and boy did he come up with some big saves on Saturday including a clutch save on Hyman with three minutes left to go in the third period in a tie game off a bad turnover from Niskanen and multiple incredible overtime saves.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: When the Caps needed a goal, Backstrom was there. He was at the right place at the right time, but that's what Backstrom does. He also was an impressive 57.9-percent on the faceoff.

3. Alex Ovechkin: The Caps' captain did not have much of an impact on Thursday, but he definitely did in Game 2. It's important to make the opposition pay for their mistakes and Ovechkin did in the second when Zach Hyman left Ovechkin alone in the office on the power play. For the game, he registered a game-high nine shots on goal.

Look ahead: The series now heads north of the border to Toronto for Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 on Wednesday. They then return to Washington on Friday for Game 5.

Watch the game? Tell us what you thought!

MORE CAPITALS: Penalties the early story of Caps-Leafs Game 2

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Capitals hint at their plans for Shane Gersich next season with new contract

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals hint at their plans for Shane Gersich next season with new contract

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan began tackling the items on his very long to-do list with the signing of prospect forward Shane Gersich. The team announced Monday that Gersich was re-signed to a one-year, two-way contract that carries a cap hit of $700,000.

Gersich will remain a restricted free agent at the end of the deal but will still be one year away from becoming arbitration eligible.

Gersich, who will turn 23 in July, just finished his first full professional season with the Hershey Bears, recording eight goals and 16 assists in 66 games.

“I learned a ton,” Gersich told NBC Sports Washington about his first AHL season. “I think our staff here is unbelievable. They've taught me so much, whether it's [showing] me video or doing skills or whatever. Can't say enough good things about them. And just my overall game, playing 200 feet and being aware of little details in the game. I think my game's grown a ton.”

Gersich’s original contract was for two seasons, but the first year was burned at the end of the 2017-18 season when he signed out of college at the end of the season and joined the Caps’ roster.

That transition from Stanley Cup champion to AHL the following season was a tough one for Gersich initially.

“Obviously, you were making your NHL debut and stuff like that, then it's kind of back to work and square one,” Gersich said. “For me, I know [I'm] definitely not the kid that's going to shy away from working or anything like that. So obviously, you've got to earn everything you get, and then that's how it is at every level.”

The speedy forward played in five games for Washington, three in the regular season and two in the playoffs during the Stanley Cup run. His speed was evident and has led many fans to wonder if the future is now for the young forward. His first year in Hershey showed, however, he still has a lot to learn before he reaches the NHL.

Gersich is still very much learning the game at the professional level. There was a little too much reaction in his game as opposed to action, which mitigated his speed. That is something he knows he needs to refine.

“I think just always being aware out there,” he said when talking about aspects of his game he wants to improve on. “Keeping my head on a swivel and making little plays. Just using my strengths too, I think. I've got to realize that I can use my speed out there a lot.”

The Caps will have a few roster spots open next season and not much money under the cap to fill those spots. Using young prospects is always an intriguing option. Gersich’s new contract, however, seems to indicate the Caps anticipate him spending the season in the AHL.

Gersich’s new contract carries an NHL salary of $700,000, which is actually lower than his first contract with a $925,000 salary. His minor-league salary, however, went up from $70,000 to $115,000. It may look like Gerisch is getting a pay cut based on the NHL numbers, but he actually is getting a raise because, barring a dazzling training camp, he will be spending most if not all of next season in Hershey. And if he does surprise, well now he has a lower NHL cap hit which is very important for a Washington team that will likely be very close to the salary cap.

While the implications of the contract seem clear, Gersich is excited for the opportunity to show he belongs in the NHL at training camp in the fall.

“Obviously, I want to play in the NHL,” he said. “It's been my goal my whole life, and that's the reason I left North Dakota. I think I'm ready for it, but you've got to wait and see until the time comes.”

The Caps also announced Monday the re-signing of forward Brian Pinho to a one-year, two-way contract. His contract carries a $700,000 NHL salary and a $100,000 AHL salary.

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In an offseason full of questions, Jonas Siegenthaler isn’t one of them

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In an offseason full of questions, Jonas Siegenthaler isn’t one of them

The Capitals will have a lot of roster spots open and not much money to fill them with this offseason. Adding a young, cheap defensive prospect to the NHL roster will certainly help and that appears to be the plan for Jonas Siegenthaler.

Siegenthaler’s first NHL season began with him in the AHL, but it finished with him playing on the top defensive pairing of the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The season did not get off to a great start for Siegenthaler as he became a cap casualty despite a strong training camp. Heading into the start of the NHL season, he looked poised to make the Caps roster.

“I came to camp here with the mindset to make the team and come to camp in good shape and everything,” Siegenthaler said at the team’s breakdown day.

The suspension to Tom Wilson and subsequent acquisition of Dmitrij Jaskin off waivers forced Washington to shuffle money to get under the salary cap. Siegenthaler, who was waiver exempt, was sent to the Hershey Bears as a result.

Siegenthaler would have to wait until Nov. 9 to finally make his NHL debut. He would go on to play 26 games his rookie season.

“I think a guy like Siegenthaler came up and played really well,” Lars Eller said.

““I tried to play my best game,” Siegenthaler said. “Of course it wasn’t always easy but I think like I did my best and tried to help the team.”

With a deep blue line, Siegenthaler was sent back to Hershey in February, but was recalled late in the season after Michal Kempny suffered a season-ending injury. The call-up, however, was just to have an extra body. As Todd Reirden experimented with the defensive pairs heading into the playoffs, it did not appear he viewed the rookie defenseman as a real option for the playoffs. Despite all the shuffling, Siegenthaler did not get into the lineup until the season finale after Washington had already wrapped up the division crown.

The Caps struggled in the first round against the Carolina Hurricanes, however, prompting changes to the lineup. The defense still struggled with the constant in-game adjustments and a change was clearly needed. Siegenthaler got into the lineup for Game 4. By Game 5, he was playing in Kempny’s spot on the top pair alongside John Carlson.

“He really just seemed very poised,” Eller said. “There wasn't any panic in his game. It's hard to be thrown into a series like that where the stakes are high and I thought he did that really well.”

Still just 22 years old and with a contract that remains waiver exempt for another year, Siegenthaler could enter the 2019-20 season in a position to again have to compete just to make the NHL roster. The possible retirement of Brooks Orpik and speculation over whether Matt Niskanen could be traded, however, leaves the team with spots open on the blue line.

The fact that Siegenthaler was able to go from the AHL to the top pair of the Caps during the playoffs reflects his growth as a player over the course of the year. To expect him to come into next season in a top-pair role would be unfair. Even a top-four role seems unlikely with Kempny likely returning and Nick Jensen taking Niskanen’s spot if he does in fact get traded.

But if the coaches trusted Siegenthaler as a rookie when it mattered most and with him still on an entry-level deal at a time when the team will need to pinch every penny, Siegenthaler will almost certainly be in Washington and not in Hershey for the 2019-20 campaign.

“Next season’s going to be huge,” he said. “I’ll do my best in the summer to keep myself in shape, in even better shape. My goal is to be here a long time and for rest of my career and yeah, just got to work for it.”

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