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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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Do the Caps have the offense to win the Stanley Cup?

Do the Caps have the offense to win the Stanley Cup?

The bye week and the all-star break are upon us meaning we will have to wait until Jan. 27 for the Capitals to take the ice again for a game. With the season over halfway done and the Feb. 24 trade deadline rapidly approaching, the focus of the season now shifts towards the playoffs.

Washington has certainly done enough at this point to show they are a playoff team, but just how good are they? Are they a true contender or are they destined for an early exit?

Over the next few days, I will examine the team to answer if it is good enough on offense, defense and in net to win a Cup and, if not, what they must do to improve by April.

Today’s question: Do the Caps have the offense to win the Stanley Cup?

Team stats
3.55 goals per game (1st in the NHL)
20.3-percent power play (13th in the NHL)

Goal leaders
1. Alex Ovechkin 34
2. Jakub Vrana 22
3. T.J. Oshie 18

Assist leaders
1. John Carlson 47
2. Nicklas Backstrom 29
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov 26

Point leaders
1. John Carlson 60
2. Alex Ovechkin 50
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov 42

Just in case you forgot about Ovechkin, he just let everyone know that yes, he is still outrunning Father Time with eight goals in the past three games. He remains one of the top scorers in the league, that is beyond dispute and so is this team's the top-six.

Backstrom, Wilson, Vrana, Kuznetsov and Oshie round out one of the best top two lines in the NHL. There are only a few minor concerns with this group.

Vrana and Kuznetsov have proven to be streaky performers. When they are hot, they are among the top offensive players in the NHL. Vrana is actually tied with David Pastrnak for third in the NHL in even-strength goals with 21. He is as dangerous a goal-scorer as just about anyone in the league. And everyone knows how good Kuznetsov can be at his peak. Just look at the 2018 Cup run.

You just have to cross your fingers and hope Vrana and Kuznetsov don’t get cold in the postseason because when their production tapers off, it craters.

Moving on to the bottom-six, let’s start with the fourth line because it is easier. Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway is one of, if not the outright best fourth line in hockey. They are able to hem opponents into the offensive zone and allow very little in the way of scoring opportunities. If you put any credence into things like Corsi, Nic Dowd is the best on the team with a Corsi-For percentage of 57.22 while Leipsic is 54.04 and Hathaway is 54.43. In a nutshell, what that means is this line is generating a heck of a lot more offensive opportunities than it is allowing which is a huge asset to have for a fourth line.

What’s more, these guys are the kind of players you hate to play against. Hathaway and Leipsic both play with an edge and Leipsic has a fair amount of speed as well. They have to make sure they limit the penalties they take, but otherwise this line is a huge asset.

That brings us to the third line.

While the offense is starting to pick up slightly, overall the numbers have just not been there. Lars Eller is doing fine with 11 goals and 16 assists, but Richard Panik is having a tough first year with five goals and five assists while Carl Hagelin has only three goals and eight assists and that’s including the two goals he scored in the past week.

Even as the line continues to improve, I do not think at its peak it is going to prove to be as good offensively as once hoped.

The third line has definitely found a role as a shutdown line, however, which is how Reirden has been utilizing them of late, using them to shut-down one of the opposition’s top lines both to limit their offense and also to free up Ovechkin’s line by getting it away from that matchup.

That’s easier to do at home, now Reirden has to figure out just how to best utilize the third line one the road where it is tougher to get the matchups you want.

Overall, however, this line is trending in the right direction. The power play, however, is not.

Though it ranks 13th in the NHL, that percentage is being propped up by a good start. Since Dec. 1, the power play ranks 30th in the NHL at 14.1-percent. The offense has just been non-existent. The struggles have clearly gone to the head of the players because it becomes a comedy of errors on the ice every time the team gets the man advantage. Reirden has tried Vrana on the top unit in Kuznetsov’s spot, but that spot is not well suited for Vrana as he is a sniper and Kuznetsov plays primarily around the goal line where shots are hard to come by. Kuznetsov on the second unit is largely wasted as there is not enough scoring talent on that unit for him to set up.

The result is two power play units playing without confidence and not producing while also allowing far too many shorthanded goals.

The verdict: Yes, the Caps have the offense to win the Cup.

In terms of the personnel, it is hard to get better than what the Caps have. The top two lines are loaded with talent and the fourth line is the best at what it does. The offense is lacking on the third line, but Reirden has found a role for it in which it can still have a positive impact on the game and its offensive production seems to be improving.

The only real concern is the power play, not only because it is completely ineffective but because the team is pressing so hard it has allowed five shorthanded goals, tied for the most in the league. As bad as it is, however, I think this is a case of frustration making things worse. With the personnel this team has, there is no reason for it to be producing at only 14.1-percent. Once they string a few goals together, things will turn around. I don’t think it will be among the most potent in the NHL, but I do think this is a low point and a natural progression will occur.

After the power play, however, it is hard to find a more potent offense than the one assembled in Washington.

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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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