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Oshie strikes Lightning three times to lead Caps over Tampa

Oshie strikes Lightning three times to lead Caps over Tampa

Final score: Washington Capitals 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 3

How it happened: Things got off to a good start for Washington as T.J. Oshie scored twice in the first 12 minutes of the game. That lead did not even last the period, however, as Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn both scored to tie the game at 2 before the end of the first. After a scoreless second period, Washington reasserted control as both Justin Williams and John Carlson struck in the third period. Kucherov pulled Tampa within one with 1:30 remaining, but Oshie salted away the win by completing the hat trick with an empty netter.

What it means: With the win, Washington is now the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth. The Caps maintained first place in the Metropolitan Division with a three-point lead over Pittsburgh and a two-point lead over Columbus, though both teams have a game in hand over Washington.

Goals

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie (power play) from Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson at 3:44 in the first period. The Caps pulled off one of their normal scoring plays on the power play, but with a twist. Backstrom passed to Johansson who was in front of the net instead of in his normal spot behind the red line. He then made the quick pass to Oshie in the slot for the goal. Caps 1, Lightning 0

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at 11:52 in the first period. Ovechkin broke out of the defensive zone on a 2-on-1 with Oshie. Ovechkin held the puck as long as he could drawing Victor Hedman over and then hit Oshie with the beautiful pass getting him his second goal of the game. Caps 2, Lightning 0

Lightning goal: Nikita Kucherov (power play) from Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point at 15:52 in the first. A pad save by Braden Holtby led to a battle for the puck in front. Kucherov snuck in towards the net away from the crowd. Eventually, Palat was able to tip the puck out to an open Kucherov who bried the shot. jCaps 2, Lightning 2

Lightning goal: Alex Killorn from Jonathan Drouin at 16:08 in the first. Drouin cut off a breakout attempt by Washington and passed to Killorn in the circle. Matt Niskanen went down a bit too early trying to block the shot allowing Killorn to curl around him and fire on net as he was falling to the ice. Caps 2, Lightning 2

Caps goal: Justin Williams from Matt Niskanen and Andre Burakovsky at 3:14 in the third period. The Caps' power play expired, but the team maintained possession of the puck to keep up the pressure. Burakovsky fed Niskanen at the blue line who one-timed a monster shot that Williams deflected into the back of the net. Caps 3, Lightning 2

Caps goal: John Carlson from Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie at 5:30 in the third period. With a delayed penalty coming against Tampa, Oshie chipped a puck into the slot. A charging Carlson whacked it out of the air and past Vasilevskiy. Caps 4, Lightning 2

Lightning goal: Nikita Kucherov from Brayden Point at 18:30 in the third period. A rare faceoff loss for Jay Beagle turned into a quick shot for Kucherov that beat Holtby. Caps 4, Lighting 3

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie (empty netter) from Nicklas Backstrom at 19:16 in the third period. Caps 5, Lightning 3

3 stars

1. T.J. Oshie: With three goals on the night, Oshie now leads the Caps in goals with 29 and that's despite missing 13 games on the season.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: Washington's top line was on fire and Backstrom was a major factor with four assists. It is his fourth game with three or more assists this season.

3. Nikita Kucherov: With so many offensive players out for the Lightning, someone had to step up. Kucherov did his part with two goals to keep Tampa in the game.

Look ahead: Washington returns to Verizon Center for the last home stand of the season as they host Calgary on Tuesday, Columbus on Thursday and Arizona on Saturday.

Tell us what you think: Andre Burakovsky returned to the lineup Saturday after a 15-game absence for a broken hand. After a few hiccups at the start of the game, he came on strong with some fantastic scoring opportunities. For the game, Burakovsky finished with seven shots on goal. How do you think he played in his first game back? How do you think the third line looked?

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Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

ilya_samsonov_scout_pruski.jpg
Scout Pruski

Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will Ilya Samsonov play in his first season in North America?

What else is there to say about Samsonov's time in the KHL? In the limited action he saw playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, he looked every bit the starting goalie the Caps hoped he would one day be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2015 draft. Now, finally, he is ready to start his North America career.

What makes the transition from Europe to North America difficult?

First, Samsonov is adjusting to a new country and a new language. Second, the workload in North America is much larger, even in practice.

"He probably saw more shots today than he saw in a month of practice in Russia and this was nothing," director of player development Steve Richmond said during development camp. "For me, that's the biggest thing for him is to learn how to practice in North America."

And then there's the rink size. The game is faster for goalies in North America because of the smaller rink. Scoring chances develop much more quickly and Samsonov will also be dealing with different angles. It also means dealing with a lot more traffic in front of the net. He is going to have to learn more how to track the puck through a screen and to react much more quickly.

I tried to watch Samsonov closely in development camp. His size definitely stood out. He takes up a lot of the net, but is still very athletic and very quick in and out of the butterfly. As big as he is, however, he seems to play very low to compensate for his size which leaves him vulnerable up high at times. He would make a handful of very good saves, then let in a soft one glove side or in the corners because he was playing too low.

Those areas of his game can be improved on with practice so long as you have the skill and Samsonov certainly has that.

Samsonov has been elite at every level he has played and there is no reason to think that won't continue in the AHL. Having said that, there is just too much he needs to adjust to expect him to be ready for the NHL at this point. He needs as much playing time as possible at the AHL level before he is ready. As long as that's where he spends the season, I expect him to put up similar numbers to the 2.31 GAA, .926 save percentage he managed last season in the KHL.

Other key Caps questions:

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Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

Oddsmakers give three Capitals the chance to win MVP in 2018-19

There are no signs of Alex Ovechkin slowing down heading into his first season after winning a Stanley Cup. Bovada just released their latest odds for the Hart Memorial Trophy (the NHL’s Most Valuable Player Award) and Ovechkin was tied with the third-best odds to win in all of the NHL at 10/1.

He was joined by two other Washington Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov both at 50/1 odds. 

Here are all the odds for the top 11 players:

Connor McDavid          10/3
Sidney Crosby              13/2
Auston Matthews        10/1
Alex Ovechkin               10/1
Jon Tavares                   10/1
Taylor Hall                     15/1
Nikita Kucherov            15/1
Nathan MacKinnon      15/1
Mark Scheifele              15/1
Anze Kopitar                  18/1
Evgeni Malkin                18/1

The only two players ahead of ‘The Great 8’ are the 21-year-old McDavid and dreaded rival Crosby.

Even with the immense amount of alcohol that has been consumed in the past two months, Ovechkin is still commanding respect in Vegas. It is hard not to when he turns around these intense offseason workouts. At 32, Ovechkin led the NHL in scoring with 49 goals a year ago, the seventh such time he has done so. 

Already the 2018 Conn Smythe winner has three MVP trophies to his name (one more than Crosby) and there is no telling what to expect now that the 11-time All-Star has a Stanley Cup title. 

In his 11 years in the league, Backstrom has never received any votes for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Kuznetsov only has done so once and that was in the 2015-16 season. 

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