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Ovechkin, Holtby-less Capitals can't keep pace with Panthers


Ovechkin, Holtby-less Capitals can't keep pace with Panthers

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers Tuesday night in their first game back since the NHL All-Star break:

How it happened: The Panthers scored on four of their first 13 shots against Philipp Grubauer, including a deflating bad-angle goal by Vincent Trocheck 21 seconds into the second period that made it 3-0. Jonathan Huberdeau scored two of the Panthers’ goals and picked up an assist on Aleksander Barkov’s power play goal to send the Panthers into the second intermission with a 4-0 lead. The Caps clawed back with quick-strike goals by Nicklas Backstrom (:34) and Andre Burakovsky (1:53) to start the third period, but Florida goaltender Al Montoya was strong down the stretch to earn the win. Panthers center Quinton Howden finished things off with an empty-netter with 1:53 to play.      

What it means: The defeat marked just the second time all season the Caps have lost back-to-back games. Since Wednesday night’s loss against Philadelphia was in overtime, they still have not lost back-to-back games in regulation. If the season ended today the Caps would face the eighth-seeded Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs.

Missing Ovi: With Alex Ovechkin serving a one-game suspension for missing Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game, the Caps went 1-for-8 on the power play. In the only other game Ovechkin missed this season on Oct. 13 against the San Jose Sharks (oversleeping) the Caps lost 5-0 and went 0-for-4 on the power play. So, overall, they have been outscored 9-2 and are 0-for-12 on the power play without Ovechkin this season.


Kuz-tastic: Evgeny Kuznetsov assisted on both Capitals goals and now has 14 points (2 goals, 12 assists) in his last seven games.

Quick change: After starting the game with Stan Galiev on the Caps’ top line, coach Barry Trotz abandoned that plan and went with Jason Chimera on his top unit. 

Chorney does not return: Caps defenseman Taylor Chorney left the game before the start of the third period with flu-like symptoms and did not return.

Whistle happy: In the first period, referees Justin St. Pierre and Eric Furlatt combined to call eight penalties, resulting in just 10:47 of 5-on-5 play.

How old is Jagr? Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr will turn 44 on Feb. 15. When he played his first NHL game on Oct. 7, 1990, eight Capitals players were not even born: Dmitry Orlov, Philipp Grubauer, Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, Stan Galiev, Andre Burakovsky, Nate Schmidt and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Marcus Johansson was one day old.

What’s next: The Caps will practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Wednesday and complete their extended five-game homestand (two of which have not been played) on Thursday night when the Islanders visit Verizon Center. They follow with a pair of weekend day games: Saturday against the Devils in Newark and Sunday against the Flyers in Chinatown. 

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals


John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.


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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson


Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.