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Ovechkin's game-winner takes down Islanders 3-2

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Ovechkin's game-winner takes down Islanders 3-2

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night at Verizon Center:

How it happened: Playing in his first game in eight days, Alex Ovechkin made his presence felt with a thundering game-winning slap shot with 2:40remaining in regulation. Ovechkin planted himself in the high slot and one-timed a Nicklas Backstrom feed that froze Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak for his 29th goal of the season. The Capitals carried a 2-1 lead into the third period on goals by T.J. Oshie and Andre Burakovsky, but the Islanders kept buzzing in the third period and tied the score on a goal by Josh Bailey with 5:38 gone. Bailey fought Dmitry Orlov for space in front of Braden Holtby and snapped Marek Zidlicky’s centering pass into the half-open net for his eighth goal of the season.

What it means: The Capitals are the only team in the NHL that has not lost back-to-back games in regulation this season. Their win opened up an 18-point lead on the Islanders. Braden Holtby was excellent in stopping 24 shots and benefitted by blocks from Karl Alzner and T.J. Oshie on a game-saving penalty kill.  

Bura-cuda: Andre Burakovsky picked up his ninth goal of the season and gave the Caps a 2-1 lead with 1:18 remaining in the second period. Dmitry Orlov started the play by breaking up a rush by Brock Nelson  and pushing the puck up the ice. Orlov worked a give-and-go with Jason Chimera, whose bad-angle shot squeaked through Jaro Halak, allowing Burakovsky to score on a one-handed backhand swipe at the puck. Burakovsky now has seven goals and six assists in his past 14 games and five goals in his past four games.

Nifty Nicky: Nicklas Backstrom’s first-period assist on T.J. Oshie’s 16th goal of the season was a thing of beauty. Backstrom entered the offensive zone with speed and hit the brakes on Nick Leddy, buying himself enough time to look off a covered Alex Ovechkin and drop a pass for a late-arriving Oshie, who blasted a one-timer past Jaroslav Halak. The assist was Backstrom’s 30th of the season and extended his points streak to five games. He has 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in his last 13 games.

Hickey on Wilson: Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey is not known for his physical play, but after getting helped off the ice after an illegal hit by Marcus Johansson on Jan. 7, he wanted someone on the Caps to pay and he chose Tom Wilson. Midway through the first period Hickey drove Wilson’s jaw into the boards, then crosschecked him in the face while Wilson was on the ice. Hickey was given an elbowing  minor but the Caps failed to convert.

Courage: In tribute to the men and women of the armed forces, Caps goaltender Braden Holtby wore a goalie mask with the word “Courage” etched along his chin line, replacing the word “Capitals.” Holtby went back to his old red, white and blue Capitals mask in the second period.

Watchful eyes: Six NHL teams were represented in the press box for the game: the Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers.

What’s next: The Caps are scheduled to practice at 11:30 at Kettler on Friday, followed by afternoon games against the Devils on Saturday and Flyers on Sunday.

MORE CAPITALS: T.J. Oshie scores on beautiful pass by Nicklas Backstrom

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Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

The Florida Panthers played over half of Friday’s game with five defensemen after a hit from Alex Ovechkin ultimately knocked Mark Pysyk out of the game.

Early in the second period, Ovechkin attempted to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but it was swept away at the blue line back to Pysyk. Pysyk quickly chipped the puck away and then was on the receiving end of a hit from Ovechkin.

In real time, the hit did not appear to be a big one. It wasn't even the biggest hit Ovechkin delivered in the game, as in the third period he sent Aleksander Barkov flying with a shoulder hit. But Pysyk went down to the ice after the hit and left the game soon after.

After the game, Florida head coach Bob Boughner did not mince words.

“Pysyk got a high hit to the head,” he said.

When asked if he thought the league should review the hit, Boughner said, “I hope they do because if you see the replay, it's high. It's a head shot. And the league's trying to clamp down on that. Whether there's no call, I don't blame the refs. Maybe they missed it. That happens. But those are the kind of plays that need to be reviewed.”

Based on the replay, it is hard to determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Ovechkin does not launch himself, but does appear to take an upward trajectory into Pysyk. Still, it seems like a hard sell to say Ovechkin was targeting the head.

But the hit did send Pysyk out of the game, and in today’s NHL, when head hits are a big topic of conversation and when a player is injured on a play, the NHL has shown it takes those plays more seriously.

Pysyk returned to the game for one more shift after receiving the hit, but left the game after and did not return.

“Right now we're still getting him checked out, but we'll see more in the morning,” Boughner said.

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Three reasons the Capitals lost to the Panthers

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USA Today Sports

Three reasons the Capitals lost to the Panthers

Friday’s game had a little bit of everything. After spotting the Florida Panthers a 4-1 lead, the Capitals furiously battled back to tie the game at 4, then tied the game at 5 with just 1:25 remaining in regulation to earn an improbable point. The comeback ultimately fell short, however, as the Panthers earned the 6-5 shootout win.

Here are three reasons the Caps lost.

Bad puck management

A disastrous first period saw the Panthers score four goals and the biggest reason for that was the Caps’ puck management. They were sloppy with the puck leading to a number of costly turnovers, and Florida took advantage.

A good illustration of this game with Washington already trailing 2-1: Jakub Vrana made a lazy pass in the defensive zone that was easily intercepted by Jonathan Huberdeau, who forced a really nice save from Braden Holtby.

Whew, bullet dodged. Actually, not so fast.

Brett Connolly won the resulting faceoff, but Michal Kempny attempted a backhanded pass behind the net that was easily stolen away by Vincent Trocheck. Florida went tic-tac-toe with Trocheck to Huberdeau to Colton Sceviour who finished off the play for the goal.

No control in front of the net

Trocheck scored a rebound goal from the slot that bounced off of Lars Eller and into the net. Evgenii Dadonov scored from the slot on the power play. Sceviour scored from the high-slot after what was a generous pass from Huberdeau who looked like he could have scored from closer in…from the slot. Jared McCann pounced on a loose puck in the slot to beat a sprawling Holtby and Huberdeau scored off a rebound right in front of Holtby.

See a pattern?

The Panthers had complete control in front of the Caps’ net and all five of their goals came from in close.

Penalties

The Caps had a pretty good start to the game, but that was derailed by a Jakub Vrana penalty just 6:10 into the game. Evgeny Kuznetsov was called for hooking about 10 minutes later and Dadonov scored to put Florida up 2-1.

Despite the penalties and going down 4-1 in the first, the Caps battled back to a 4-4 tie in the second. Then the penalties popped up again.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad late in the period. It was a tough call as the puck as was at Ekblad’s feet, but Ovechkin made no attempt to play the loose puck at all and simply hit Ekblad, drawing an interference call. Less than a minute later, the Caps were called for too many men giving Florida 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with and Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal.

After three-straight goals, the Caps’ penalties completely derailed them and swept momentum back in the Panthers’ favor.

But wait, there’s more.

With the time ticking away on the too many men penalty, Kuznetsov was tossed out of the faceoff dot. He argued with the linesman and apparently argued a bit too hard because the linesman went to the referee and Kuznetsov was booked for unsportsmanlike conduct giving Florida another 10 seconds of 5-on-3.

Despite all of that, the Caps still managed to tie the game with just 1:25 remaining in the game. Matt Niskanen, however, took a penalty with just 23 seconds left. With a 4-on-3 power play to start overtime, 

Overall, Washington gave the Panthers seven power play opportunities including two 5-on-3s, gave up two goals on the man advantage and completely killed their own momentum.

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