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Preserving the shutout was the 'No. 1 priority' for Caps in win over Tampa

Preserving the shutout was the 'No. 1 priority' for Caps in win over Tampa

The tension was high in the final minutes of Friday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lighting. With just under a minute to play, Lightning forward Tanner Richard won a puck battle in the corner of the Capitals defensive zone and fed Victor Hedman at the point.

Jay Beagle went down to a knee for the block. Hedman faked and tried to step clear of Beagle before firing the wrister. Beagle stayed with him, however, and stuck the right leg out for the critical block to prevent the shot from going on net.

What was the score at that point? It was 4-0 Washington.

While the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt at that point, there was still plenty to play for as far as the Caps were concerned. They wanted to protect the shutout for Braden Holtby.

“I thought it was important to us, “ Barry Trotz said after the game.

RELATED: Carlson's big night power Caps past Lightning

“It's No. 1 priority,” Karl Alzner said. “When we see that we've got a comfortable lead on the scoreboard, we’ve got to lock it down and you saw a huge, huge block by Beags at the end there. That might not go as far outside of this dressing room, but inside it's really really big for us.”

At the start of the game, it looked like it was going to be an easy night for the Caps’ netminder as Washington allowed only two shots on goal in the first period. But the Lightning picked up the offense as the game went along, firing nine shots in the second period and 12 in the third.

Goalies can often find it difficult to stay loose and engaged in a game when they’re not tested, especially a netminder like Holtby who enjoys taking shots.

“Those are tough games when you've got nothing,” Trotz said. “In the first period, I didn't have them for any scoring chances. They really didn't have anything. And so, you're watching the other goaltender play and play and all of a sudden, a team like this is very dangerous.”

Holtby, however, found an interesting method to help him stay in the game, as he enjoyed the two early penalty kills the Caps faced in the first period.

“It's one of the things I've been trying to get better at so I get to feel more and more comfortable every time it happens,” Hotlby said.”It's always nice in those at least there's a couple kills, something that you're feeling like you're in the game. I just focus on every play instead of every shot to kind of get in the game that way.”

It seemed to work. As the Lightning raised their game, so did Holtby, easily turning aside each of the 23 shots he faced for his 26th career shutout. Holtby now has three for the season, already tying his total from last year’s Vezina-winning campaign.

But the shutout does not belong solely to Holtby. For a Capitals team that has struggled to play with a lead or put together a consistent 60-minute performance, maintaining the goose egg on the scoreboard was just as important for the team.

“We've let up a couple late ones in a couple games this year already so it's nice to button down the hatch when we need to and I think that's going to be big,” Carlson said. “We've lost a couple too many leads. It's something that we talked about and executed I think. In the second period they came out with a pretty good push, but in the third period when we really buttoned things down, I think we didn't give up much so it's a positive.”

“It’s big for us,” Alzner said.

Big enough for a player like Beagle to risk injury by stepping in front of a shot by Hedman to preserve a 4-0 lead with less than a minute to go in the game? You better believe it.

“We just wanted to make sure we preserved that,” Trotz said of the shutout. “I thought it was a good statement for a team [in the] last game before a break.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps celebrate Festivus with intermission festivities

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2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL


2018 NHL Draft: Caps add 7 prospects, 4 from WHL

The Caps made seven selections in the 2018 Draft this weekend. The group featured three defensemen, three forwards and a goalie. Interestingly, a couple of the picks have fathers who enjoyed lengthy NHL careers.

Meet the newest prospects:

1st round, 31st overall: D Alexander Alexeyev, WHL, 6'4", 196 pounds

The Caps' first first-round pick sine 2016, Alexeyev is a smart two-way defenseman with good size.

Read more on him here.

2nd round, 46th overall (from Florida, via New Jersey): D Martin Fehervary, Allsvenskan (Sweden), 6'2", 194 pounds

A physical style defenseman who is very strong in his own end, but does not have much offensive upside. Sort of a throwback style of play which makes him a surprise pick this high.

2nd round, 47th overall (From Colorado): F Kody Clark, OHL, 6'1", 179 pounds

Kody Clark boasts an NHL pedigree as the son of Wendel Clark, a first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs who recorded 330 goals and 564 career points in 763 NHL games.

3rd round, 93rd overall: F Riley Sutter, WHL, 6'3", 203 pounds

Riley Sutter also boasts a strong NHL pedigree as the son of Run Sutter and nephew of Darryl Sutter.

Riley is a power forward who played alongside Caps prospect Garrett Pilon on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and recorded 53 points in 68 games last season.

4th round, 124th overall: G Mitchell Gibson, NAHL, 6'1", 187 pounds

A Harvard commit, Gibson posted a 1.59 GAA and .935 save percentage in the NAHL last season.

6th round, 161st overall (from Vancouver): D Alex Kannok-Leipert, WHL, 5'11", 194 pounds

The Caps certainly saw something they liked in Kannok-Leipert as they traded up from 186 to get him. That pick, along with a sixth-round pick in 2019, went to Vancouver.

7th round, 217th overall: F Eric Florchuk, WHL, 6'2", 174 pounds

Florchuk was taken with the last pick of the draft.


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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson


GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”