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Shorthanded Capitals show signs of fatigue in road loss to Predators

Shorthanded Capitals show signs of fatigue in road loss to Predators

Final Score: Washington Capitals (41-13-7) fell to the Nashville Predators (30-22-9) 5-2 at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night.

How It Happened: The Capitals certainly showed the effects of fatigue playing just 22 hours after beating the Oilers Friday night at Verizon Center. Things started well with a Tom Wilson goal early in the first period, but things quickly went downhill. The short turnaround made the absences of two key defensive pieces, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, painfullly apparent as Washington surrendered three unanswered goals in the second. It looked as if captain Alex Ovechkin would start a comeback with a goal 4:03 into the final frame, but the tally was taken off the board after replay showed Washington was offsides. By the time Evgeni Kuznetsov scored with less than three minutes left, it was too little, too late.

What It Means: Any team, no matter how talented, is vulnerable on 22 hours of rest and without four key playmakers. The Capitals could have gotten coach Barry Trotz his 700th career victory against the team he coached for 15 seasons. Sure, it would have been poetic, but the realities of the NHL season intervened. The game won't say as much about this team as the way it bounces back, or doesn't, against the Rangers on Tuesday. 

Scoring Summary:

Capitals Goal: Wilson scored just 1:12 into the first period on a beautiful sequence from the Capitals' fourth line. Daniel Winnik dropped the puck back to Jay Beagle, who rifled a pass to Wilson waiting in front of the Predators' net. Washington took a 1-0 lead.

Predators Goal: Roman Josi found the back of the net 1:56 into the second period on a piece of trickery by Filip Forsberg, who faked like he was going for a slapshot, but actually found Josi across the ice to beat Philipp Grubauer to his right post. Nashville evened the score at 1-1.

Predators Goal: Forsberg netted a goal of his own 8:54 into the second period. Winnik turned the puck over, which allowed Ryan Ellis to find Forsberg for the one-timer. The goal gave the Predators a 2-1 advantage, their first of the night. 

Predators Goal: A few short minutes later, Nashville captain Mike Fisher gave his team a 3-1 lead 11:57 into the second. He scored on the power play after Ovechkin was sent to the box for holding. Fisher benefitted from a bit of deception by PK Subban, who faked a shot that was actually a pass to his captain in front of the net. 

Predators Goal: Josi again, this time right off a draw 12:07 into the final frame. The goal came immediately after a questionable holding call that sent Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov to the box for holding, giving Nashville its fifth power play of the evening. 

Capitals Goal: Kuznetsov scored an unassisted, top-shelf goal 17:03 into the third as Predators players appeared to get caught watching in front of their own net. Can't do that against an elite shooter like Kuzy.

Predators Goal: Viktor Arvidsson shot and scored on the Capitals' empty net with 51 seconds left in regulation. 5-2 and that's a wrap. 

Three Stars of the Game:

3 - Tom Wilson: Wilson scored his third goal in the last 16 games. He also required stitches after taking a skate the back of his head, but came back into the game in short order. In the third period, he mixed it up with Predators captain Fisher, who flung Wilson's helmet off and landed a couple blows. Willy certainly showed a lot of fight, but it wasn't enough in the end. 

2 - Filip Forsberg: This one is a dagger given the Capitals history with Forsberg, but he was brilliant on Saturday. His shot-fake set up Josi for the Predators' first goal, which Forsberg followed up with a tally of his own on a one-timer later in the second period. 

1 - Roman Josi: Four shots on goal, two of which slipped by Grubauer, and four blocked shots made Josi the man of the hour in Nashville. 

Looking Ahead: The Capitals' next game comes on Tuesday, Feb. 28 as they head to New York to take on the Rangers. 

MORE CAPITALS: Gretzky loves that Ovechkin 'wants to win a Stanley Cup'

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Russians lead the way in Caps' simulated win over Maple Leafs

Russians lead the way in Caps' simulated win over Maple Leafs

Alex Ovechkin scored twice, Ilya Kovalchuk provided another and Ilya Samsonov did the rest in net on Tuesday to lead the Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL 20 simulated game.

Result: Caps 3, Maple Leafs 2

1st period

1-0 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Evgeny Kuznetsov

1-1 Maple Leafs goal (power play): Zach Hyman from Denis Malgin

2nd period

2-1 Caps goal: Ilya Kovalchuk from Richard Panik and Nic Dowd

3rd period

3-1 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Tom Wilson and John Carlson

3-2 Maple Leafs goal: Auston Matthews from Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman

How the Caps won

1. Ovechkin is back

Alex Ovechkin did not score in any of the first three games since NBC Sports Washington began broadcasting the NHL 20 simulations beginning on March 24. He finally broke through with a goal Monday against the Buffalo Sabres and the flood gates were open. He scored twice on Tuesday giving him three goals in two games.

Evgeny Kuznetsov cut off a breakout pass from Jake Muzzin and set up Ovechkin on the backdoor for Washington's first goal. In the third period, Kuznetsov won a puck battle and the Caps pulled off a nice passing play from Carlson to Wilson to Ovechkin for the one-timer. That goal proved to be the game-winner.

2. Kovalchuk breaks the tie

The Caps and Maple Leafs battled to a 1-1 tie through the first period.  Kovalchuk made sure the game would not be tied again in the second with a heads-up play to the net.

Locked in a board battle in the corner of the offensive zone, the puck was kicked back to Panik near the blue line. For some reason, Kovalchuk was the only player in the corner who wasn't caught watching the puck. He made a quick cut to the middle out of the scrum and Panik returned the puck back to him. Kovalchuk had a step on defenseman Martin Marincin and beat goalie Frederik Andersen glove-side.

3. Ilya Samsonov

Washington was the better team in this game, but Toronto is a skilled enough team that they can strike quickly if there is no cushion on the scoreboard. The last several simulated games have been blowout wins for Washington, but this one was not. The Caps needed every last save from Samsonov and he delivered with an outstanding performance.

Next game

The Caps were scheduled to play the Minnesota Wild at home on Thursday. The game will be simulated with NHL 20 on NBC Sports Washington at 7 p.m.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


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Alex Ovechkin and his son Sergei team up for a Capitals simulation game

Alex Ovechkin and his son Sergei team up for a Capitals simulation game

The only thing better than watching Alex Ovechkin actually play hockey is watching him virtually play with his son Sergei.

During the NHL's hiatus, Ovechkin is keeping the family fun going, as this video from his wife's Instagram account shows him playing NHL 20 with his son Seregi on his lap. 

Ovi and Ovi Jr. are both dialed into the TV screen, which shows the Caps simulation game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

In fact, even as the camera pans to their faces, they both only take a quick glance before returning their focus to the action on the ice. 

With this duo manning the controls, the Caps no doubt secured a virtual win. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.