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Sidney Crosby scores twice to lead Penguins to Game 1 win over Washington

Sidney Crosby scores twice to lead Penguins to Game 1 win over Washington

Final score: Washington Capitals 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 3

How it happened: Both teams looked pretty even to start as they felt one another out in a goalless first period. Things did not start well in the second. Caught too far up on the opening faceoff, the Caps gave up the first goal of the game to Sidney Crosby just 12 seconds in. Crosby would score his second of the game less than a minute later to make it 2-0 just 1:04 into the second. Washington was on its heels so they got physical. Dmitry Orlov crushed Tom Kuhnhackl and John Carlson leveled Evgeni Malkin and the team seemed to feed off of both hits leading to an Alex Ovechkin goal late in the period. Evgeny Kuznetsov tied that game at 2 in the third period, but Nick Bonino put Pittsburgh back on top for good just 4:31 later.

What it means: With the Game 1 loss, Washington yielded home-ice to the Penguins and now face what many will call a must-win Game 2 in Washington before the series shifts to Pittsburgh. This marks the first time this season the Caps have lost to the Penguins in regulation.


Penguins goal: Sidney Crosby from Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist at 0:12 in the 2nd period. Matt Niskanen pinched up the ice immediately on the faceoff to open the second period. A turnover in the neutral zone led to a 2-on-1 for Pittsburgh with Guentzel feeding Crosby for the one-timer. Caps 0, Penguins 1

Penguins goal: Sidney Crosby from Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist at 1:04 in the 2nd period. Maatta fired a slap shot from the blue line that Braden Holtby was unable to glove. Hornqvist was there for Pittsburgh to collect the rebound and feed to a charging Crosby for the goal. Caps 0, Penguins 2

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie at 18:17 in the 2nd period. A big hit from Dmitry Orlov on Kuhnhackl seemed to ignite the Caps as did a hit from John Carlson and Evgeni Malkin less than a minute later. Carlson’s hit dispossessed Malkin of the puck and Oshie carried it into the offensive zone and dropped it back for Eller. Eller tipped it to a nearby Ovechkin who was allowed to walk in to the top of the circle without being challenged. The result shot beat Marc-Andre Fleury to the top shelf. Caps 1, Penguins 2

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Matt Niskanen at 8:05 in the 3rd period. A prolonged offensive attack and the constant movement of the Caps allowed for Kuznetsovy eventually to get free. Niskanen corralled the puck and pulled off the cross-ice pass to Kuznetsov who was able to tap it in past a helpless Fleury. Caps 2, Penguins 2

Penguins goal: Nick Bonino from Scott Wilson and Ian Cole at 12:36 in the 3rd period. Justin Schultz held the puck behind the Penguins' net, passed to Cole who made a stretch pass to Wilson who was along the boards. Wilson went into the offensive zone drawing Kevin Shattenkirk then chipped the puck to the center for Bonino who was in alone on net. Caps 2, Penguins 3

Caps stars

1. Dmitry Orlov: Crosby's two goals took the wind right out of the Caps' sails and the team seemed to lack energy for most of the second as a result. That changed when Orlov knocked Kuhnhackl to the ice. The Penguins bench was upset as they felt the hit was high, but the point of contact was not the head and the referee did not deem it worthy of a penalty.

2. Alex Ovechkin: There were some frustrating moments in which Ovechkin was forced into traps along the boards and he took an early penalty, but Washington needed him the most and desperately needed a boost, he was there to give them the goal and put them on the board.

3. Evgeny Kuznetsov: Kuznetsov needs to be a factor in this series if the Caps hope to win and he was in Game 1. He registered 10 shot attempts, four shots on goal and scored the game-tying goal in the third. He did not score a single goal in last season's series against Pittsburgh.

Look ahead: The series remains in Washington for Game 2 on Saturday. It will then shift to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.

Watch the game? Tell us what you thought!

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Capitals could bring up Connor McMichael to be a 'black ace' for the playoffs

Capitals could bring up Connor McMichael to be a 'black ace' for the playoffs

When the Capitals head to their hub city to begin their quest for the Stanley Cup, they will bring a number of "black aces" in town.

Black aces are depth call-ups from the minor leagues who are used primarily as practice players throughout the postseason, but who can be available to dress in a game if the team needs. According to general manager Brian MacLellan, among the players he is considering as black aces this postseason is their 20119 first-round draft pick, Connor McMichael.

Bringing teams to hub cities to play the postseason is part of the NHL's return to play plan, but, in the interest of safety and risking fewer people to exposure to the coronavirus, the NHL said Monday it would limit teams to 50 people each. That's not just players, that includes coaches, PR staff, athletic trainers, equipment managers, etc.

In a video conference on Friday, MacLellan said the team had an initial list of the personnel to possibly bring to the playoffs and McMichael was on that list.

"We identified probably a little bit larger group than we're going to use," MacLellan said. "We got the roster number the other day of 28 plus unlimited goalies so we're in discussions now on how we want to use those extra players and what's the best way we can organizationally. We're talking about coaches about depth guys. We're talking about bringing in McMichael a little bit. So we have some decisions to make, but we still have some time to make those decisions and we'll make them when it's appropriate."


McMichael had a standout season with the London Knights in the OHL, scoring 47 goals and 55 assists in 52 games. That was after an impressive training camp with Washington just a few months after getting selected 25th overall.

Before you get too excited there are a few things to note. First, because McMichael was on the initial list does not mean he will make the final one. Fifty people is not a lot and hard choices are going to have to be made to widdle the list down. Also, being a black ace does not mean he will play in the playoffs. In fact, it is most likely that he will not.

Young players like McMichael are often brought in as black aces for the experience, so they can see how the veteran players practice and prepare in the playoffs and learn from them. It sounds like that is exactly what MacLellan is hoping McMichael can glean from the experience.

"I think it would be great learning experience for Connor," MacLellan said. "He seems to be a guy that can pick up things from good players, from watching them, being around them. The feedback from him last training camp was he was engaged, he learned a lot from [Nicklas Backstrom]. He learned a lot from our veteran players. I think it takes a big leap for his development, just to be in that environment, to see how guys work, to see how guys practice, off-ice workouts, nutrition stuff, see our main guys doing it on a daily basis in a competitive environment. I think it would be invaluable for him."

But while it may not be the plan going in for McMichael to play, having him on the roster means that there is at least a chance.

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The timeline for Capitals players to return to D.C. remains fluid according to GM Brian MacLellan

The timeline for Capitals players to return to D.C. remains fluid according to GM Brian MacLellan

While we may know what the NHL season will look like when it returns, we still do not know when that may actually happen. But with restrictions continually evolving and beginning to ease up in many cities across North America, it looks like the league could transition to Phase 2, voluntary activities at team facilities, possibly sometime in June.

Because of Phases 2 and Phase 3, training camps could be on the horizon, and we may start to see more players begin returning to Washington in the coming days. Just what the timeline may be for those transitions or for the players returning, however, remains very fluid.

"We have people that are in contact with certain officials within the government," general manager Brian MacLellan said in a video conference Friday. "Most of our conversation is with the NHL, the executives at the NHL. Some of our players - a lot of communication with trainers and team doctors. I think that's where our main focus or my main focus has been. We're trying to comply with what we believe are regulations that are continually evolving."

MacLellan added he was "Waiting on direction from the league but trying to be prepared for whatever day they open it up for us."


But even when the facilities open, that does not mean MacLellan is expecting everyone to be back anytime soon and acknowledged that the varying comfort levels of each player regarding the coronavirus would largely dictate who returns for Phase 2 activities.

"I think the level of comfort varies across the board, just like it would I think anybody else in society," MacLellan said. "Some players are very concerned. Some players, their comfort level's high and they're ready to go. The communication, a lot of it comes from trainers, team doctors, the PA communicates to players. There's a negotiation between the league and the PA on certain concerns players have. The player reps voice concerns of individual players. I think it's all over the map. I think our job is to listen to the experts, listen to the league, listen to the concerns of the PA and the players and try and create an environment that we can continue to move forward in."

MacLellan made clear the team would not force or pressure anyone to return for Phase 2. But after Phase 2 comes training camps. While Phase 2 may be optional, the training camps are not.

MacLellan said he wants the players to do what they are comfortable within Phase 2 and anticipates some will remain at their current location and time their workouts and two-week quarantine to be ready for the start of camp.

"European guys, guys coming from out of town, I think they'll filter in as we get closer to the July 10th, if that's the actual date for training camp, I think guys will try and time it where they work out at home, kind of schedule in their two-week quarantine and a little bit period to skate, and then go to training camp," MacLellan said. "I would assume that's the way they would approach it."

The current situation stands in stark contrast to the normally regimented schedule of the NHL and the offseason. There's no set return date for workouts, there's no set return date for training camps and there is no set return date for the playoffs. The world continues to grapple with a pandemic and MacLellan has to prepare the team to make a run at the Stanley Cup while also being cognizant of the players' health concerns and he has to do it all without knowing if or when the league will progress through each phase.

It's a confusing time.

MacLellan said the team was "Trying to do the best we can to prepare to open up the rink and to allow guys to work out, and I think most importantly, to allow guys to feel comfortable with the environment that we're creating, that they can come in and work out and are reasonably protected from being infected from the virus."

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