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Sunday showdown: Caps, Jackets clash with a lot on the line

Sunday showdown: Caps, Jackets clash with a lot on the line

On Sunday evening, the Caps will face the Blue Jackets in the most important game of the season for both teams.

Washington owns a four-point lead on Columbus in the race for the Metropolitan Division title.

With a win in regulation, Alex Ovechkin and Co. can gain some welcome separation with four games left to play. A Blue Jackets’ triumph in regulation, on the other hand, could make things much more interesting by cutting the Caps’ edge in half. Columbus will also have four games remaining after Sunday’s showdown at Nationwide Arena.

Finishing atop the Metro figures to ensure a more favorable path forward when the playoffs begin later this month.

If the playoffs began Sunday, the Capitals would open the first round on F Street against the Bruins, who are surging but have collected 20 fewer points. Columbus’ path, meanwhile, would begin against Sidney Crosby and the defending champion Penguins. A Blue Jackets-Penguins matchup would also send one of the Eastern Conference’s top three teams home after just one round.

“You should be happy you’re playing big games this time of year,” veteran winger Justin Williams said. “And Columbus is a big one.”

For the Caps, the trip to Columbus also represents a chance to rebound following one of their more disappointing performances of the season, a 6-3 loss to the Coyotes in the desert late Friday night.  

Making that defeat sting even more was the fact that the Caps missed out on a major opportunity. Prior to losing to the NHL’s 29th place team, the Blue Jackets had fallen to the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks in Chicago.

“What’s more disappointing,” winger Daniel Winnik said, “is you do some scoreboard watching and you see [the Blue Jackets] lose to Chicago. So it really would have put us in a better position going into Sunday’s game.”

Coach Barry Trotz added:  “We’ve been working all year to try to get some separation, and we had an opportunity and we let it slip away.”

The Caps took Saturday off as they made their way to Columbus for the fourth leg of a five-game road trip.

So far, Washington is 2-1-0 on the trip, having earned victories in Minnesota (in overtime) and Colorado before losing to the Coyotes. In those three games, the normally stingy Caps have allowed a total of 13 goals.  

Overall, they are 7-1-1 in their last nine games. After Columbus, the schedule wraps up with games at the Maple Leafs, vs. the Rangers, at the Bruins and vs. the Panthers.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are 2-2-2 in their last six contests and are in the midst of an offensive downturn. They’ve scored just nine goals during that six-game span and haven’t registered a power play goal in nine games. Columbus’ season concludes with games at Pittsburgh, vs. Winnipeg, at Philadelphia and at Toronto.

Sunday represents the fifth and final meeting between the Caps and Jackets. Washington is 2-1-1 in the four prior meetings, including a 2-1 shootout win in the teams’ most recent meeting on March 23.

“It’s just a big game,” Winnik said of the pivotal matchup. “Probably the most important one of the year.”  

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Meet the group of friends saving up for matching Caps tattoos

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NBCSW

Meet the group of friends saving up for matching Caps tattoos

Charlie Sutton’s nails garnered lots of attention at the official Game 4 watch party, as her blue, white and red “LET'S GO CAPS” nails sparkled among the sea of red jerseys.

“I was originally just going to make the nails have the colors and sparkles, but I realized I had enough fingers to write out ‘Let’s Go Caps,’ so that’s what I did!” she said.

Sutton grew up in Idaho following the Steelheads. “We moved to Maryland five years ago because my dad’s in the military and he got stationed here, so when he did I thought, ‘Hey, there’s an NHL team here!’ and started following the Caps then. I've been a huge fan since” she said.

Sutton was at the watch party with her two friends, Hannah Steele and Amye Elfin. Steele’s father worked in Northern Virginia when the Capitals organization started and sold them equipment. “He’s probably the first Caps fan ever,” she joked. Elfin’s father was a sports journalist for the Washington Times when Alexander Ovechkin was drafted, creating a Capitals lineage in their family.

“This has been my whole life,” Elfin said.

The three friends are hardcore Capitals fans, saving enough money to get Capitals-themed tattoos together. Elfin already has three blue and red stars tattooed on her left arm: “I got this done at Tattoo Paradise, where the Caps got their tattoos done!”

“We were way too broke to get that tattoo with her,” Sutton said, laughing with Steele. “But we’ve been coming up with lots of ideas and thinking about placement together.”

The three joked about getting Lars Eller’s abs tattooed on their stomachs, skate laces tattooed over their feet or the entire Stanley Cup tattooed over their spines.

Realistically, though, Sutton said that they plan to get something small to memorialize their favorite team.

“Ovechkin has ‘Sergei’ on his gloves, so maybe I’ll get that on the bottom of my hand where it is on his gloves,” Sutton said. Steele said that she might get the year 2019 for the team’s Stanley Cup victory, or a jersey number or two.

Check in with us when you’re at the parlor!

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Hurricanes shock Capitals, score 17 seconds into Game 4

Hurricanes shock Capitals, score 17 seconds into Game 4

The Capitals were looking to rebound quickly from their 5-0 drubbing Monday night against the Hurricanes and take a 3-1 series lead.

But the Hurricanes had other plans.

17 seconds into the game, Matt Niskanen pinched to try and keep the puck in. It backfired, and Justin Williams found Jaccob Slavin with an outlet pass. The Canes' speed created a  3-on-1 opportunity, and Slavin sent the puck to a streaking Warren Foegele for the tap in.

It's Foegele's third goal of the series. The fastest goal to start a playoff game is courtesy of Don Kozak in 1977. He scored 6 seconds into the opening frame. 

The fastest the Capitals have conceded a goal to start a period was to Sidney Crosby 12 seconds into a 3-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017.

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