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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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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.


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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

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Caps pull off inexplicable comeback win with five-goal third period

Down 4-1, the Capitals scored five goals in the third period for the incredible 6-4 comeback win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick pulling him in a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals.

Here is how the Caps won.


Ovechkin was hot coming in with five goals in his past two games. He scored midway through the first period, getting a great pass in stride from Nicklas Backstrom to launch him behind the defense. Just as the defense closed in he fired a wrister past Semyon Varlamov to make it 1-0.

There is...pretty much nothing positive to say after that until the third period. There was a great 5-on-3 penalty kill, but it was essentially negated as they allowed a goal soon after. The Islanders built a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes and it looked all but over.

But after Carl Hagelin made it 4-2, Ovechkin pulled the Caps to within one, pulling the vintage back-to-front Ovechkin curl-and-drag before passing to the front where the puck deflected off the boot of Ryan Pulock and in.

After Jakub Vrana made it 5-4, Ovechkin added the empty-netter for the knockout punch.

With three goals, Ovechkin now has 34 on the season. He passed Mario Lemieux and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in goals. Incredibly, this is the first time in his career Ovechkin has three straight multi-goal games.


Just what exactly lit the fire under the Caps butts for that third period will probably be a talking point after the game. Was it Devon Toews doing the bird celebration after he scored to make it 4-1? Was it pulling Braden Holtby and starting Ilya Samsonov in the third period? Was it something Todd Reirden or one of the players said?

Whatever it was, it was a different Caps team that took the ice for the third period.

Hagelin's turnaround

As great as Ovechkin's performance was -- and it was epic -- it might not happen without the Carl Hagelin's early third-period tally.

The comeback was sparked by Hagelin's goal that came less than three minutes into the final frame. A great pass by Richard Panik set Hagelin up on the doorstep and he hit it home.

That goal made it 4-2 and a two-goal deficit seems a lot less daunting than a three-goal one.

Shaky Varlamov

Once Ovechkin made it 4-3, you could smell the blood in the water. Washington had gotten to Varlamov and the flood gates were open.

Dmitry Orlov took the puck up to the top of the faceoff circle and fired a slap shot that Wilson managed to get a stick to and deflected it through Varlamov to tie the game.

About three minutes later, Vrana intercepted a pass and fired a quick shot to beat Varlamov far-side for the 5-4 lead.

Varlamov faced 10 shots in the third period and allowed four goals. The fifth came on an empty net.