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Tom Wilson could face suspension after Caps victory over Ottawa

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Tom Wilson could face suspension after Caps victory over Ottawa

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night at Verizon Center:

How it happened: Michael Latta enjoyed the first two-point game of his NHL career, scoring the game’s first goal on a breakaway and assisting on John Carlson’s sixth goal of the season on a nice feed from Justin Williams. Braden Holtby turned aside 26 of 27 shots to earn his league-leading 20th victory. Holtby improved to 12-0-1 in his last 13 starts.

What it means: The Caps (22-6-2, 46 points) moved three points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens atop the Eastern Conference and four points ahead of the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps are two points behind the NHL-leading Dallas Stars, who have played one more game. 

Wilson may face suspension: Caps right wing Tom Wilson received a match penalty and automatic review by the league on a hit he made on Curtis Lazar with 4:40 remaining in the third period. Wilson was tracking back into his defensive zone when he lined up Lazar with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. The puck was on Lazar’s stick at the time of the check, but it was a blindside hit and Wilson could face suspension. The Senators scored on the power play when Bobby Ryan pushed a rebound past Braden Holtby with 4:14 to play, but Holtby shut the door in the final minutes.

Latta offense: Latta was a healthy scratch in each of the Caps’ previous two games. This is the first time in his NHL career that he has scored more than one goal in a season. He once netted 52 goals and 119 points in 73 games with the Waterloo Wolves. Latta’s breakaway goal 14:06 into the first period was a beauty. Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov banked a hard pass off the boards and Latta won a race to the puck, keeping his head up and beating Andrew Hammond with a wrist shot just under the crossbar.

MORE CAPITALS: LEONSIS WILLING TO TAKE RISK ON WORLD CUP

Thanks, Willy: Justin Williams played a big role in the Caps’ second goal, which came on a delayed penalty with 5:43 gone in the second period. Williams drew a hooking call, but maintained control of the puck and patiently waited to find Carlson with a cross-ice pass. Carlson one-timed a snap shot past Hammond for his sixth goal of the season.

About time: Hammond lost in regulation for the first time this season (2-1-2) and for just the second time in his NHL career (22-2-4). Hammond had missed the previous 15 games because of a concussion and took a hard shot by Carlson off his mask about 4 minutes into the game.

Approaching milestone: Jason Chimera played in his 899th NHL game. Nicklas Backstrom remains one point shy of 600. His next point will move him past Michal Pivonka and into fourth on the Caps’ all-time list. 

How ‘bout them old/new threads?: The Caps broke out their new third jerseys, which looked very much like the ones they wore in 1993-94. The jerseys feature blue and white stars on the sleeves and pant legs, along with very cool plain white shoulders.

Look ahead: The Caps have an 11:30 a.m. practice scheduled for Thursday. They return to action Friday night at home against the Lightning, who are also expected to practice at Kettler on Thursday. They finish up their pre-Christmas schedule with visits to Manhattan on Sunday and Raleigh on Monday for games against the Rangers and Hurricanes. 

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

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USA TODAY Sports Images

How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

The 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship is coming to a close this Memorial Day weekend.

After two weeks, the sixteen team field has been narrowed down to four with the world championship now on the line in Slovakia. 

The two group winners, Canada, the top-ranked team in the world and 26-time IIHF Champions, and Russia, who rolled through the group stage with a 7-0 record and a +29 goal differential, are the favorites. Russia overwhelmingly has played like the best team in Slovakia, outscoring its opponents 40-10 behind Nikita Kucherov's 16 points in eight games.

The Russian/ Soviet Union team is the only team with more titles than the Canadians with 27 (five as Russia, 22 as the Soviet Union). 

Canada will face off against the Czech Republic, whose only loss came against the Russians in group play, with a spot to the Finals on the line. Russia will play Finland for the last spot in the gold medal match.

Three of the four teams remaining (Russia, Canda, and the Czech Republic) are the winningest teams in the IIHF's history. The four semifinalists have combined to win 67 of the 82 IIHF World Championships.

When is the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will take place at 8:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) on Sunday, May 26. The bronze medal match will precede the gold medal match at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET). 

2019 IIHF World Championship Schedule:

There are only four matches left in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The two semifinals, the bronze medal match, and the gold medal match.

SEMIFINALS:
No. 3 Russia vs. No. 5 Finland, 9:15 a.m. ET, May 25
No. 1 Canada vs. No. 6 Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m. ET, May 25

BRONZE MEDAL MATCH:
Loser of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal No. 2, 9:45 a.m. ET, May 26

GOLD MEDAL MATCH:
Winner of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal No. 2, 2:15 p.m. ET, May 26

How to watch or stream the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

All games at the IIHF World Championships will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Who is playing in the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will be played between the winner of Russia (8-0-0)/ Finland (7-0-1) and Canada (7-1-0)/ Czech Republic (7-0-1).

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF Championship Finals will be announced on the morning of May 26. 

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

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USA Today Sports images

The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

When the St. Louis Blues woke up on Jan. 3, they were in dead last in the NHL. A 15-18-4 record gave them 34 points, less than teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators who would go on to finish the season as the two worst teams. Yes, St. Louis had played in only 37 games to that point, the fewest in the league, but finding a way to climb back into the playoff hunt seemed daunting and unlikely.

Now the Blues are the Western Conference champions and stand just four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Blues have been one of the best stories of the NHL season climbing from last place to the Stanley Cup Final. When looking back at St. Louis’ season, there are several moments one can point to as key moments in the turnaround. Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on Nov. 20 and goalie Jordan Binnington got his first start with the Blues on Jan. 7 and never gave back the crease.

But the turnaround really started on Jan. 3. On that morning, the Blues were in last place. That would be the last day they would find themselves there.

And it all started with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

On Jan. 3, St. Louis and Washington looked like two teams headed in opposite directions. While the Blues were in last place, the Caps were rolling with a 24-11-3 record, first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington came into St. Louis on a five-game road winning streak. As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues were also without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

And yet, what looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but. Robert Thomas scored a deflection just four minutes into the game. Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second, but St. Louis rattled off four straight goals for the 5-2 win. With Washington down only 3-2 heading into the third period, the Blues but on a possession clinic outshooting Washington 14-2 in the final frame.

"We stayed aggressive," Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. "When we're playing in the O zone, the best way to play defense is to play in their end. We kept the puck, we moved the puck, we worked. Forwards were great tonight, protecting the center of the ice. It kind of took their playmakers out of the game."

The Caps’ first shot came 13 minutes into the third. By then, the Blues already had 12 shots and two goals.

Over the course of an 82-game season, teams will lose games against teams they shouldn’t. This felt different. Watching this game, you did not come away thinking the Caps played down to an inferior team. The Blues dominated that game and the Caps knew it.

“They were skating, competing harder, won races, more determined than we were,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If we’re being honest about it, we didn’t have a very good game, and they played a pretty darn good game.”
More importantly, St. Louis realized it as well. They knew following the game that this was a win and a performance they could build on.

“I think we out-chanced them, so we're building here at even strength,” Pietrangelo said. “It's just a matter of keeping it at even strength and scoring goals. Tonight the goals weren't necessarily pretty but we created a lot of chances."
That night proved to be the first night of the turnaround. From Jan. 3 on, no team in the NHL earned more points than St. Louis’ 65, not even the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Presidents’ Trophy with an incredible 128 points.

St. Louis was not expected to be bad this season. The team made a number of offseason moves to bolster the roster and many thought they could be real contenders, but they sure did not play like it through the first half of the season. It took a big win over the defending Stanley Cup champs to show them and everyone else just how good they really were. From that point on, they never looked back.

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