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Top Caps prospect Jakub Vrana set to make NHL debut Thursday

Top Caps prospect Jakub Vrana set to make NHL debut Thursday

Jakub Vrana was recalled sometime in the early afternoon on Wednesday. The Capitals’ 2014 first round draft pick, however, did not find out until a little while later.

Why? He was taking his post-practice nap in Hershey as his cell phone buzzed repeatedly.

“I get few messages from equipment managers and head coach in Hershey,” Vrana said. “Then I just respond back and they tell me.”

Asked to clarify that he indeed missed multiple calls, Vrana smiled and cracked, “Yeah. I didn't want to say that, but I missed the call a few times.”


Vrana is wide awake now, though, and probably has been for much of the past 24 hours because on Thursday night he'll make his NHL debut against the Islanders.

At the morning skate, Vrana, 20, skated on the second line with fellow youngsters Evgeny Kuznetsov, 24, and Andre Burakovsky, 21. Vrana and Burakovsky have some familiarity with one another, having skated together in camp and in the preseason.

”It's nice to be in one line with him again,” Vrana said of Burakovsky. “Now it's a little different and I hope we'll have a good chemistry out there.”

Burakovsky said: “We have played really well together. He has a lot of skill, a lot of speed. It’s a good line. All three of us have a lot of skill and speed. It’s going to be a fast line, for sure.”

The preseason didn’t get off to the best of starts for Vrana, who arrived in Arlington, Va., earlier than other prospects this summer. He had to take the training camp conditioning twice and then registered no points in three preseason games before being sent to Hershey on Oct. 3—a little earlier than anticipated.

Vrana, however, found his game with the Bears. Prior to being called up, he had nine goals 16 points in 18 games in the AHL. He’s also worked to become a better player on the defensive side of the puck.

“Little details you always need to work on,” he said. “Obviously for me it's the D-zone coverage so try to work on that and make a good decisions on the ice.”

Coach Barry Trotz said his first conversation with Vrana since he arrived was short and to the point.

“Just, ‘Hi’, and, ‘Welcome to the league,'” Trotz said. “And, 'We play the same systems [as Hershey]. Hockey is the same way. It’s going to be a little bit quicker [but] you know that from the preseason. Just relax and play.' It’s an exciting day for him.”


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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.


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What just happened? A horrible start, Ovechkin scores another hat trick and Caps enter bye week in style

What just happened? A horrible start, Ovechkin scores another hat trick and Caps enter bye week in style

What just happened? In the final game before the bye week, the Capitals trailed the New York Islanders 4-1 heading into the third period. But Alex Ovechkin scored yet another hat trick and the Caps scored five times in the third period for the unbelievable 6-4 win.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Witnessing greatness

Eight goals in three games. Read that again. Eight goals in three games.

Every time I start to believe we are seeing Alex Ovechkin begin to decline, he makes me look stupid.

Allow me to pull the curtain back on what writing about Ovechkin and this game was like.

Ovechkin's first goal tied him with Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time. That is noteworthy so I wrote a story about it and it was published. He scored his second goal during the third period while I was writing about how terrible a loss this was (you have to start writing in the third period). Suddenly, I had to update my first story because he was no longer tied with Lemieux, he had passed him. Then the Caps took the lead, I had to delete pretty much everything I had written about the game to that point and Ovechkin got the empty-netter for the hat trick not only making my original story out of date, but it also tied him with Steve Yzerman for 9th all-time.

Yzerman!?! I wasn't thinking about Yzerman at all coming into this game! I was thinking about Lemieux!

So suddenly my story on Ovechkin tying Lemieux turned into a story about him tying Yzerman, meanwhile, the game ended, the Caps won and I had nothing written in terms of a game recap because it looked like they were headed for a horrible blowout loss.

I tell you this story not for sympathy, but to show you just how quickly Ovechkin is changing history. Everything he is doing right now is historic and it is hard for writers to keep up.

Here is the story on Ovechkin tying Yzerman, by the way. You should read it.

Don't forget about the first two periods....

This game was incredible to watch and was a fun way to go into the bye week, but don't let that third period erase everything that happened before it. Almost every weakness of this team was exposed by New York:

  • The Caps struggled against the forecheck and it led to numerous turnovers.
  • Braden Holtby had another bad game. At this point I would expect him and Ilya Samsonov to begin splitting starts after the bye week. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, I don't think there would be any question who the starter would be.
  • The power play has gone from troubling to laughably terrible (0-for-4 on the day). If there was one picture that could encapsulate just how bad it was on Saturday, this would be it:
  • The Caps took a number of really bad penalties. Carl Hagelin was caught cross-checking early on a power play giving up a two-man advantage. Brendan Leipsic also took an unnecessary offensive zone roughing penalty.

Washington got the win and sit in first place, but Reirden has his work cut out for him during the bye week because these are issues he has to figure out.

Turning point

After two periods with the Caps down 4-1, this game looked over. With only 20 minutes separating the Caps from the bye week, it would have been very easy to pack it in mentally and just take the loss. If they wanted to come back, however, they would need an early response in the third.

They got one thanks to a great play by Richard Panik to set up Hagelin.

Play of the game

It's the goal that moved Ovechkin into sole possession of 10th place on the all-time goal list. Yes, he got a little lucky as his centering pass hit off the boot of Ryan Pulock and into the net, but that back-to-front curl and drag to start the play was just nasty.

Stat(s) of the game

There was too much from this game to limit it to just one stat.

First, the obvious one.

Hats off to Ovechkin!

The fastest from 600 to 700? It's possible. Heck, at this point it seems downright probable.

And let's not forget about John Carlson and Ilya Samsonov.

Quote of the game

Note to other teams: Stop pissing Ovechkin off!

Fan predictions

Uh...half right.

Nailed it.

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.