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Bolts Drop Caps in Season Opener

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Shake the rust off, it’s time for hockey!

The Caps opened the shortened 2013 campaign with a 6-3 loss in Tampa Bay last night. The game was close through two periods. Three unanswered goals by the Bolts sunk a Caps team that looked shaky, slow, and  a bit rusty.

Not exactly a stirring debut for new coach Adam Oates. But the stuttering start is somewhat expected, as teams had less than a week in an abbreviated camp. Forming a cohesive spirit with new faces and a new bench boss at the drop of the puck isn’t easy.

Bright spots were two goals from Joel Ward and one from newcomer Wojtek Wolski that tied the game in the second. “You always hope to contribute, for sure,” Ward said. “You’re not going to go out there and say I’m going to score five or anything, but you try to finish your opportunities if you can. I was fortunate to get a couple.”

Another moment that many Caps fans enjoyed was watching defensemen Tom Poti play in his first NHL game since January 2011. Poti got a point in his return. Earlier in the week, Caps senior writer Mike Vogel tweeted that if Poti was able to get back on the ice, he’s a sure-fit for this year’s Masterton Trophy, awarded to a player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. Poti’s battled several physical issues, including a lingering groin injury, for the last two years.

Next up is the Caps home opener on Tuesday against Winnipeg.

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Dale Hunter Steps Down

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And it looks as if ultimate samurai coach Dale Hunter has fallen on his sword for the now-ousted Washington Capitals. According to various sources, Hunter stepped down from his stint as bench boss this morning.

GM George McPhee indicated at a brief press conference that the team will be taking its time selecting a new coach. If the Caps are smart, they’ll have someone signed on before the NHL Entry Draft on June 21. (McPhee did hint to WaPo that this was indeed a possibility.)

ProHockeyTalk has a (questionable) list of possible replacements from the NHL coach recycling bin. Of all of those listed, I would think Bob Hartley’s the best option.

Who would you like to see helm the pine bench next season?

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Rangers Outlast Caps in Triple OT


Brouwer Clears the Puck with a Skate

Action in Front of Braden Holtby
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After 94 shots on goal, the game was still tied. Another 127 shots had either missed the net or been blocked. More than 100 hits had been delivered. At least two players required stitches in their face and yet returned to the game.

Finally, after nearly 115 minutes of hockey, Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers scored on the 95th shot of the game to defeat the Capitals 2-1 in Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Beat Bruins to Tie Series


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Holtby: Rock
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Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby put on the best show of his short and stellar NHL career as he stopped 44 shots to lead the Caps over the Boston Bruins by a score of 2-1 to even the best of seven series at two games apiece.

The Caps managed to score twice on just 21 shots, but it was enough to make Holtby’s heroics count. Alexander Semin scored the game winning goal on a power play. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Secure Playoff Spot


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Fan Silhouette
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As unlikely as it may have seemed nine days ago, the Washington Capitals have defied the odds, shaken off some stinging recent defeats and secured a place in the Stanley Cup playoffs starting next week.

The Caps defeated the Florida Panthers 4-2 last night at Verizon Center before a raucous sellout crowd. Washington took an early 3-0 lead, survived a mid-game rally by Florida, then played aggressively down the stretch. Combined with the Buffalo Sabres’ loss in Philadelphia a few minutes earlier, Caps fans were able to celebrate their team’s success in the final home game of the regular season. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Sabres Cut Down Caps, 5-1


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Jason Chimera can’t beat Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres.
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In a game rife with playoff implications for both teams, the Buffalo Sabres humiliated the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center last night, handing the home team a resounding 5-1 defeat in front of a large contingent of boisterous Buffalo fans. Coming into the game tied in the standings with Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot, the Caps were out played at both ends of the ice and failed to mount a serious challenge.

With just five regular season games remaining before the playoffs begin, the Capitals are now on the outside looking in. The Caps face the top three teams in the Eastern Conference (Rangers, Bruins and Panthers) as well as recent playoff nemeses Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. Washington will have to win nearly all of its remaining games and hope that some higher teams falter down the stretch. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Collapse in Loss to Jets


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Alex Ovechkin spotted the Caps to a 3 goal lead.
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It was a tale of two games: it the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of swiftness, it was the age of slacking off, it was the epoch of crisp passes on the tape, it was the epoch of sloppy clearing attempts, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, – in short, the third period was so far unlike the first period, that some of its noisiest fans insisted on the game being received in the superlative degree of comparison only. And they booed lustily.

With all apologies to Charles Dickens, thus was the Caps game last night. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first 25 minutes of hockey, the Caps utterly and completely fell apart, lost the lead – and eventually the game in overtime – to the Winnipeg Jets, 4-3. It was a demoralizing loss to a team immediately behind Washington in the standings. Two spectacular, highlight-worthy goals by Alex Ovechkin were for naught.

“This is a tough pill to swallow right now,” said Matt Hendricks after the game. “We had all the momentum going our way, then the next thing you know we lose in overtime.” Continue reading

capitals hockey, Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Caps Top Bolts in OT


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Ovechkin Takes To The Ice
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For the second time in five games, Alex Ovechkin scored in overtime to cap a comeback victory as the Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 last night at Verizon Center. The win kept the Capitals’ fragile playoff hopes alive.

After a fiery speech by head coach Dale Hunter following a lackluster second period, the Capitals played the third period with urgency, grit and determination. Marcus Johansson tied the game at 2-2 with four minutes remaining in the game to force overtime. Continue reading

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Ovie Scores in OT as Caps Come Back to Defeat Islanders 3-2


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Ovechkin Fist Pump
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Alex Ovechkin played a terrible game last night. His passes weren’t connecting, he was often out of position, and he turned over the puck repeatedly. He shot wide to the left. He shot wide to the right. But when the game – and perhaps the season – was on the line in overtime, Ovie scored a spectacular goal to win the game and vault Washington back into a playoff spot.

Troy Brouwer set up the overtime heroics by scoring twice in the last four minutes of regulation to lead the come-from-behind victory. New York netminder Evgeni Nabokov was a brick wall through 56 minutes of the game, turning away the first 30 shots he faced. But Brouwer took an aggressive approach, taking his body to the net and scoring both goals from within a few feet of the goal line. Continue reading

capitals hockey, Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Caps Outlast Lightning, Win 4-3

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Brouwer Skates Over Blue Line
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The Caps rode two early power play goals and a hat trick by Troy Brouwer to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night at Verizon Center. Tampa Bay stormed back in the third period to draw within a goal twice. With the goalie on the bench for an extra forward, the Lightening pressed to the very end, scoring with 10 second remaining in the game, and nearly tieing the game as the final buzzer sounded. Continue reading

capitals hockey, Sports Fix

Caps Edge Penguins, 1-0

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Vokoun Moving in Crease
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A breakaway goal and solid goaltending was enough to beat the conference rival Pittsburgh Penguins, 1-0, last night at Verizon Center. Jason Chimera scored on a first period breakaway for the winning goal and Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves to earn the shutout. The game had consequences in the race for the playoffs for both teams as the Caps passed the Penguins in the standings to move into 8th place in the Eastern Conference.

The Penguins dominated the early going in puck possession and offensive zone time. The Caps came out looking flat, chasing pucks, passing into each others’ skates and shooting from long range. Only Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer were able to take the puck and body to the net. A couple of rocking checks by Alex Ovechkin and Brouwer seemed to wake Washington out of their west coast fog and generate some energy.

The Caps got on the score sheet 15 minutes into the game when Joel Ward knocked the puck away from Evgeni Malkin to spring Jeff Halpern for a 3-on-1 break. Halpern saucered a perfect pass to a streaking Chimera who beat Marc-Andre Fleury high on the blocker side. Continue reading

capitals hockey, Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Caps Top Predators, 4-1

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Mike Knuble has played 1,000 NHL games.
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The Capitals honored 39-year-old Mike Knuble last night for playing in 1,000 NHL games, then went out and earned a hard fought 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators before a festive crowd at Verizon Center last night. Riding goals from marquee players Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin along with some timely saves by goalie Michal Neuvirth, the Caps played as complete a game as we have seen under new coach Dale Hunter. Continue reading

capitals hockey, Sports Fix

Flyers Flatten Caps, 5-1


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Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
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The Caps carried their resurgent power play and a two-game winning streak into last night’s game against Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers. But they came undone through a combination of Philadelphia muscle and poor goaltending. A series of soft shots and deflections got past starting goalie Tomas Vokoun as the Caps fell to the Flyers 5-1.

In the first period, the Caps came out looking like a different team than a month ago. With a disciplined approach they took the action to the Flyers, maintaining the puck in the offensive zone for most of the period with strong physical play. The aggressiveness paid off when the Caps drew two power play chances. But the Caps failed to shoot the puck on the man advantage and were unable to score on Flyers’ netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. The Caps lost the momentum, and tide turned.

The Flyers, meanwhile, shot the puck at every opportunity. Scott Hartnell put Philadelphia ahead 1-0 when he beat Tomas Vokoun between the legs on a clear shot from the top of the faceoff circle after 16 minutes. “I don’t think we had that kind of energy and emotion we had before,” said captain Alex Ovechkin of the first goal. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Late Caps Rally Torpedoes Senators

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Vokoun Sprawls to Save
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The Capitals won their first game in regulation under new coach Dale Hunter, and their second victory since the bench boss’ debut. Like the last win, this one came against the Ottawa Senators. We’d also like to take a moment to welcome back Alex Ovechkin, whose goal last night was reminiscent of seasons past, when he actually played like a superstar.

The game wasn’t an easy win; the Caps had to rack up four goals in the third period in order to finish the comeback. But a win is a win right now, with the Caps having stumbled their way down the Southeast Division standings.

The good:

  • Ovechkin showed up on the score sheet after a five game drought; he scored on a beautifully skilled play in the third period to give the Caps a 3-2 lead.
  • Returning veteran Jeff Halpern knocked in his second of the season, putting the Caps on the scoreboard.
  • Troy Brouwer had his second Gordie Howe hat trick of his career, assisting on Halpern’s goal, scoring the team’s fourth marker, and taking on Jesse Winchester in the first period.
  • Nicklas Backstrom’s power play goal in the third ended an 0-for-24 slide in the special teams department; it was also the team’s first road PPG in over a month.
  • The Caps had 44 shots on goal.

The bad:

  • Inconsistent play kept Ottawa in the game, even late in the third.
  • The Caps still racked up the penalties, giving the Senators seven chances throughout the game (not counting Brouwer’s fisticuffs).
  • The power play still sputters; the Caps had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:47 in the first period but failed to take advantage of it.

The quote:
“I glad [sic] we got the win and of course it’s nice it to get a goal, finally. Last couple of games I tried to score, but this time it worked.” Alex Ovechkin, on ending his goal drought.

capitals hockey, Sports Fix

Caps Fall to Penguins, 2-1

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Jason Chimera
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The calendar turned a page yesterday, but the Washington Capitals are still playing from their November playbook as they lost 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night at Verizon Center. Jason Chimera scored the lone goal for the Caps to continue his hot start to the season. It was the first time the Caps had lost to the Penguins in regulation in more than three years.

In the Caps’ second straight loss under new head coach Dale Hunter, the team played a physically aggressive game but were badly outshot, 35-17 for the game. “We played too much in our own end,” said Hunter after the game. “We have got to get the puck out much quicker.”

Call it “Dale Hunter Hockey” as it is emerging over the past four days. It starts with solid defense, the relentless pursuit of the puck, lots of hard hitting, and battles in the corners. The Caps had a strong forecheck all night, getting to the offensive corners and winning position battles. But they failed to control the puck and were not able to convert the aggressive play into scoring chances. Passes did not connect. Very few shots were directed toward the goal.

I am reminded of the days when Ollie Kolzig would routinely face 40 shots a night backstopping a scrappy, tight-checking team. I miss Bruce Boudreau already. Continue reading

capitals hockey, Sports Fix

Caps Come Back, Beat Coyotes 4-3

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Joel Ward with Puck at Center Ice
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The Caps did two things last night that they have been unable to do over the past several weeks: they came back from a two-goal deficit; and, they held a late lead. The result was a 4-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes to end a four-game losing streak.

Before the game even started, Coach Bruce Boudreau shook things up by benching superstar Alexander Semin as a “healthy scratch” for the first time since his rookie season. Adding to the drama, Semin failed to appear at the morning skate or the pre-game up warmup skate where healthy scratches typically join the team on the ice. Maybe Sasha don’t care.

Once the game was underway, the Caps got an early break when Phoenix took a penalty two minutes into the game. But on the ensuing power play the Coyotes’ leading scorer Radim Vrbata intercepted a pass and went the length of the ice to score on the first shot faced by Tomas Vokoun. The Coyotes are known to be very good when they take the lead so this was not an auspicious start. Continue reading

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Stars Shine, Caps Fall 5-2

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Neuvirth Makes a Save On a Tricky Puck
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They typically only face each other once a season, so a match-up between the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals is not one of the marquee rivalries in the NHL. Not like the salad days of the great Redskins and Cowboys teams over in the NFL. But coming into last night’s game, these two teams sported the best records in the league. Unfortunately, what promised to be fireworks turned to fizzle as the the Caps came undone in the third period. The Stars simply out-worked the Caps en route to a 5-2 victory in Washington. Continue reading

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Caps Shoot Down Ducks 5-4 in OT

Backstrom Takes a Shot
Backstrom Takes a Shot
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With a minute to play in the game, it did not look good for the home team. Trailing the Anaheim Ducks by a goal, the Caps had pulled the goalie for an extra attacker in a last ditch effort to to tie the game. They needed a heroic effort and Nicklas Backstrom responded to the call. He snagged a long rebound and beat the diving goaltender to tie the game at 4-4 with 42 seconds left in the game. Minutes later, Backstrom scored again in overtime for the win, causing the Verizon Center to explode in jubilation.

It was not all so pretty. The Caps were back on their heels for the first 30 minutes as the speedy Ducks controlled both the tempo and the puck. Anaheim, who had scored only six goals in the previous four game, managed to score two goals on Tomas Vokoun in the first period and another early in the second to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Lose Wild West Shootout

Ovechkin Races for Puck
Ovechkin Races for Puck
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When two high octane teams meet, goals will be scored. The Capitals got off to a slow start against the host Vancouver Canucks, then rallied to tie it after two periods, but were outgunned in the third to lose 7-4. Alex Ovechkin had a pair of goals to lead the Caps’ offense, but it wasn’t enough against the Stanley Cup finalist Canucks. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Steamroll Flyers 5-2

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‘Perreault Shoots’
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Many in the hockey world saw last night’s match-up between our Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers as a heavyweight showdown. In one corner, the undefeated Capitals who’ve won despite stretches of sporadic play and missing superstars. The other, a rebuilt Flyers squad looking to prove their makeover wasn’t just for show.

And then enters Alexander Ovechkin. Consistently successful against the orange-and-black, Ovie didn’t disappoint as he helped the Caps blow the game wide open and stuck the Flyers with their first regulation defeat. Continue reading