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Ovechkin joins rare NHL club with second straight hat-trick

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin broke new ground in the NHL on Friday.

The Capitals left wing tallied his 22nd career hat-trick in Washington’s 6-5 shoot-out victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

If that sounds familiar, it is because he had a hat-trick in his last game, against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.

Ovechkin became just the 14th NHL player to record hat-tricks in consecutive games more than once in his career. He also managed the feat in October 2017.

According to the NHL, Ovechkin is the first new member of that elite club since Alex Kovalev, who had back-to-back hat-tricks twice in 2001.

Ovechkin now has 28 goals in 31 games this season.

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Capitals rode power-play success, shot blocking to Stanley Cup

Numbers suggest Golden Knights may have held puck more, but Washington’s advantage in key areas helped sway Final

Despite losing the Stanley Cup Final to the Washington Capitals in five games, the Vegas Golden Knights may have controlled the play more often, according to the underlying numbers.

Washington’s power play, the inability of Golden Knights top-six forwards like Jonathan Marchessault to score, a reversal in fortunes for Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Washington’s shot blocking were the deciding factors.

Here’s a closer look:

The Vegas advantage

To the eye, it appeared the Golden Knights spent more time than the Capitals in possession of the puck and/or in the attacking zone, especially at even strength. Though there’s no exact measurement of this, counts of shot attempts and the zone where face-offs occurred suggest Vegas controlled the play roughly 55.0 percent of the time.

The Golden Knights attempted 255 shots at 5-on-5 to 209 for Washington (55.0 percent). Of the 131 face-offs in the attacking zone at 5-on-5, 72 (55.0 percent) took place in Washington’s zone, as opposed to 59 in Vegas’ zone.

Man-advantage

The Golden Knights may have had an edge at even strength, but the Capitals’ advantage on the power play may have been the decisive factor.

Washington scored five goals in 16 opportunities in the Cup Final (31.3 percent). Vegas scored three goals on 14 opportunities (21.4 percent).

That brought the Capitals’ total to 22 goals in 75 opportunities during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most since the Philadelphia Flyers scored 23 in 105 opportunities in 2010. Among teams with at least 50 opportunities, Washington’s 29.3 power-play percentage was the highest since the Toronto Maple Leafs scored on 29.7 percent of their chances (22-for-74) in 1993-94.

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom led the Final with four power-play points, bringing his playoff total to an NHL-high 13, all assists. Defenseman John Carlson, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and forwards Alex Ovechkin, and T.J. Oshie each scored with the man-advantage during the Final and each finished with at least 11 power-play points in the playoffs, making the Capitals the first team in League history to have five players do so.

Oshie’s footwork leads to PPG

  • 01:06 • June 5th, 2018
Golden opportunities

The Golden Knights were unable to take advantage of scoring opportunities despite having more 5-on-5 attempts in the series.

Marchessault is a prime example. His 22 shots on goal were the most of any player in the Final, but he didn’t score. Based on his career 11.8 shooting percentage in the regular season and playoffs, he would normally be expected to score an average of 2.6 goals on 22 shots, with a 6.3 percent chance of scoring none.

Forward Alex Tuch and defenseman Deryk Engelland were similarly frustrated; each took 15 shots without scoring. Based on their previous career shooting percentages in the regular season and playoffs of 10.1 and 4.5 percent, respectively, they would have been expected to combine for an average of 2.2 goals, with a 10.1 percent of both players coming up empty.

Washington outscored Vegas 20-14 in the Final. With average scoring luck for Marchessault, Tuch, and Engelland, that six-goal differential would have been reduced to 1.2 goals.

Fleury’s reversal of fortune

Vegas opponents were frustrated by their inability to score during the first three rounds of the playoffs. In the Final, the Golden Knights were the ones shaking their heads.

Fleury entered the Cup Final with a .947 save percentage, the best of any goaltender to play more than 10 games in a single postseason since the statistic was first tracked by the NHL in 1955-56. It was his best 15-game performance (playoffs and regular season) since 2007-08.

But Fleury’s save percentage against Washington plummeted to .853. Looking at every five-game stretch in his career (playoffs and regular season), Fleury has been at or below that mark only 2.0 percent of the time.

The last time his save percentage was .853 (or below) in a five-game stretch was with the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, a series the Penguins lost in six games.

Ovechkin’s record-setting PPG

  • 00:34 • June 8th, 2018
Commitment to defense

The Capitals helped goaltender Braden Holtby by blocking more shots than Vegas, 99-53. That disparity was unexpected, given how close their numbers were in the regular season (1,220-1,179 in Washington’s favor), and how the Golden Knights were blocking more shots in the playoffs, 19.1 per game to 16.8 by the Capitals through the first three rounds.

Washington and Vegas were largely even in terms of hits (178-173), giveaways (57-50) and face-off wins (157-159), but the Capitals had a notable advantage in preventing shots from reaching the net.

Almost half of Washington’s blocked shots came from four defensemen: Michal Kempny (13), Matt Niskanen (13), Brooks Orpik (12) and Carlson (11). The only other player in the series to block more than six shots was Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb, who had nine.

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Focus turns to Holtby as Capitals host Islanders

WASHINGTON — One night after his team exploded for a 7-3 win at the New York Islanders, all eyes will be on Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby when the teams play the second of back-to-backs Friday at Capital One Arena.

Philipp Grubauer has started Washington’s previous four games, the last three of the which the Capitals (40-23-7) have won.
Holtby, the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner, is 3-6-2 record with an .872 save percentage and a 3.73 goals-against average going back to Feb. 2 and was pulled early four times.
His 3.03 goals-against average and .907 save percentage on the season are the worst numbers of his career and led head coach Barry Trotz to provide what he called a “reset” for Holtby.
“Phil’s playing extremely well right now,” Holtby told the Washington Post. “He’s giving us the best chance to win every night. It’s one of those fortunate things in an unfortunate situation. He’s been able to play extremely well. And I can take a little time to clean up a couple of things, and can clear my head, clear the team’s head with that kind of stigma that’s kind of going on with me in net.”
Grubauer allowed three goals while making 35 saves in Thursday’s win, but the offense more than covered for him as T.J. Oshie (19 games) and Dmitry Orlov (14 games) ended scoring droughts, with Oshie scoring twice.
Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and two assists and Evgeny Kuznetsov had three assists.
Washington is tied with Pittsburgh at 87 points atop the Metropolitan Division but has played two fewer games.
The last-place Islanders (30-30-10) fell to 1-5-4 in their last 10 games.
They are 10 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second Eastern-Conference wild card spot.
“We didn’t get any bounces, but we also had breakdowns that weren’t very good,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk told Newsday. “This time of year, when you’re fighting for your life and we don’t get those bounces you’ve got to have a little bit of anger and drive. Playoff hockey. It just wasn’t there.”
Christopher Gibson allowed five goals on 12 shots before being relieved by Jaroslav Halak.
Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and Ryan Pulock scored the Islander goals. Ladd’s was his first in 26 games.
“When it goes that long, it’s something you think about,” Ladd, who has 10 goals this season, told NHL.com. “It’s nice to get the monkey off the back. Hopefully from there, confidence builds, and you can pop a few more.”
Holtby is 13-4-3 with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage versus the Islanders, while Halak is 9-8 with a 2.64 GAA and .907 save percentage when facing the Capitals.
“You know you’re going to get a real good response; they’ve got a lot of good character people in that Islander dressing room,” Trotz told NHL.com regarding Friday’s rematch. “We’re going to have to earn everything (Friday). I thought it came easy for us today. Some games it does, and other games you play well, and you don’t get rewarded. We’ve played well the last little while here.”
Prior to Friday’s game, the Capitals will honor Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 600th goal on Monday when he netted two against Winnipeg. Ovechkin’s 600th goal came in his 990th NHL game, trailing only Wayne Gretzky (718 games), Mario Lemieux (719) and Brett Hull (900) as the fastest to reach 600 goals.
After scoring 33 goals a year ago, the 32-year-old Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals (42) this season and is looking to become the third player in NHL history to record eight 50-goal seasons, joining Gretzky (nine) and Mike Bossy (nine)

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NHL commissioner Bettman condemns ´reprehensible´ Smith-Pelly abuse

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman described the behaviour of four Chicago Blackhawks fans who directed racist abuse at Devante Smith-Pelly as “reprehensible”.

The fans were ejected from the United Center during Saturday’s game between the Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals after heckling Smith-Pelly while he was in the penalty box.

The spectators yelled the word “basketball” at black player Smith-Pelly before being removed from the arena.

Their actions have already been condemned by the Blackhawks and Bettman has now expressed his dismay at the incident.

He said in a statement: “Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly.

“The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behaviour. The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behaviour at any of our arenas.

“While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games.

“The League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment – free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviours or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience.”

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NHL roundup: Ovechkin lifts Capitals in OT

WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin scored 1:58 into overtime as the Washington Capitals rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on Saturday night.

Ovechkin entered the Anaheim zone and blasted a shot from the top of the right circle that eluded goalie John Gibson. It was Ovechkin’s 23rd goal of the season, tied for the NHL lead. Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored third-period goals.

Derek Grant and Jakob Silfverberg gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead after two periods. Gibson stopped 24 shots for Anaheim.
Braden Holtby made 28 saves for the Capitals, who won for the 10th time in 12 games. The Ducks have earned at least a point in their past seven games (3-0-4).

Lightning 6, Avalanche 5
DENVER — Anton Stralman scored twice and Yanni Gourde had a goal and two assists as Tampa Bay held on for its seventh straight victory.
The Lightning led 4-0 in the second period but had to withstand a late push from the Avalanche, who got a hat trick from captain Gabriel Landeskog and another two goals from Nathan MacKinnon to get within one goal twice in the third.
After six goals in the third period, Colorado pulled goaltender Jonathan Bernier with a little less than two minutes remaining, but Peter Budaj made a series of key saves to help Tampa Bay hold on. Nikita Kucherov scored his 23rd goal — tied for the NHL lead — to make it 1-0.

Predators 2, Flames 0
CALGARY, Alberta — Pekka Rinne stopped 32 shots for his third shutout of the season as Nashville swept its three-game trip through Western Canada.
Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala scored for the Predators, who have won six of their past seven games (6-0-1). Rinne’s 46 career shutouts are the most by a Finnish-born goaltender and three better than retired Flames great Miikka Kiprusoff.
Mike Smith made 26 saves for Calgary, which has dropped two straight games and six of its last eight (2-4-2) in falling to 8-10-0 at home.

Blues 2, Jets 0
ST. LOUIS — Backup Carter Hutton made a career-high 48 saves and Vladimir Tarasenko scored one power-play goal and assisted on another in St. Louis’ victory over Winnipeg.
Hutton, who came off injured reserve Friday after recovering from a foot injury, recorded his first shutout of the season and ninth of his career in his first start since Dec. 1. The Jets fired 15 shots at Hutton in the first period and 21 in the second but could not score as they fell to 1-4-1 in their last six games and 0-4-2 in their last six road games.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak by the Blues against Winnipeg (0-5-1), which had won all five games in the last season’s series.

Flyers 2, Stars 1 (OT)
PHILADELPHIA — Shayne Gostisbehere scored two power-play goals, including the winner 3:50 into overtime, as Philadelphia defeated Dallas.
Jakub Voracek picked up assists on Gostisbehere’s goals and goaltender Brian Elliott stopped 26 shots to give the Flyers their sixth straight victory after a 10-game losing streak.
Gemel Smith scored for the Stars, who have lost five of their last seven games (2-4-1). Ben Bishop stopped 28 shots in his third straight loss.

Islanders 4, Kings 3 (OT)
NEW YORK — Jordan Eberle scored 1:54 into overtime as New York overcame a two-goal first period deficit to edge Los Angeles.
Eberle’s score, which came after Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss turned back two Kings breakaway opportunities, capped a wild final few minutes in which Anders Lee gave New York the lead with 3:16 remaining in regulation before Anze Kopitar forced overtime with 13 seconds left.
Josh Bailey and John Tavares also scored for the Islanders while Greiss made 26 saves. Oscar Fantenberg and Tyler Toffoli scored in the first period, and Darcy Kuemper recorded 29 saves for Los Angeles.

Hurricanes 2, Blue Jackets 1
RALEIGH, N.C. — Noah Hanifin scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and Scott Darling stopped 35 shots to snap a five-game winless streak as Carolina defeated Columbus for its third straight victory.
Darling was 0-3-2 in his last five decisions and hadn’t won since Nov. 26. Hanifin’s sixth goal of the season with 7:02 left in the second is one more than the team’s other six defensemen combined. He scored four goals in each of his first two seasons.
Alexander Wennberg scored for the Blue Jackets, who failed to score on the power play in four attempts and are 3 for 38 on the road this season with the man advantage — 30th in the NHL. Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 saves for Columbus.

Penguins 4, Coyotes 2
GLENDALE, Ariz.– Olli Maatta’s slap shot goal from the left point with 14.5 seconds remaining ended Arizona’s comeback and Pittsburgh survived after squandering a two-goal lead.
Evgeni Malkin scored for the Penguins and set up Maatta’s goal, and captain Sidney Crosby added an empty-net goal nine seconds later as Pittsburgh ended a three-game slide and beat the Coyotes for the second time this season. Carter Rowney got the Penguins going with a short-handed goal in the second period.
The Coyotes surged back with goals by Nick Cousins and Max Domi before dropping their sixth in a row and ninth in 10 games. Arizona is an NHL-worst 7-23-5 and 3-10-1 at home.

Senators 3, Canadiens 0
OTTAWA — Craig Anderson stopped 28 shots for his second shutout of the season as Ottawa defeated Montreal in the NHL100 Classic at TD Place.
A crowd of 33,959 braved frigid temperatures for the league’s first outdoor game of the season. The win was the second in a row for the Senators, who are trying to dig out of a hole they made during a 1-5-1 road trip.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Bobby Ryan and Nate Thompson scored for Ottawa. Carey Price stopped 35 shots in goal for the Canadiens.

Rangers 3, Bruins 2 (OT)
BOSTON — Mats Zuccarello scored a power-play goal 1:56 into overtime, giving New York a victory over Boston.
The Bruins, who had erased a two-goal deficit to force OT, were called for their second too-many-men penalty of the game to set up the winner. Zuccarello, getting the puck in the right faceoff circle, waited, waited and, with Chris Kreider serving as a screen, fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Tuukka Rask for the win, ending Boston’s three-game winning streak.
Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves in the Rangers’ goal to raise his career record against the Bruins to 27-12-2. Rask made 25 saves but saw his personal five-game winning streak snapped as Boston fell to 15-10-5.

Oilers 3, Wild 2
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Second-period goals by Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins helped Edmonton snap Minnesota’s four-game win streak.
Cam Talbot, who had missed the previous seven games with an undisclosed injury, made 29 saves for the Oilers, who got the third-period game-winner from Jesse Puljujarvi.
Defenseman Matt Dumba scored twice for the Wild and Alex Stalock had 26 saves, as the Wild lost a regulation game at home for the first time since Nov. 4 after going 7-0-1

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NHL roundup: Ovechkin line carries Caps past ‘Hawks

WASHINGTON — Alexander Ovechkin scored his league-leading 21st goal, Nicklas Backstrom ended a 21-game goal-scoring drought, and Tom Wilson scored twice as the Washington Capitals cruised to a 6-2 victory over the sliding Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Brett Connolly and Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for the Capitals, who have won six of seven to move into a tie for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Lance Bouma and Jonathan Toews scored for Chicago.

Maple Leafs 2, Flames 1 (SO)
TORONTO — Frederik Andersen made 47 saves, and William Nylander scored the decisive goal in a shootout as Toronto defeated Calgary.
Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in regulation, and Morgan Rielly replied for the Maple Leafs.
Mike Smith made 28 saves for Calgary.

Ducks 3, Senators 0
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ryan Miller made 29 saves to earn his 40th career shutout, and Adam Henrique registered two goals as Anaheim defeated Ottawa.
The Ducks broke a three-game losing streak (0-1-2) by taking the opener of a three-game homestand. Anaheim has defeated the Senators in seven of the past nine meetings played at Honda Center.
Ottawa lost its second straight game to start a season-high, seven-game road trip and has dropped nine of its last 10 contests. Craig Anderson made 19 saves.

Flyers 4, Oilers 2
EDMONTON, Alberta — After breaking a 10-game losing skid with a win over the Flames in Calgary on Monday, Philadelphia continued its turnaround with a victory over Edmonton.
Wayne Simmonds had a goal and an assist, and Jordan Weal, Dale Weise and Michael Raffl also scored for the Flyers, who were on an 0-5-5 run before Monday. Brian Elliott made 24 saves.
Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got the goals for the Oilers. Goalie Laurent Brossoit, who gave up five goals — including four in the third period — in his most recent start, stopped 29 shots

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NHL roundup: Oshie lifts Capitals over Devils

NEWARK, N.J.–T.J. Oshie scored twice and Alex Ovechkin added his league-leading ninth goal as the Washington Capitals handed the New Jersey Devils their first loss of the season with a 5-2 decision on Friday night at the Prudential Center.

Nicklas Backstrom scored a goal and set up three and Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals. Oshie finished with three points, also assisting on Backstrom’s goal.
The Devils received goals from Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri’s goal was the 100th of his NHL career.
Oshie opened the scoring 14:49 into the first period, burying a Backstrom feed after the Swedish center hounded Devils defenseman John Moore into a turnover in the offensive zone.

Blue Jackets 3, Rangers 1
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Artemi Panarin scored with 12:35 left in the third period and helped Columbus edge New York.
Panarin, acquired in a trade from Chicago in June, skated down the center of the ice, starting from his team’s blue line, weaving through multiple Rangers before beating goaltender Henrik Lundqvist from the high slot.
The entertaining goal upstaged what had been to that point a riveting matchup between Lundqvist and Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Senators 6, Flames 0
CALGARY, Alberta — Craig Anderson made 25 saves and posted his 39th career shutout as Ottawa thumped Calgary.
Cody Ceci, Derick Brassard, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Ryan Dzingel and Chris Wideman scored for the Senators. Kyle Turris had three assists as Ottawa broke open the game with a four-goal third period.
Flames goalie Mike Smith gave up five goals on 17 shots before being pulled in the third period.

Avalanche 3, Ducks 1
DENVER — Tyson Barrie scored a tiebreaking power-play goal late in the third period, and Colorado beat Anaheim for its fourth win in five games to start the season.
Gabriel Landeskog also scored and Nikita Zadorov sealed the win with an empty-netter with .5 of a second left. Mikko Rantanen and Sven Andrighetto had two assists each for the Avalanche, and Jonathan Bernier had 17 saves against his former team.
Brandon Montour scored the lone goal for the Ducks and Reto Berra had 19 saves in relief of John Gibson, who made 17 saves in the first period before Berra came on at the start of the second.

Red Wings 6, Golden Knights 3
LAS VEGAS — Gustav Nyquist scored two goals and Henrik Zetterberg added a goal and three assists as Detroit erupted for four third-period goals and handed Vegas the first loss in team history.
Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Nyquist and Luke Glendening scored during an 11-minute span in the final period for the Red Wings, who finished a four-game road trip with a 3-1 record.
Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal and Erik Haula scored for the Golden Knights and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 21 shots

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NHL roundup: Capitals’ Ovechkin scores four in victory

WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin followed up his opening night hat trick with a four-goal performance and the Washington Capitals routed the Montreal Canadiens 6-1 at Capital One Arena on Saturday night.
Ovechkin became the fourth NHL player to have a hat trick in each of his team’s first two games of a season and the first since 1917, when three players did it. Ovechkin, who started the scoring at 20 seconds, picked up his 19th career hat trick to tie him with Peter Bondra for the all-time franchise lead. He has four career four-goal games.
Evgeny Kuznetsov contributed four assists, while T.J. Oshie and Nathan Walker — who became the first Australian national to play in an NHL game — added goals for Washington. Nicklas Backstrom had two assists and Braden Holtby made 38 saves.
Brendan Gallagher scored for Montreal. Carey Price stopped just 10 of 14 shots in the first period and was lifted in favor of Al Montoya (seven saves) to start the second.

Golden Knights 2, Coyotes 1 (OT)
GLENDALE, Ariz. — James Neal scored his third goal in two nights at 3:45 in overtime and expansion rallied late to beat Arizona and improve to 2-0.
Neal scored twice as the Golden Knights won 2-1 at Dallas on Friday night in the franchise’s first game, then rode a 42-28 edge in shots to deal the Coyotes their second difficult loss in as many games.
Neal then Antti Raanta with a wrist shot as he skated through the left circle after Arizona had controlled most of the overtime. The Coyotes couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead and lost their opener 5-4 at Anaheim on Thursday.

Penguins 4, Predators 0
PITTSBURGH — Matt Murray stopped 26 shots and Ryan Reaves scored his first goal with Pittsburgh as the Penguins shut out Nashville.
Reaves, a rugged winger acquired from St. Louis in the offseason, also got in two fights. Beside picking up their first win in three games, the Penguins bounced back from a 10-1 loss Thursday at Chicago and reasserted itself against Nashville in a rematch of the 2017 Stanley Cup final won by the Penguins in six games.
Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Olli Maatta also scored. Murray shut out the Predators in the final two games of the Cup final and has a goalless stretch of 206:28 against Nashville. It was his sixth career regular-season shutout.

Maple Leafs 8, Rangers 5
TORONTO — Tyler Bozak scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and Toronto defeated New York.
The Rangers came back from 5-1 down to tie the game with three second-period goals. Leo Komarov put the Maple Leafs ahead by two goals on a power play at 9:52 and Nazim Kadri scored his second goal of the season on a power play at 18:30.
Zach Hyman scored twice for Toronto while Dominic Moore, Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev added one apiece. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist allowed five goals on 17 shots in the first period and was replaced for the second period by Ondrej Pavelec, who made his Rangers’ debut and stopped 21 shots.

Kings 4, Sharks 1
SAN JOSE — Anze Kopitar scored his first two goals of the season as Los Angeles dominated from start to finish to beat San Jose.
Dustin Brown scored and set up a goal, Nick Shore also tallied and Kopitar added an assist for the Kings. Jonathan Quick finished with 24 saves.
Mikkel Boedker scored for the Sharks, who saw reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns finish with a minus-4 rating. Martin Jones was lifted in favor of backup Aaron Dell after surrendering four goals on 29 shots for San Jose.

Canucks 3, Oilers 2
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Bo Horvat scored two goals and Vancouver overcame an early deficit to open their season with a victory over Edmonton.
Brandon Sutter also scored for the Canucks in Travis Green’s first game as coach. Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom overcame a shaky start to finish with 33 saves.
Kris Russell and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers. Edmonton’s Cam Talbot, who had a shutout in the Oilers’ 3-0 win over Calgary on Wednesday, was replaced with less than a minute gone in the second period after allowing three goals on seven shots.

Blackhawks 5, Blue Jackets 1
CHICAGO — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad each had a goal and an assist as Chicago cruised past Columbus.
Jan Rutta and Richard Panik also scored for the Blackhawks. Chicago has outscored opponents 15-2 in opening the season with back-to-back wins. Chicago’s Corey Crawford stopped 32 shots.
Sonny Milano scored for the Blue Jackets. Joonas Korpisalo turned aside 24 shots in his season debut.

Flyers 3, Ducks 2 (OT)
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Wayne Simmonds scored at 46 seconds of overtime as Philadelphia defeated Anaheim.
Simmonds took a feed from Sean Couturier just inside the Ducks blueline and benefited from a defensive mixup before firing a wrist shot past John Gibson for his fourth goal on the season. Simmonds has registered both game-winning goals this season for the Flyers.
Philadelphia also received goals from Ivan Provorov and Couturier. Brian Elliott made 21 saves for the Flyers. Antoine Vermette and Cam Fowler registered goals for Anaheim. Gibson made 34 saves.

Blues 4, Stars 2
ST. LOUIS — Jaden Schwartz capped a three-goal flurry in the first period that sent St. Louis to a victory in its home opener over Dallas.
Schwartz’s goal followed goals by defensemen Carl Gunnarsson and Joel Edmundson and came in a span of five minutes. Five of the Blues’ nine goals in their first two games this season have been scored by defensemen.
Jake Allen lost his shutout bid 2:48 into the third period when John Klingberg scored a power-play goal for the Stars. Dallas fell to 0-2 under new coach Ken Hitchcock after losing at home to Vegas on Friday night.

Red Wings 2, Senators 1 (SO)
OTTAWA — Frans Nielsen scored the only goal in the shootout as Detroit defeated Ottawa.
Rookie Martin Frk scored his second goal of the season with 2:34 left in the third period to break a scoreless deadlock, but the lead was short-lived. Only 43 seconds later, Ottawa’s Dion Phaneuf scored his first of the season.
Jimmy Howard made 37 saves for the Red Wings, while the Senators’ Craig Anderson stopped 29 shots. Anderson made the highlight save of the night during the middle session when he dove to his left to stop an in-close shot by Justin Abdelkader.

Panthers 5, Lightning 4
SUNRISE, Fla.– Colton Sceviour, Jared McCann and Vincent Trocheck scored in a span of 2:28 in the third period to rally Florida past Tampa Bay.
Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad had a goal and assist apiece for the Panthers. Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Micheal Haley, Aleksander Barkov, Radim Vrbata and Brickley had assists while James Reimer made 26 saves.
Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson scored for the Lightning. Steven Stamkos recorded two assists while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 43 shots.

Flames 6, Jets 3
CALGARY, Alberta — TJ Brodie scored twice and set up two other goals to lead Calgary over Winnipeg.
The Flames trailed 3-1 after the first period before rallying with goals by Brodie, Micheal Ferland, Johnny Gaudreau and Kris Versteeg in the second to take the lead. Mikael Backlund tipped in Dougie Hamilton’s point shot 16 seconds into the third period to round out the scoring.
Gaudreau had three assists to go with his goal as he and Brodie tied their career highs with four-point outings. Brandon Tanev, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine scored for the Jets, while Mathieu Perreault had two assists.

Islanders 6, Sabres 3
NEW YORK — John Tavares and Casey Cizikas scored twice apiece as New York rode a flurry of second-period goals to victory over Buffalo.
Tavares, Cizikas and Josh Bailey scored within a 1:47 span in the second for the Islanders, who bounced back from a 5-0 loss to Columbus on Friday night. Anthony Beauvillier scored in the third period and Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves.
Evander Kane scored twice in the second period for the Sabres, who are winless through two games for the fourth time in five seasons. Jack Eichel scored in the third and Robin Lehner made 12 saves before being chased in the second.

Hurricanes 5, Wild 4 (SO)
RALEIGH, N.C. — Defenseman Jaccob Slavin scored the only goal in the shootout and Scott Darling won his Carolina debut as the Hurricanes snapped a six-game winless streak in season openers with a victory over Minnesota.
The Wild’s Mikko Koivu scored with 0.3 seconds left in regulation with goalie Alex Stalock pulled for an extra attacker to tie the score at 4. Slavin beat Stalock with a backhander as Carolina rallied three times from one-goal deficits.
Sebastian Aho set up Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin with 14:45 left in the third period to tie the score at 3. Aho then found Victor Rask racing down the right wing with 1:34 left in regulation to give Carolina a 4-3 lead before the final drama from Koivu.

Devils 4, Avalanche 1
NEWARK, N.J. — Defenseman Will Butcher recorded three power-play assists in his NHL debut as New Jersey opened its season with a victory over Colorado.
Butcher was one of three Devils playing his first professional game including 19-year-old Jesper Bratt, who scored on the power play late in the second period to give New Jersey a 3-1 lead. Bratt also assisted on John Moore’s short-handed goal with six minutes to play in the third period.
Adam Henrique and Jimmy Hayes also scored for the Devils, while Kyle Palmieri had two assists before leaving the game late in the second period after a knee-on-knee collision with Colorado’s Erik Johnson

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2017-18 NHL Team Preview: Washington Capitals

One would think the Washington Capitals have everything required to win a Stanley Cup: a pair of forwards you can build a franchise around in Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom;

high-end supplementary scoring provided by players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie; a world-class goalie tandem in Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby and backup Philipp Grubauer; excellent special teams units (they were the only team to have a top-seven power play and top-seven penalty kill last season); plus a veteran blue line and a lauded head coach.

Yet even when you take all that into consideration it’s difficult to find an optimistic Capitals fan—especially after a quiet off-season that didn’t see the team make any notable improvements in any area on the ice.

Re-signing Kuznetsov and Oshie to eight-year deals and trading Marcus Johansson to the Devils for 2018 second- and third-round picks for some cap relief were the most significant moves. Signing Devante Smith-Pelly was a low-cost, low-risk transaction. He’s a big body that can be a boost to the forecheck and might get you double digit goals.

Kevin Shattenkirk walking in free agency was expected and Justin Williams is getting a bit long in the tooth, but watching longtime Capitals leader Karl Alzner head to the Canadiens on the open market and losing 26-year-old Nate Schmidt to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft are tough pills to swallow.

The 411 on the Capitals
Head coach: Barry Trotz
GM: Brian MacLellan
2016-17 record: 55-19-8
2016-17 result: won Presidents’ Trophy, eliminated by Penguins in second round
Key departures: Marcus Johansson, Nate Schmidt, Justin Williams, Kevin Shattenkirk
Key acquisitions: Devante Smith-Pelly
2017-18 cap: $70.91 million (cap space $4.09 million)

UP-AND-COMING PLAYER TO WATCH

Jakub Vrana is the only Capitals draft pick since 2013 to play a regular-season NHL game. That’s a troubling sign for the long-term outlook of this franchise. The Prague, Czech Republic native suited up for 21 games with the Caps in 2016-17 and added a modest 36 points in 49 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

With a strong training camp, the 13th-overall selection from 2014 could potentially find himself situated nicely as a second-line winger. With Johansson gone and Williams back with the Hurricanes, the Capitals need one of their youngsters to earn a full-time roster spot and step up. If Vrana can’t be that player, he’ll begin to enter “bust” territory.

WHAT A SUCCESSFUL 2017-18 WOULD LOOK LIKE

Did you know that if you utter the phrase “third round of the playoffs” to a person that became a supporter of the Capitals anytime in the 21st century they will stare at you blankly and blink at you slowly until you saunter away? It’s true.

Despite winning nine division titles and three Presidents’ Trophies (including one in each of the past two seasons), the Capitals have failed to make it out of the second round of the playoffs since the turn of the century.

Another Presidents’ Trophy or another division title does nothing for this franchise outside of cementing home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Until they get to the Eastern Conference Final and/or eliminate the Penguins, doubts around this team will linger, as will questions about Ovechkin’s legacy.

Speaking of Ovechkin, it will be fascinating to keep an eye on his performance. Last season he put up his lowest goals-per-game average of his career and he released a statement Thursday night voicing his disappointment in not being allowed to represent his country at Pyeongchang 2018.

Between the NHL’s Olympics decision and a diminished Caps roster, will we see a sullen Ovechkin or could all of this light a fire under the Russian superstar?

BIGGEST REMAINING QUESTION

Is this the year it all falls apart?

The Capitals have been such post-season busts you have to wonder if and when we’re going to see a breaking point with the core of this team.

“I don’t expect us to run away with it like we did the past couple years in the regular season,” Oshie recently told NHL.com. “We lost a lot of really, really good players, and I think we knew that was going to happen. Now we’re going to need a lot of younger guys to fill in for a lot of different roles. We will really need to make it a group effort to make up for players that we’ve lost and to help lead the young guys that are now going to be stepping in.”

With pessimism abound, the 2017-18 season has the potential to be a disaster for the Capitals. On the flip side, lowered expectations means the Caps might be able to surprise people and punch above their weight.
(Mike Johnston)