Capitals score 2 goals in 3rd, top Flyers 3-2

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Capitals score 2 goals in 3rd, top Flyers 3-2

WASHINGTON (AP) Troy Brouwer and Wojtek Wolksi scored third-period goals, and Braden Holtby made 29 saves in the Washington Capitals' 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night.

Niklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist for Washington (2-5-1), which had lost two straight.

Defenseman Bruno Gervais, and Brayden Schenn scored for the Flyers (2-6), who have lost three in a row.

Brouwer's third goal of the season at 3:57 of the third snapped a tie and put the Capitals ahead for good. He took a pass in the left circle from Mike Green and wristed a shot over goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's shoulder.

Less than three minutes later, Wolksi poked the puck away from defenseman Luke Schenn at the blue line, skated in alone, and beat Bryzgalov to make it 3-1.

The Flyers got back within a goal with 9:30 remaining when Brayden Schenn beat Holtby with a shot from the left circle.

The Capitals held on behind Holtby, who made his first start since Jan. 22. Bryzgalov finished with 23 saves.

The Flyers took a 1-0 lead when Gervais knocked a loose puck past Holtby at 11:43 of the second period for his first goal with the Flyers.

Washington tied it six minutes later. John Carlson poked the puck from Sean Couturier right to Backstrom, who was trailing the play. Backstrom broke in alone and lifted a backhanded shot over Bryzgalov's glove with 2:18 remaining in the second.

The Capitals, who came in off a 3-2 loss on Thursday at Toronto, dominated early against Philadelphia - which hadn't played since losing at the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

Midway through the first period, the Capitals held a 10-2 edge in shots, but Bryzgalov kept the game scoreless.

He made several tough saves, his best on a backhand attempt off the stick of Alex Ovechkin, who was alone in front after a feed from Wolski.

Late in the first period, Washington's John Erskine caught Wayne Simmonds in the face with an elbow that sent Simmonds to the ice with a bloody nose. No penalty was called, but Simmonds didn't return to the game.

Before the ensuing faceoff, Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo fought Matt Hendricks. Both players were ejected from the game.

NOTES: The Capitals were 0 for 5 on the power play. The Flyers were 0 for 3. . Former Capitals forward Mike Knuble made his return to Washington. The 40-year-old Knuble, who spent the previous three seasons with Washington, and signed with Philadelphia on Jan. 25.

Capitals' game plan in Game 2: Bang Letang

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Capitals' game plan in Game 2: Bang Letang

During a stoppage in Game 1 against the Capitals, after taking a hit along the boards, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang turned to the Capitals’ bench and pointed to his bicep as if to say, ‘I’m stronger than you think.”

The Capitals would like to spend the next 10 days testing that strength.

“Any time you can impose your will on defensemen … we’ve got guys like Ovi and myself and Willy and Beags and Winnie, some big guys going at you,” Capitals left wing Jason Chimera said, referring to Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik. “You ask our D-men, they don’t like getting hit going back for pucks. It’s harder to break out, for sure.

“As I’ve learned in the playoffs it may not pay dividends in Games 1 or 2, but you go 3 and 4 it starts creeping in their minds and in Games 5 and 6, if it goes that long, you just keep wearing guys out. It’s no secret you’ve got to hit guys like Letang and (Trevor) Daley and make them play hard minutes.”

In the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime victory Thursday night, the Capitals outhit the Penguins 43-29. Alex Ovechkin led the assault with seven hits, followed by Wilson (6), Beagle (6) and Matt Niskanen (5). It’s difficult to say how many of those hits were absorbed by Letang during his game-high 34:02 of ice time, but 10 might be a good round number.

``The best thing is to break out clean,” Letang said. “If you have to take the hit, you take the hit.

``Going back for the puck in our zone, you want to go as fast as you can. It’s going to allow you a little more time. You’re going to have time to shoulder check and see what’s coming at you. I think that’s the best advice I can give. As far as making a play and taking a hit, that’s playoff hockey. You’re going to take some hits and give some.’’

Letang, who stands 6-foot, 201 pounds, said he had trouble sleeping after Game 1, so he pulled out his iPad and watched video of the Caps’ different forecheck schemes.

``I couldn’t sleep. They have different line combinations that forecheck differently,” he said. “So you have to be aware of who’s on the ice against who. They have two lines that have a heavy forecheck and have two lines that rely on their skill and speed.’’

In Round 1, the Penguins used the Rangers’ aggressive forecheck to their own benefit by moving the puck quickly out of their zone to create odd-man rushes the other way. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said the key is to know when to make a safe play and when to take a hit to protect the puck.

“We use the phrase, ‘Sometimes you've gotta live to fight another day,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes the simple play is the right play, just moving the puck to an area and playing an efficient game that way. I thought in Game 1 our defensemen did a real nice job as far as making the decisions coming out of our end zone.

“We had some times when we came out clean and we had some chances off the rush, and other times we put pucks to areas and we got into foot races. That's kind of been the mantra of our game here the last couple of months and obviously we rely on our defensemen, they're a key part of that as far as helping us transition out of our own end zone.
“I think that's always a point of emphasis with our team as far as making your next play easier. The quicker you get back, the more opportunity you have for a next play. That's something that we've tried to prioritize with our guys almost to try to create the habit of getting back as quickly as possible. I just think it makes that next play a little bit easier if you have that extra fraction of a second because you can create that separation.”

Chimera said the Caps have to walk that fine line between being physical and “running around like a crazy maniac,” but it’s clear the Capitals want to keep the heat on the Penguins’ blue liners.

“We’ve got big forwards and we can play numerous ways,” Wilson said. “They’re a fast, powerful team and maybe not as gritty and as emotionally involved as Philly was, but they’re a way better team. They’ve got more speed, they’ve got more weapons. They’ve got (Evgeni) Malkin, they’ve got (Sidney) Crosby. I’m gonna be worried more about checking those guys than getting emotional and getting physical after the whistle.”

Asked specifically about Letang and his muscle flex, Wilson smiled.

“I don’t want to sell the rivalry short with the Penguins,” he said. “There’s definitely no love lost. Philly was a different series. You saw a lot more stick work, a lot more cheap kind of work. Pittsburgh, you’ve gotta respect their talent. There’s going to be some extra antics after the whistle, it’s an emotional game.

I’m chirping Fehrsie (Eric Fehr), Fehrsie’s chirping me. That’s the fun part of the game. You have a friendship off the ice but once the puck drops we’re at each other’s throats. Letang’s an emotional guy and we’re going to stay on him and make sure he doesn’t have an easy series.”

Report: NHL and NHLPA agree to expansion draft rules

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Report: NHL and NHLPA agree to expansion draft rules

One of the biggest storylines in the NHL is over something that isn't even officially happening yet: The expansion draft. Even though the NHL is still deciding whether to expand the league by one or two teams, the rules surrounding an expansion draft were reportedly agreed to by the NHL and NHLPA on Friday, according to Gary Lawless of TSN.

The basic format of the draft was already known with teams being able to protect a certain number of players on the roster. The biggest question was over whether players with no-movement or no-trade clauses in their contracts would have to be protected.

We now appear to have some clarity on that issue.

Lawless reports that players with no-movement clauses will be required to be protected by their teams while players with no-trade clauses are not exempt from the draft and can be left exposed if a team chooses.

RELATED: ALEXANDER RADULOV PLANS ANOTHER NHL RETURN FOR 2016-17

A no-movement clause prevents players from being relocated involuntarily by trades, loans or waiver claims. A no-trade clause allows players to refuse a trade to either all teams or to a designated number of teams depending on the contract.

So what does this mean?

Teams will be allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and a goalie, but those protections must first go to players with no-movement clauses active prior to July 1, 2017, assuming the expansion draft were to take place prior to the 2017-18 season. Teams are under no obligation to protect players with no-trade clauses and those players can be selected in the draft.

According to General Fanager, the Caps have eight players signed into the 2017-18 season: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, Taylor Chorney and Braden Holtby. Of those eight, none of them have no-movement clauses. Ovechkin, Backstrom, Niskanen and Holtby have no-trade clauses, but the Caps would not be obligated to protect any of them.

Obviously, the Caps will probably protect those four players anyway, but the point is that no one will simply be exempt from the expansion draft - all players must be specifically protected by their team.

MORE CAPITALS: CONOR SHEARY CALLS HIT BY WILSON A 'HOCKEY PLAY'

Alexander Radulov plans another NHL return for 2016-17

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Alexander Radulov plans another NHL return for 2016-17

Russian hockey star Alexander Radulov plans to return to the NHL for the 2016-17 season, according to multiple reports.

Radulov, who will turn 30 in July, does not have the best reputation in North America given his tumultuous history in the NHL.

Drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2004, Radulov played two seasons in the NHL before returning to his native Russia in 2008 after signing a deal in the KHL. The problem? He was still under contract with the Predators. He returned to Nashville in 2012 near the end of the regular season then went back to the KHL after the Predatores decided not to extend his contract.

Well, I hope you're ready for NHL Radulov 2.0

When trying to figure out where Radulov may go, you can go ahead and cross the Captials off that list given his history with Caps' head coach Barry Trotz who was Radulov's coach in Nashville.

Radulov's first return was a disaster even with six points in eight playoff games. He and Predators teammate Andrei Kostitsyn were caught breaking curfew the night before a playoff game and were suspended for the next game after Trotz found out.

When speaking at the time about the suspension, Trotz said, "We did not know before Game 2 [that Radulov and Kostitsyn broke curfew], we found out after Game 2, and hell would've had to freeze over if they would've played in Game 2...if I knew before."

Needless to say, Nashville chose not to extend Radulov's contract after the season. The idea of a Trotz-Radulov reunion feels about as likely as Wayne Gretzky coming out of retirment.

Where could Radulov go? The early speculation is Colorado as Patrick Roy was Radulov's junior coach in the QMJHL. If there was a coach willing to give the mercurial Russian another shot at the NHL, it would probably be Roy.

If you're hoping to see Radulov playing with Alex Ovechkin, however, chances are you'll have to wait for the World Cup of Hockey. Assumng Radulov makes the roster for Team Russia, that is.

RELATED: CONOR SHEARY CALLS HIT BY WILSON A 'HOCKEY PLAY'