Gonchar scores winner for Senators against Caps

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Gonchar scores winner for Senators against Caps

OTTAWA (AP) Sergei Gonchar scored on the power play with 2:30 left in regulation as the Ottawa Senators battled back from a sluggish start to defeat the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Tuesday.

Jim O'Brien and Milan Michalek also scored for the Senators (4-1-1), who got 31 saves from Craig Anderson.

Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks scored for the Capitals (1-4-1). Michal Neuvirth stopped 24 shots in taking the loss for Washington, which blew a 2-0 lead.

Gonchar's winner came after Erik Karlsson wove through the Capitals' defense on a man advantage before finding his partner, who fired a one-timer that deflected of Hendricks in front and past Neuvirth with Ottawa's Chris Neil screening on the play.

Then with time winding down and Washington pressing for the tie, Anderson made a great save on Alex Ovechkin before robbing Mike Ribeiro from in tight.

Trailing 2-0 late in the second period and looking for a spark, Senators coach Paul MacLean chose to double-shift the one line that showed any jump.

The gamble paid off as O'Brien, who celebrated his 24th birthday, cut the lead in half with 1:23 remaining in the period on a setup from Erik Conda and AHL call-up Mika Zibanejad.

The Senators then quickly tied the game at 2:20 of the third. Kyle Turris won a faceoff in the offensive zone and pushed the puck ahead to Michalek, who scooped it passed a surprised Neuvirth.

Playing without Jason Spezza because of an undisclosed upper body injury, the Senators struggled and the Capitals owned much of the momentum in the first period and jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

A turnover by Guillaume Latendresse midway through the period at the Senators' blue-line allowed Wojtek Wolski to jump on the puck and feed Brouwer, who caught Anderson moving the wrong way.

Washington then made it 2-0 as Hendricks tipped Jay Beagle's shot home.

The Senators continued to struggle in the second and seemed incapable of breaking through the Capitals' forecheck as Washington pinned the home side in its own end for nearly two minutes, leading to a chorus of boos from the 19,267 on hand at Scotiabank Place.

Notes: LW Kaspars Daugavins and D Andre Benoit were healthy scratches for the Senators. Apart from Spezza, D Jared Cowen (hip, out for season), D Mike Lundin (finger, two weeks) also missed out. ... C Brooks Laich (strained groin, out indefinitely), D Jack Hillen (upper body, out indefinitely) sat for Washington with injuries, while C Marcus Johansson, D Tom Poti and D Roman Hamrlik were healthy scratches.

Troy Mann's NHL stock rising with each Hershey win

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Troy Mann's NHL stock rising with each Hershey win

The Hershey Bears can clinch a berth in the Calder Cup Finals tonight with a win over the Toronto Marlies and if they do, head coach Troy Mann’s tough talk might be one of the reasons.

Following the Bears’ 8-2 drubbing of the Marlies on Wednesday night, Mann had this to say:

“This time of year you’ve got to enjoy it. Enjoy the moment. It’s no clich√©, every coach says it: the fourth (win) is always the toughest. But we want to make sure we take their will away and try to come out as hard as we did tonight on Friday night to try to take their will and let them know, ‘Hey, it’s going to be hard to come back. It’s going to be hard to play against us. And at the end of the day maybe the summer vacation starts for them and we move on. That’s the goal here.”

With a win the Bears would complete a sweep of the Marlies and face the Lake Erie Monsters, who completed a sweep of the Ontario Reign in the Western Conference Finals on Thursday night.  The Calder Cup Finals have not been in Cleveland since the Barons got there 50 years ago, in 1966.

Mann, 46, is in his second full season as head coach of the Bears and could be on the brink of become an NHL coaching candidate. In his two seasons in Hershey the Bears have gone 89-43-20. Last season the Bears were eliminated in the second round.

Many in the Capitals organization wondered why Mann was passed over the head job in Hershey three years ago when Mark French was replaced with Mike Haviland, who coached the Bears for only one season.

Mann, who had been an assistant under French the previous four seasons, took a job as head coach of the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL and led them to the third round of the playoffs in 2014.

With NHL head coaching jobs still available in Calgary and Anaheim, Mann could join Caps assistant coach Todd Reirden as a candidate for one of those jobs.

Reirden, 44, played two seasons with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Cincinnati and has spent six years as an NHL assistant (four in Pittsburgh, two in Washington). He drew interest from New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero last summer before Shero hired John Hynes.

2015-16 Season in Review: Dmitry Orlov

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2015-16 Season in Review: Dmitry Orlov

With the Capitals’ 2015-16 season now in the rearview mirror, we continue with our numerical player-by-player roster analysis:

No. 9 Dmitry Orlov

Age: 24 (turns 25 on July 23)

Games: 82

Goals: 8

Assists: 21

Points: 29

Plus-minus: Plus-8

Penalty minutes: 26

Time on ice: 16:01

Playoff stats: 11 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, even, 2 PIM, 13:18

Contract status: Restricted free agent (2015-16 salary: $2.25 million, $2 million cap hit)

Considering the fact he did not suit up for the Capitals the entire 2014-15 season because of a broken wrist, Orlov’s return to full-time duty this season can be looked at only as an overwhelming success.

Was he an adventure in his own end? Sometimes. Was he dynamic in the offensive zone? Many times. Does he need some work to be a top four defenseman in the NHL? Absolutely.

But he may be worth the growing pains.

“I call him a high-event player,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said with a chuckle. “At both ends there’s some events going on. But he’s learning.

“You like it on the (offensive) end and you’re living with stuff on the (defensive) end. Todd (Reirden) is working with him. How do you eliminate the errors and get them down to a level that’s acceptable for us as a team and then still contribute offensively? I think he’s still trying to figure that out.

“I think in the playoffs there was probably a little too much concern with not making the errors and you want him to create some offense. You want him to shoot the puck, you want him to join the rush, you want him to make plays through the middle of the ice instead of flipping pucks (out of the defensive zone). I think it’s just a learning process and the more he plays the better he’s going to get.”

With that in mind, the Capitals are seriously considering giving Orlov a top four role next season (alongside Matt Niskanen?), while dropping veteran blue liner Brooks Orpik to third pair (alongside Nate Schmidt?) and penalty kill responsibilities.

That would be quite a promotion for Orlov considering he began the 2015-16 season as one of the Capitals’ biggest question marks and ended it as the club’s Masterton nominee for dedication and perseverance to the sport of hockey.

Orlov finished the season with career highs in games (82), goals (8) and assists (21) while playing mostly on a third pairing with Nate Schmidt or Taylor Chorney.

“I would say I had a good season, and it was special for me when coaches give me the opportunity to play 82 games,” Orlov said. “I could be better, and I think all players want to do some more than they did. I look forward to playing next season and try to do my best. It was special season for me playing 82 games after missing the whole year. Especially my first time in the playoffs, almost every game. It’s huge for me.”

If there is a flaw to Orlov’s game it is that he has a penchant for giving up the puck to avoid taking a hit. It happened a handful of times near the end of the regular season and Capitals coach Barry Trotz threatened to take Orlov out of the lineup. Perhaps at the urging of assistant coach Todd Reirden, Trotz resisted that urge, allowing Orlov to play through some of his inconsistencies.

That continued until the second game of the Caps’ second-round series against the Penguins, when Trotz pulled Orlov out of the lineup for one game, replacing him with Chorney.   

“Everybody says I’m an offensive player, but I want people to see me (as a) two-way player, not only offensive player,” Orlov said. “I want to play on defense, too. I know I can do it. I know I do some mistakes, and I would say nobody’s perfect. In all situations when a player gets more ice time, they have confidence and the better they’re going to be next games, next years.”

Orlov said he was especially appreciative of Reirden’s instruction and encouragement this season. The two spent countless hours on the ice and in the video room going over game situations and Orlov’s decision making in those situations.

“For me, I think he helped a lot,” Orlov said. “He always talks with us and shows some videos and always said good and positive things. If you did something wrong, he will tell you. He’s an honest man, and I think it’s how it should be. If coaches will tell you the truth, it’s easy to understand what you should do on the ice or whatever. It’s nice when coaches always talk to you.”

Because Orlov is a restricted free agent making more than $1 million, the Capitals are required to offer him his current $2.25 million salary to retain his rights. Since his original standard player’s contract was signed between the ages of 18 and 20 and because he has four years of NHL experience, Orlov also qualifies for salary arbitration, which means his price tag could be in the $3 million per season range, even if it is for just one year.

Orlov’s agent, Mark Gandler, asked the Capitals to play Orlov or trade him back in the 2012-13 season, but that certainly won’t be the case this time around. Orlov said he never put thought into re-signing with the Caps during the season and hopes things go smoothly with negotiations this summer.

“My focus was just play and don’t worry about anything what’s going on,” he said. “Right now, the season is over and whatever’s gonna happen. I’m excited to be here and hope everything will be good.”

Orlov represented Russia in the 2016 World Championships last week, picking up three assists in six games, and will play for his country in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto in mid-September.

Like many teammates, Orlov thought the Capitals had the right mix in their locker room to go further than the second round of the playoffs this spring and is looking forward to another crack at the Stanley Cup next season.

“I think it’s just going to be better next year and I know we have a great team,” he said. “It was like a family. I still remember all these moments and just take positive things and move forward and be ready to go next year.”

Penguins' Rust proving why bottom six matters

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Penguins' Rust proving why bottom six matters

News, notes and some World Cup of Hockey roster announcements as the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks prepare to battle it out in the Stanley Cup Final:

Rust never sleeps: Caps GM Brian MacLellan wasn’t just whistling Dixie when he said the Caps need to infuse offense into their bottom two forward lines.

The Caps received just four even-strength goals in 12 games from their bottom six forwards – three from Jay Beagle and one from Jason Chimera. (Justin Williams added three goals, two of them when he was dropped to a third line).

The Penguins, on the other hand, have gotten 22 even-strength goals from their bottom six, including two from Bryan Rust in their series-clinching 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.

Rust’s second goal came just 30 seconds after the Lightning tied the game in the second period, to help the Penguins advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the fifth time in franchise history (1991, 1992, 2008, 2009, 2016).

Rust became the second rookie in NHL history to record multiple goals in two series-clinching wins in a single postseason. The other was Chicago’s Jeremy Roenick in 1990.

Rust has five goals through 17 playoff games, which matches his career total from his 55 regular-season appearances (5 goals, 8 assists).

Rookie goalies: Per Elias, Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray (16 saves) and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (37 saves) became the sixth set of rookie goaltenders to face off in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the first since the 2006 Eastern Conference Final, when Carolina’s Cam Ward defeated Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.

Game 7s: The Penguins are now 8-7 all-time in Game 7s, including a 3-7 record at home. Their home win in a Game 7 was their first since the 1995 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals when they beat the Caps 3-0. …The team that scores first improved to 124-42 (.747) all-time in Game 7s, including a 5-0 record this year. … Home teams improved to 97-69 (.584) all-time in Game 7s in the Stanley Cup playoffs, including a 4-1 record this year.

Next up: Based on their superior regular-season point total, the Penguins will host Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, which begins Monday night at Consol Energy Center.

Late arrival: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos logged 11:55 and two shots on goal while playing in his first game since March 31. … Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin totaled 5 goals and 9 assists in 17 playoff games. He had 4 goals and 10 assists in 21 regular season games.

Ask Stanley on Twitter: Phil Pritchard, the Keeper of the Cup, will visit Twitter Canada’s headquarters in Toronto today for a Q&A with fans beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET. Twitter members can use the #AskStanley hashtag to ask Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) questions about his adventures with the Cup as well as what to expect heading into the Stanley Cup Final.

World Cup announcements: The Caps had no additions to Team Russia, Team Czech Republic and Team Finland, which announced their complete 23-man World Cup rosters earlier today.

But they could have additions to Team USA (Matt Niskanen).

Here is the complete announcement schedules for today:

Team Finland – 3 a.m.
Team Czech Republic – 5 a.m.
Team Russia – 5 a.m.
Team Sweden – 11 a.m.
Team Europe – 6:09 p.m.
Team USA – 6:13 p.m.
Team North America – 6:16 p.m.
Team Canada – 6:22 p.m.