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Penguins get 3rd win in row, topping Capitals 6-3

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Penguins get 3rd win in row, topping Capitals 6-3

WASHINGTON (AP) Chris Kunitz scored a hat trick in the Pittsburgh Penguins' Super Bowl Sunday visit to the nation's capital, leading a 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals that reflected both teams' fortunes so far in the lockout-shortened season.

Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Matt Cooke also scored, Sidney Crosby had three assists, and Tomas Vokoun made 21 saves against his former team for the Penguins, who have won three straight and four of five to lead the Atlantic Division.

Mike Green, John Carlson and Mike Ribeiro scored for the Capitals - and Carlson's goal was an accident that took a weird carom off a stanchion along the glass. Two-time league MVP Alex Ovechkin, who said before the game that he was somewhat embarrassed to have only three points on the season, contributed a secondary assist on a third-period power-play goal with Washington trailing by three.

Washington has lost seven of nine games to start the season. Hosting the Penguins as a Super Bowl warm-up for the third straight year, the Capitals no longer look like the formidable team that beat Pittsburgh 5-4 in overtime with a hat trick from Ovechkin in 2010 and shut out the Penguins 3-0 a year ago - both feisty games that included punches thrown by Ovechkin.

Ovechkin was overly physical in this game as well, getting a roughing call in the final two minutes.

Under new coach Adam Oates, the Capitals are feeling their way around the ice, especially on defense. Braden Holtby stopped only 20 of 26 shots, allowing Letang and Kunitz to beat him glove side 37 seconds apart in the second period to give the Penguins a 4-2 lead.

Vokoun, who shut out the New York Rangers on Thursday, made a successful return to the Verizon Center. He was signed to be the Capitals' No. 1 goalie last season but hurt his groin and was eclipsed by Holtby during the playoffs, prompting Washington to trade him to Pittsburgh.

Martin scored from the point after Crosby won a faceoff in the Capitals' zone to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the first period. Washington tied it less than two minutes later after a nice sequence in which Ribeiro won the puck along the boards and passed it to Wojtek Wolski, who then sent it along to a wide-open Green.

After Cooke made it 2-1, Carlson tied it on a bizarre goal in the second period. The Capitals defenseman was merely trying to dump the puck along the boards, but it rose up and took an odd deflection. Vokoun had already started to retreat behind the net to intercept the puck and tripped trying to change direction to get back to the crease.

Notes: Ovechkin said before the game that the Capitals were in a ``desperate moment.'' He noted that he and other NHL players who spent the lockout playing in Russia should be doing better. ``Right now I'm standing here, I have only three points, and, you know, it kind of embarrass me.'' ... The Capitals played the first of three games without D John Erskine, who was suspended for three games for elbowing Wayne Simmonds in Friday's win over the Philadelphia Flyers. ... Washington had been 12-1-3 in its pervious 16 regular-season meetings vs. Pittsburgh.

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter:http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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Report: Caps prospect expected to test free agency

Report: Caps prospect expected to test free agency

With the Aug. 15 deadline approaching, it appears the Caps may lose a prospect from their 2012 draft class. Forward prospect Thomas DiPauli will become a free agent on Aug. 15 if the Caps are unable to sign him to a contract before then.

Now Craig Custance of ESPN is reporting it is unlikely the Caps will be able to sign DiPauli before Aug. 15.

The news comes as little surprise considering how long the Caps have been trying to sign him and have been unable to do so.

"We're working on trying to sign him," Brian MacLellan said at development camp. "It's been ongoing and we'd like to have him turn pro and play in Hershey next year."

DiPauli was not at the team's development camp in July.

After getting drafted in 2012, DiPauli has spent the last four years playing for Notre Dame. According to the CBA, a player who is drafted before beginning his college career and then plays the next four years in college can become a free agent on Aug. 15 four years after he was drafted if he does not sign an entry-level contract with the team that drafted him. Jimmy Vesey made headlines this spring by deciding not to sign with the Nashville Predators and is expected to head to free agency as well.

As Custance notes, the Caps are still in contention to land his services which begs the question, why would he not just sign?

Vesey was the Hobey Baker Award winner in 2016 as the top college hockey player. He will likely make the jump to the NHL right away regardless of what team he signs with, as Nashville general manager David Poile indicated. There is not the same buzz surrounding DiPauli and it is unclear just what sort of market their will be for his services past Aug. 15. No doubt there will be some interest—he is a young player with a lot of offensive skill and upside—but perhaps not as much as he may be expecting.

The Capitals selected DiPauli in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Draft. In his senior season at Notre Dame, he was the third leading scorer on the Fighting Irish with 32 points.

RELATED: WILSON STILL LOOKING TO FIND HIS OFFENSIVE TOUCH

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Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Caps re-sign Tom Wilson

Grading the Caps' offseason moves: Caps re-sign Tom Wilson

The quest for the Stanley Cup doesn't begin on the ice, but during the offseason as general managers build their teams for the upcoming campaign. The Caps have made a number of moves this summer to try to make their team better and get over the playoff hump.

Let's break down and grade each move the team made this offseason to help figure out whether it was the right move for the team.

Today's move: Re-signing Tom Wilson

Not every offseason move involves bringing in someone new. Tom Wilson may have been a restricted free agent, but the Caps still had to make a choice on whether or not to bring him back. The team decided to walk away from fellow RFA Michael Latta, but offered Wilson a qualifying offer and re-signed him to a two-year deal worth $4 million.

RELATED: WHAT WILL SANFORD'S ROLE BE THIS SEASON?

In the end, the move was no surprise.

General manager Brian MacLellan made clear after the season that he wanted Wilson to become a Joel Ward type of player.

“It’s on Tom and on us to turn him into that kind of guy that has a net-front presence, that finds loose pucks, finds rebounds, plays good along the wall," MacLellan said. "I think Tom is our answer to that."

But is there room for Wilson with such a crowded roster? If he develops into the player MacLellan envisions, absolutely. The Caps have a need for players willing to fight for those dirty goals and Wilson's physicality and offensive upside makes him an ideal candidate to do just that.

Grade: A-

To truly evaluate this move, let's try to forget where Wilson was drafted. It's clear he's not going to live up to his first round selection. That, however, does not mean he does not still have value for the Caps. It's time now for that value to come from his offense rather than just from his fists.

The best part of this move is not the price, but the clear, achievable goal the team has set before Wilson.

The Caps need a net-front presence. Wilson needs to find his offensive game. Despite what other general managers may think of him, Wilson can and should be contributing more than just seven goals and 16 assists in a season. Now he has a "prove it" deal and a clear, defined goal of what the Caps want to see him develop into.

When the Caps drafted him, they were hoping for a Milan Lucic type of player. That does not look like it's going to happen, but it would still be foolish to give up on Wilson who is just 22 years old. At this point, it doesn't matter where he was drafted. If he becomes a Joel Ward, there's still value in that.

MORE CAPITALS: CAN CAPS RELY ON JOE CANNATA AS THEIR NO. 3 GOALIE?

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Tarik El-Bashir: Thrilled to return to hockey beat as CSN's Capitals Insider

Tarik El-Bashir: Thrilled to return to hockey beat as CSN's Capitals Insider

After covering the Redskins for the past four seasons, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m returning to the hockey beat as CSN’s Capitals Insider.

In a lot of ways, this feels like a homecoming for me. 

For those of you who don’t know my backstory, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

I’m a native Washingtonian who learned to play hockey at Wheaton Ice Rink, went to games at Capitals Centre and had a Scott Stevens ‘drink your milk’ poster on my bedroom door. 

One of my first jobs in the business was contributing to The New York Times’ coverage of the Islanders, Rangers and Devils in the late 1990’s. Then, in 2005, I realized a dream of mine: I was named Capitals beat writer at The Washington Post and, over the next seven years, was fortunate enough to cover the highs and lows of the franchise I grew up cheering for. 

I was at Verizon Center for Ovechkin’s board-rattling NHL debut and witnessed “The Goal” from the press box in Glendale, Ariz. I was at Kettler Capitals Iceplex when Boudreau was hired on Thanksgiving and covered the dueling hat tricks by Ovechkin and Crosby in 2009 playoffs. I also worked the locker room after the Caps were humbled by Halak and the Habs in 2010 and after they got swept from the playoffs by Stamkos and Co. a year later.

Although I stopped writing about the Caps in 2012 and left The Post to join CSN a little while later, I never stopped following my hometown hockey team. I didn’t miss many games, but when work or my son’s crazy travel hockey schedule didn’t allow me to watch, I almost always dialed up the highlights on my laptop in the morning. 

This past April, I jumped at the opportunity to join CSN’s playoff coverage as an analyst on our post, postgame show, #CapitalsTalk. Although I hadn’t covered hockey in four years, it was like lacing up on an old, broken-in pair of skates; it just felt right. So when the chance to cover the Caps full-time was presented to me recently, I’m pretty sure I said, ‘Yes’ before my boss finished his thought.   

So, here we are. 

I’ve watched and covered a lot of Caps hockey over the years and now, after a scratching my NFL itch, I’m back for more. I’m pumped to join CSN’s deep and talented roster of analysts, reporters and producers. In my new role, I’ll lead our network’s coverage on the web and contribute to our coverage on the air. 

My first day on the job is today.

Please give me a follow on Twitter (@TarikCSN) and a like on Facebook (facebook.com/TarikCSN).

Talk to ya’ll soon.