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With 7 shots and an assist, Andre Burakovsky picks up where he left off for Caps

With 7 shots and an assist, Andre Burakovsky picks up where he left off for Caps

Andre Burakovsky’s return from injury surely was a memorable one.

On Saturday night, the Capitals winger registered 11 shot attempts—including a season-high seven on goal—and an assist as Washington earned a pivotal 5-3 win in Tampa.

It would probably be a stretch to say Burakovsky’s absence was a big reason for the Caps’ recent malaise. But it wouldn’t be a stretch, at all, to say the 22-year-old injected a bit of much-needed hunger and hustle into the lineup at Amalie Arena.

“It’s been a long time since my legs has been this good,” Burakovsky said. “I think I was flying. I was creating chances. Everything felt good.”

Burakovsky’s burst, top gear and tenacity did indeed jump out.

RELATED: Caps clinch playoff berth for third straight season

The reason? He said it's because of the conditioning work he put in with strength coach Mark Nemish over the past month while on injured reserve with a broken hand.

“I’ve been working very hard with Nemo in the gym and on the ice,” Burakovsky said. “I’m in phenomenal shape right now. It felt really good to be back.”

In fact, Burakovsky said his skating is much further along than the other parts of his game...namely his shot accuracy. Three of his 11 attempts got blocked while another missed the net.

“I was creating a lot of chances but I was struggling a little bit with my shot,” he said. “But not because of my hand. I don’t know what it was. I haven’t been shooting on a real goalie for a while. I was creating a lot of chances but I couldn’t get any in the back of the net. Out of those shots, I need to get at least one. But a good team win today.”

Burakovsky added: “There was a bunch of times when I was shooting where the puck just hit his chest, just don’t want to do what I want. I’m always trying to pick a corner. I had so many good chances where I definitely should have scored.”

A couple of those prime scoring chances came late in the second period of a tied game. First, Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy turned Burakovsky away at the doorstep with a brilliant toe save. Then, a few minutes later, the Bolts netminder plucked a high, hard wrist shot out of the air from close range.

Burakovsky did, though, find his way onto the scoresheet in the third period when he fed the puck to the point, where Matt Niskanen hammered a shot on net. Justin Williams got his stick on the puck, redirecting it past Vasilevskiy to put the Caps ahead 3-2 and give Burakovsky his first point since Feb. 7—the game before he suffered the injury.

The big question coming into Saturday was whether Burakovsky would be able to pick up where he left off. After all, he was on a tear when he got hurt, having recorded six goals and 13 points in the 12 previous games.

The answer is a resounding, ‘Yes.’

“I’m still a little bit rusty with my shooting,” Burakovsky conceded. “But it’s going to come back, and it’s going to come back pretty soon.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps clinch playoff berth for third straight season

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Prediction recap: Braden Holtby stifles Arizona

Prediction recap: Braden Holtby stifles Arizona

The Caps found themselves in a tight game in the third period, but a three-goal flurry led to the 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Here’s a recap of the three bold predictions for the game.

1. Washington will not lead after the first period - Wrong

If you came late and saw the score was 1-1, you may have thought the Caps were looking ahead and got off to a bad start against a non-playoff team. That’s not what happened. The first period was arguably the Caps’ best of the night. It certainly was the most dominant. The game may have been won with a quick flurry in the third, but the Caps got off to a great start and lead Arizona 1-0 after the first 20 minutes.

RELATED: Capitals set a new franchise record Saturday night

2. Braden Holtby will allow one goal or fewer - Correct

Arizona had three shots on goal in the first period. Three. That’s not going to get it done against Holtby. The Coyotes made him work for it in the second and third period and finished with 29 shots on goal for the game, but if you spot Holtby a free first period, it’s going to be hard to beat him enough times to get the win.

3. Both teams will combine for fewer than five power plays – Wrong

This game wasn’t any more physical than I anticipated, but it was faster. That led to a lot of stick penalties. Both teams gave up a combined total of eight power plays on Saturday and all of them except Tom Wilson’s double-minor for roughing were stick penalties.

2017 Results: How does the saying go, one out of three ain’t bad? That’s definitely how that saying goes, right?

Correct: 37
Wrong: 66.6
Push: 3

MORE CAPITALS: Winnik comes up huge on a night when the Caps needed a hero

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Capitals set a new franchise record for home wins on Saturday night

Capitals set a new franchise record for home wins on Saturday night

With a 4-1 over the Coyotes on Saturday night, the Capitals established a new team record for home wins in a season by collecting their 31st victory on F Street.

They had won 30 games at home twice previously—in 1985-86 and 2009-10.

The 31 wins on home ice are also the most in the NHL this season. The Penguins are second with 29.

RELATED: Winnik comes up huge on a night when the Caps needed a hero

Braden Holtby says consistency in their approach has been the key.

“I think we’ve felt comfortable at home all year,” the goalie said. “We’ve been able to prepare and play consistently and not get too carried away trying to impress people. We’ve stuck to our game throughout the year. And it showed. And that’s good. That’s what we want do: make sure Verizon Center is a tough place to come into and play.”

Holtby also tipped his cap to the fans. Saturday’s game marked the 355th consecutive sellout.

“Obviously the fans help,” Holtby said. “Tonight they were awesome. [They had] a lot of energy for a Capitals against Arizona game that’s not exactly a big rivalry. They brought us a lot more energy than we would have had otherwise.”

Saturday’s win also helped the Caps maintain their three-point lead in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, which guarantees home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.   

“Home ice is everything in the playoffs,” said winger Daniel Winnik, who scored two third period goals against the Coyotes. “You see teams that have won it, they do exceptional on home ice. We have a lot of confidence in this building and that’s gotta carry over into the playoffs.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz recognizes ‘greatness’ of Ovechkin's accomplishments