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Alex Ovechkin steals the show in one-sided rivalry win over Penguins

Alex Ovechkin steals the show in one-sided rivalry win over Penguins

Alex Ovechkin stole the show in Wednesday's rivalry matchup as he scored twice to lead the Washington Capitals to the 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

How it happened: On the verge of a career milestone, Ovechkin didn't wait long to earn point No. 1,000. He scored just 35 seconds into the game off a nice curl-and-drag around Kris Letang before wristing it past Fleury. He would add a power play goal in the second period to extend the lead to 2. Justin Williams finished the Penguins off in the third period as he was on the receiving end of some Evgeny Kuznetsov magic from behind the net. The Penguins would manage two third period goals from Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, but it would not be enough to mount a comeback.

What it means: With the win, Washington now vaults the Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division with 59 points. The win extends Washington’s win streak to a season-long seven games and improves their record over the last 18 games to 14-2-2. The Caps are now 2-0-1 against Pittsburgh this season and 7-5-4 within the division.

Turning point: Ovechkin's first goal set the tone for the whole game, but it was his second period game that really slammed the door. Pittsburgh actually outshot Washington 28 to 16 in total shot attempts in the first period. By the end of the second period, the Caps actually led in total shot attempts 34 to 33. At that point, Washington was in complete control.

1,000: Ovechkin’s first period goal was career point No. 1,000 for the Great 8. You can read more about him reaching the milestone here and what exactly 1,000 points mean historically here.

Don't forget about Holtby: Braden Holtby continued his incredible play of late with 30 saves in the win. The Caps netminder has now allowed only three goals in the last four games.

Pushing around the Penguins: In their last two games against Pittsburgh, the Caps have outscored the Penguins by a combined score of 11-3.

It's not all good: Just about the only thing Washington didn't do well on Wednesday was stay out of the box. Washington took seven minor penalties on the game, four of which resulted in power plays. Both of Pittsburgh's goals came on the power play.

Look ahead: The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Washington as they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday and division rival Philadelphia on Sunday. The Caps then have the quick turnaround with Monday night rematch with the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

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Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36

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Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36

The Capitals have made another significant round of cuts, reassigning 16 players to AHL Hershey and releasing another.

Among the players headed to the Bears are: forwards John Albert, Mathias Bau, Chris Bourque, Dustin Gazley, Hampus Gustafsson, Tim McGauley, Garrett Mitchell, Mason Mitchell and Wayne Simpson; defensemen Kristofers Bindulis, Connor Hobbs, Tommy Hughes, Lucas Johansen, Hubert Labrie; and goalies Adam Carlson and Vitek Vanecek.

The club also released forward Stephen Collins.

The highest profile cuts were Johansen, the team's first round pick in 2016, and Hobbs. The Caps have high hopes for the young blue liners, but it’s obvious both will benefit from some seasoning in the minor leagues as they make the leap from junior to the pro ranks.

Hershey’s training opens on Monday.

After taking Sunday off, the Caps will return to practice on Monday with a roster of 36 players—and three preseason games left to sort out the position battles.  

Forwards Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Liam O’Brien, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana and Nathan Walker are left battling for the three available jobs up front.

Meanwhile, defensemen Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Jyrki Jokipakka, Tyler Lewington, Aaron Ness, Jonas Siegenthaler and Colby Williams are competing for the two open spots on the backend.

Although some players, such as Chiasson and Walker, have already begun to separate themselves from the others, you can expect the competition to intensify over the next week. The Caps host the Devils on Wednesday, then play at the Hurricanes on Friday and at the Blues on Sunday.

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Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?

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USA TODAY Sports

Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?

Barry Trotz likes to play his cards close to the vest. With roster battles and lineup holes surrounding the team, there are plenty of questions for the Caps that need answering this preseason. If you look at how Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes ended, however, he may have given us at least one answer.

At the start of the game, Jay Beagle centered a line with Devante Smith-Pelly and Wayne Simpson on his wings. By the end of the game, Nathan Walker was playing on the left with Beagle at center and Smith-Pelly on the right.

"Walker was giving us some energy, he was giving us some speed and I just made that flip," Trotz told reporters after the game. "I just thought Walks was starting to make things happen. His speed was noticeable, his will on the puck if you will was really good. I thought that'd be a good fit. I just moved him over there and I thought he had an effect on the game."

Could that have been a preview of the team's fourth line?

RELATED: CHIASSON, WALKER MAKE THEIR CASE TO MAKE THE TEAM

Walker turned in another tremendous performance showing great energy, speed and grit. Despite being 5-foot-8, he still remains a feisty player who could be found at the center of every scrum. He exchanged hits and jabs with the 6-foot-3 Klas Dahlbeck multiple times throughout the game and even drew a penalty on the Carolina defenseman as he drove the net after managing to slip away from a hit along the boards.

"He's one of those hard guys to play against because ... they're on you all the time," Trotz said. "When you can affect the opposition and take them out of their game because the way you play, then you're pretty effective."

That brings us back to the lines. The Caps have not one, but two openings on the fourth line to play alongside Beagle. The fact that Trotz put Walker and Smith-Pelly on that line, two players fighting for a spot in the lineup, could be a preview of what the fourth line may ultimately look like to start the season.

That would be just fine with Beagle.

"It's fun to play with a guy who brings that much energy," Beagle said of Walker. "He's always had that energy and he's always been a little guy who grinds it out and isn't afraid to get in there and get in the corners and wins a lot of battles. He's awesome to play with. He's a lot of fun."

At this point, given how he has played in his two preseason games, it is hard to see how Walker does not make the roster. His energy and style are a perfect fit for what the Caps need on their fourth line. He would be an excellent compliment to Beagle and that has not escaped Trotz's notice.

"I think they might enjoy playing together, but they're effective together," Trotz said. "They get on the puck, they work you over and they tire you out. I'll tell you that."

With other players such as Alex Chiasson, Riley Barber and Anthony Peluso still vying to make the team, it is still too early to tell if this is definitively what the fourth line will look like, but the trio certainly made their case.

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