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Caps go wild on Minnesota to snap four-game skid

Caps go wild on Minnesota to snap four-game skid

Final score: Washington Capitals 4, Minnesota Wild 2

How it happened: This one had all the makings of a goalie duel in the first period as Braden Holtby and Devan Dubnyk traded great save after great save. Nate Schmidt broke open the scoring with just 12 seconds left in the first period, however, and the Caps never looked back. Alex Ovechkin snapped his 10-game goal drought in the second period and Evgeny Kuznetsov added goal No. 3 just 2:16 later. Matt Dumba gave the Wild life with his goal less than a minute into the third period. Eric Staal scored four minutes later to pull Minnesota within one, but that would be as close as they would come as Jay Beagle put the exclamation point on the win.

What it means: The win snapped a four-game losing streak, the longest for the Caps since Barry Trotz’s first season in Washington. The Caps remain in first place of the Metropolitan Division with a two-point lead over Pittsburgh and three-point lead over Columbus, both of whom were idle Tuesday.

Goals

Caps goal: Nate Schmidt from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at 19:48 in the first period. Backstrom backhanded a pass from behind the net into the slot looking for Ovechkin. Ovechkin missed and the puck went to a waiting Schmidt who fired a quick shot at the net. The shot deflected off a defender past Dubnyk. Caps 1, Wild 0

Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom at 14:52 in the second period. Backstrom backhanded a pass to the blue line which Carlson fed over to Ovechkin in the office. Ovechkin fired the shot into the net just after the power play expired. Caps 2, Wild 0

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov (power play) from John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom at 17:08 in the second period. Backstrom pulled up just as he entered into the zone which drew the nearest defenseman to him. That allowed Kuznetsov to split  the defense. Backstrom fed him the pass and Kuznetsov had an open lane on Dubnyk. Caps 3, Wild 0

Wild goal: Matt Dumba from Mikael Granlund at 0:37 in the third period. Ovechkin tried to corral a puck in the defensive zone, but accidentally sent to behind the net to Granlund. Granlund fed Dumba in front of the net who had room to deke around and over the outstretched pad of Holtby. Caps 3, Wild 1

Wild goal: Eric Staal (power play) from Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter at 4:37 in the third period. The Caps killed off the first penalty of a five-on-three power play for the Wild, but as Brett Connolly rushed into the play, Staal buried the rebound of a Zach Parise shot to pull Minnesota within one. Caps 3, Wild 2

Caps goal: Jay Beagle from Dmitry Orlov at 14:19 in the third period. Orlov retrieved the puck at the Caps' blue line on a soft dump-in by Minnesota who was looking for the line change. He fired the puck up to Beagle quickly to start the rush and Beagle snapped a beauty past Dubnyk. Caps 4, Wild 2

3 stars

1. Nicklas Backstrom: Backstrom had a hand in all three of the Caps' goals and each assist was a good one. This was his third three assist game of the season.

2. Braden Holtby: Dubnyk may well win the Vezina Trophy this year, but Holtby was the better netminder on the night. He was unbeatable for the first 40 minutes of the game. In the two goals he allowed, one came off a defensizve zone turnover and the other was at the tail end of a two-man advantage. Everything Holtby could save, he did.

3. Alex Ovechkin: Mired in the worst goal slump of his career, Ovechkin fired a goal from the office in the second period to snap a ten-game drought. It wasn't the best shot, but it was good enough to beat Dubnyk and put the Cpas in complete control of what had been a tight game.

Look ahead: The Caps host the Nashville Predators on Thursday and then head to Tampa Bay to play the wild card hopeful Lightning. They then return to Washington for a three-game home stand.

Tell us what you think: The losing streak is over and the Caps' beat the top team in the west to break it. Are you still concerned or did Tuesday's win allay your fears?

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Karl Alzner on the mend, status for second round remains unclear

Karl Alzner on the mend, status for second round remains unclear

Karl Alzner on Tuesday handled his heaviest practice workload since getting hurt, but it remains unclear when the Caps’ defenseman will return to the lineup.

Alzner has been sidelined with an upper body injury since Game 2 against Toronto.

“He’s progressing [and is] day-to-day,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “When the trainers say, 'Go', then he’ll go.”

Alzner took part in contact drills, including penalty kill, signaling the next step in his recovery.

Asked if he anticipates Alzner stepping back into the lineup when he’s healthy, Trotz said: “Possibly. We’re not there yet so I’m gonna be vague to you.”

RELATED: Trotz reveals why Ovechkin missed the second half of practice

Alzner said he felt good after the hour-long practice. Asked if he expects to play right away, he said: “I think so, yeah. I didn’t really think about that...I hope so.”

Alzner, who has appeared in 540 consecutive regular season games, acknowledged that it’s been frustrating to be sidelined given what’s at stake.

“Yeah, not fun,” he said. “It’s very, very frustrating, especially at this point of the year. You can handle it a little more in the regular season, but to watch the guys go to battle and to have the feeling of beating a team, it’s unfortunate to miss that. At the same time, I know that in the long run, it’s the best thing for the team [and] clearly was the right choice.”

Alzner has been replaced in the lineup by Nate Schmidt, who has played well the past four games. In addition to being reliable in his own end, he’s registered a pair of assists. He’s also a team-best +5.  

If and when Alzner is healthy, it’s going to force Trotz and Co. to make a difficult decision. Do you take out Schmidt? Someone else? Or go with seven defensemen?

“He’s done that,” Trotz said about Schmidt putting the coaches in a tough spot. “He’s come in and he’s done a really good job. He’s such a good skater. We played a quick team and he fit in just perfectly with us. I thought he was making a statement, ‘Hey I'm gonna make it tough to take me out of the lineup.”

Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast and subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play!

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Barry Trotz reveals why Alex Ovechkin missed the second half of practice

Barry Trotz reveals why Alex Ovechkin missed the second half of practice

Alex Ovechkin missed the second half of Tuesday’s practice — the Capitals’ first session in preparation for the Penguins — because of an equipment issue.

Prior to exiting the ice, the Caps’ captain came to the bench at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and examined his skate.

“His skate broke,” Coach Barry Trotz said before cracking, “I said, ‘You didn’t have another pair? He goes, ‘I couldn’t find them.’”

RELATED: CAPITALS vs. PENGUINS PREVIEW: FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

In all seriousness, though, it’s not clear why Ovechkin did not get his skate repaired, as is usual when a blade or holder cracks. 

“I don’t know what happened,” Trotz said. “It was a skate. He came over and there was something hanging off his skate there. I think when he went in the corner, [it] got sliced. He’s fine, as you see. You saw him walking around. He’s fine.”

Added Ovechkin, who appeared to be practicing at full speed during the first 20 or so minutes of practice and looked while walking around afterward: “Yeah, my skate is broke, almost in half. It’s okay.”

Ovechkin scored three goals in the first round as the Caps vanquished the Maple Leafs, 4 games to 2. The right wing ranks ninth on the team average ice time on the team at 19:43.

In addition to Ovechkin’s situation, Lars Eller did not practice. Trotz said the third line center, who has two assists so far in the postseason, took a “maintenance day.” 

Trotz said he expects Eller to practice on Wednesday.

RELATED: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS

Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast and subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play!