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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.

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A handy-dandy guide to the Caps' free agents

A handy-dandy guide to the Caps' free agents

If you are a fan of the Capitals, you have been hearing for a long time about how difficult this offseason is going to be because of how many expiring contracts the team has. There are a bunch and it can be hard to keep track of.

Luckily, we are here for you. Here is a handy-dandy guide to all of the Caps' pending free agents.

Why is everyone assuming Evgeny Kuznetsov will be re-signed but keeping T.J. Oshie will be difficult? Who is unrestricted and restricted? What are the chances players like Daniel Winnik and Brett Connolly return?

We have all the answers. Check out the guide to Caps free agency here and impress your friends with all your hockey knowledge.

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20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps re-sign T.J. Oshie?

20 offseason Caps questions: Should the Caps re-sign T.J. Oshie?

Another playoff disappointment—as well as a host of expiring player contracts—has left the Capitals with a ton of questions to answer this offseason.

Over the next month, Jill Sorenson, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir will take a close look at the 20 biggest issues facing the team as the business of hockey kicks into high gear.     

There’s no denying what T.J. Oshie has meant to the Capitals over the past two seasons; his goal production spells it out quite clearly.

Since 2015, in fact, Oshie’s 59 tallies are second to only Alex Ovechkin’s 83. So, yeah, he’s a critical part of Washington’s potent offense. Oshie’s coaches and teammates also laud the impact his energy has on the ice, bench and dressing room. But that doesn’t mean Oshie is a slam dunk to be back in red next season.

He’s going to be expensive to re-sign and the Caps don’t have a lot of room under the salary cap ceiling.   

Today’s question: Should the Caps re-sign Oshie?

Sorenson: This is an easy one. Yes, yes, yes, yes. I love spending other people’s money!  Absolutely the Capitals need to find a way to make this happen. T.J. Oshie has a young family who loves it here in the DMV, and I would imagine that a longer term deal would trump any kind of short term money another team may offer. In the past, the Caps have been loathe to offer contracts longer than three years, but they did it for two cornerstones on the blue line three years ago in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, who were also unrestricted free agents at the time. Oshie reached career highs in goals in both of his years here in Washington (26, in his first year, 33 in his second), but I believe the intangibles he brings are just as valuable. Oshie is a guy who is almost always smiling, he loves hockey, loves his teammates, and seems to find joy coming to the rink every day.This is an important perspective to have in this day and age when professional sports quickly become a pressure-filled business. Oshie also helps draw some of the attention away from the other stars on the team, which means that pressure is spread around more equally, which is better for everyone.

CLICK HERE FOR HANDY GUIDE TO EVERY CAPS FREE AGENT

El-Bashir: Let’s weigh the pros and cons. (When considering this season’s stats, remember Oshie missed 14 games). First, the pros: As I mentioned in the intro, Oshie is the second best goal scorer on the Caps. He’s an integral piece on the league’s third-ranked power play (7 ppg) and can be dangerous on the penalty kill, as well. He brings it every shift of every game. In fact, I’d argue that no Cap plays harder on a nightly basis. Oshie does the small things, too. He ranked first among Caps forwards in blocked shots (50), second in takeaways (49), third in hits (95) and third in penalties drawn per 60 minutes (1.14). In the playoffs, Oshie’s 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) were second only to Nicklas Backstrom’s 13. Now for the cons: Oshie, at age 30, ain’t getting any younger. He was one of five 30-somethings to hit the 30-goal plateau last season (out of the 26 players who netted 30 or more goals). Additionally, the miles on Oshie’s generously listed 6-foot, 189-pound frame are hard miles and his injury history shows that he tends to get banged up and miss games. Considering all the above factors, here’s my take: if the plan is to contend next year, the Caps need to figure this one out, even if it means he’s the only UFA they retain and it forces a tough decision with regard to another player (or even two). The free agent market does not appear to be a great option and no one currently on the roster is ready to replicate Oshie’s production.    

Regan: If there was no such thing as a salary cap, absolutely they should re-sign T.J. Oshie. The Caps searched for years for a top line winger to play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin and Oshie was the best answer this team has had since Mike Knuble. But there is a salary cap and Washington is going to be up against it. Oshie has made it clear he wants to stay, but there is no way Washington can afford to pay him anywhere close to what he can command on the open market and every player has that point where there is just too much money left on the table to ignore. If you can somehow make the numbers work, I am all for it, but I also do not think the Caps should handcuff their entire offseason plans so they can re-sign a 30-year-old winger who surpassed 30 goals for the first time in his career in a contract year. You always have to overpay for free agents and honestly, if you give Oshie something like a five-year deal for $6 or 7 million per year, I have a hard time believing he will still be living up to that contract in years four and five. If there's any way to bring him back for a reasonable number, do it, but I am not about to get into a bidding war for him.

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