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Kovalchuk's OT goal gives Devils win over Capitals

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Kovalchuk's OT goal gives Devils win over Capitals

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Ilya Kovalchuk scored 4:39 into overtime, and the New Jersey Devils won their third straight game to start the lockout-shortened season, 3-2 over the winless Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kovalchuk took a pass from defenseman Marek Zidlicky low in the left circle and beat Michal Neuvirth, who was outstanding in overtime. Neuvirth made seven saves, most on a New Jersey power play.

Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias scored for New Jersey, which is off to its first 3-0 start since the 2002-03 season, the last time the Devils won the Stanley Cup.

Mike Ribeiro and Mike Green scored for Washington in the final 7:15 of regulation to force overtime. The Capitals (0-3-1) became the last NHL team to earn a point this season.

Neuvirth finished with 32 saves, stopping five shots after Green was called for interference in the opening minute of overtime.

Ribeiro had Washington's only shot against Martin Brodeur in the extra session, but it was a good one in close. Brodeur, who was within 7:15 of his 121st career shutout, made the save with his shoulder. The puck just missed the upper corner of the net.

Washington was seemingly out of the game trailing 2-0 until the Devils took a couple of penalties in the final 10 minutes of regulation, The Capitals took advantage despite playing their second game in two nights.

Ribeiro cut the deficit in half with a slam-dunk goal from the edge of the crease with the Capitals enjoying a two-man advantage.

Green, who was stopped on a great chance from between the circles in the opening minute, tied it with 2:56 left in the third period. Zidlicky failed to get the puck out of his zone, and Green beat Brodeur trough a screen with a shot from the right point for his first goal of the season.

Brodeur appeared headed for his second straight shutout since April 2010, but it wasn't to be.

Under new coach Adam Oates, the Capitals are off to their worst start since dropping six straight in the 1993-94 season. Washington recovered then and made the playoffs before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers in the second round.

The Devils didn't have a lot of chances against Neuvirth early, but made the most of the them.

Gionta gave the Devils the lead at 13:55 of the first period, just a second after an effective Capitals power play expired.

Defenseman Mark Fayne started the rush by poking the puck to Gionta at the blue line. He carried into center ice and made a cross-ice pass to Jacob Josefson. Before being sandwiched by defenseman Tomas Kundratek and Troy Brouwer, the Swede swept the puck to Gionta, who beat Neuvirth one-on-one for his second career regular-season goal.

Washington nearly tied the game on a power play with roughly eight minutes left in the second. Ovechkin, who was moved back to left wing from right wing before the game, was stopped on a blue-line blast. Brodeur then turned away a backhand rebound attempt by Joel Ward, who had the primary assist on Ribeiro's goal.

Elias stretched the Devils' lead to 2-0 with a minute left in the second period when New Jersey had a 5-on-3 advantage. A shot from the point by Zidlicky hit the skate of teammate David Clarkson in front, and Elias put the rebound into a wide-open net.

NOTES: Brodeur finished with 26 saves. ... The 3-0 start is the Devils' best since starting the 2002-03 season with the same record. They won the Stanley Cup that year.

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Alex Ovechkin ties the knot

Alex Ovechkin ties the knot

Alex Ovechkin is a married man. 

Ovechkin tweeted out a picture on Sunday of him and his fiance, Nastya Shubskaya, wearing their wedding bands. 

Capitals spokesman Sergey Kocharov confirmed that Ovechkin did indeed tie the knot. 

Congrats to the happy couple! 

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2016-17 Season Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

2016-17 Season Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.

Team: Philadelphia Flyers.

How they did last season: 41-27-14 (96 points); 5th in the Metropolitan Division; 7th in the Eastern Conference. Lost in the first round to the Capitals, 4-2. 

Notable acquisitions: RW Dale Weise; C Boyd Gordon; D T.J. Brennan (two-way contract); and LW Roman Lyubimov (two-way).

Notable departures: C Sam Gagne; C Ryan White; C RJ Umberger; and D Evgeny Medvedev.

When they will play the Caps: Dec. 21 in Philly; Jan. 15 in Washington; Feb 22 in Philly; and March 4 in Philly.

Analysis: The Flyers surged into the playoffs last spring, riding a 15-6-2 hot streak ignited, in part, by no-nonsense first-year head coach Dave Hakstol, the emergence of rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (46 points), a career-year from Wayne Simmonds (32 goals) and a breakout campaign from Brayden Schenn (59 points).

After pushing the Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals to six games in April, the Flyers had the look of a team that was a tweak or two away from being really good.

Then the offseason came and went without a whole lot happening. It shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise given the Flyers’ proximity to the salary cap ceiling. But it was still, in a word, underwhelming.

GM Ron Hextall’s biggest moves, in fact, were the signing Weise and Gordon, a pair of bottom-six forwards. Weise had one goal in 19 regular season and playoff games for Chicago after the Blackhawks acquired the big winger at the deadline from Montreal. Gordon, on the other hand, is a 32-year-old fourth-line faceoff specialist who broke into the NHL with the Capitals. 

So, yeah, that’s pretty much it.

Are the Flyers any better off? Marginally. Maybe. 

The grand plan, it seems, is for the improvement to come from within the organization in the form of a bounce back seasons from a few key vets and the emergence of a prospect or two.

Topping the list of bounce back candidates is Jakub Voracek, who missed nine games and saw his point total side from 81 to 55. It could be argued that Claude Giroux belongs in this category, too. His point totals have gone 86-73-67 the past three years. The 28-year-old team captain possesses top 10-scoring talent; the Flyers need him to get there again.

As for the prospects, the Flyers have one that many believe is ready to contribute: defenseman Ivan Provorov, the No. 7 overall pick in 2015. If the 19-year-old proves he belongs, there’s a chance Provorov (21 goals and 52 assists in 62 games for Brandon of the WHL) could give the Flyers’ blue line an offensive jolt similar to the one it got from Gostispehere last year.    

Season prediction: I’m not confident in the Flyers’ chances of returning to the postseason.

If goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth—both in the final year of their contracts—push one another, I suspect Philly could squeak in again. Philly finished tied for fifth in team save percentage last season (.917).

If they just miss out, it’ll be due to one reason: After finishing 22nd in goals (2.57 per) last season, they needed to add some proven scoring talent and they did not. Hextall wanted in on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes, but the Hobey Baker winner ended up signing with the Rangers.

In a league where goals are increasingly difficult to come by, the Flyers need more of them. And, after poring over the projected lineup for the 2016-17, it’s hard to see where those goals are going to come from.

2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS

Pacific Division
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
— Minnesota Wild
— Nashville Predators
— St. Louis Blues
— Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
— Florida Panthers
— Montreal Canadiens
— Ottawa Senators
— Tampa Bay Lightning
— Toronto Maple Leafs

Metropolitan Division
— Carolina Hurricanes
— Columbus Blue Jackets
— New Jersey Devils
— New York Islanders
New York Rangers
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming Aug. 30)

RELATED: 2016-17 NHL Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

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Samsonov gives glowing review of first experience with Caps

Samsonov gives glowing review of first experience with Caps

Caps prospect Ilya Samsonov got his first taste of Caps hockey in July as he attended development camp. Though communication was a challenge considering he doesn't speak English, it sounds as if Samsonov enjoyed his time in Washington.

"I had the most positive impressions," Samsonov said in an interview with Sports Express as translated by a native speaker. "It was interesting to see how they work overseas."

Samsonov's hockey career has been spent playing in Russia in both the KHL and MHL, the Minor Hockey League, making development camp his first taste of North American hockey. He played well and also seemed to enjoy the time he spent learning from head coach Barry Trotz.

"[Trotz] is a great coach, great guy, always positive, gives great advice," Samsonov said of the Caps' bench boss.

RELATED: HOLTBY SAYS PRICE SHOULD START FOR CANADA IN WORLD CUP

But don't take that to mean he will be suiting up for a game at the Verizon Center any time soon.

The 19-year-old goalie remains under contract with his KHL team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, for another two years. Samsonov has no intention of breaking that contract, but he did say both teams remain in contact.

"Capitals are not going to do anything without talking to Metallurg first," Samsonov said. "Everyone is in touch, we are working with the goaltending coach from Metallurg and his colleague from the Caps, Mitch Korn. We have not talked about the future yet, I am planning on finishing my contract with Metallurg."

While it may be some time before Samsonov signs with the Caps, Samsonov is already preparing for life in the NHL and is learning English. Though he said the process is "a work in progress" he will soon get some help form Trotz's son, Tyson, who teaches English in Russia.

"All summer we were at various training camps, but now I am going back to Magnitogorsk and will start learning the language," Samsonov said.

The Caps would no doubt love to avoid another situation like they had with Evgeny Kuznetsov who re-signed with this KHL team for two years in 2012 thus delaying his arrival in Washington. It's good then to hear that Samsonov enjoyed his brief stay and remains in contact with his fellow countrymen who are already on the team.

Said Samsonov, "All Russian Caps players seem to enjoy their life in D.C."

MORE CAPITALS: Caps assistant misses out on head coaching job in Colorado