Washington Capitals

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Penguins get 3rd win in row, topping Capitals 6-3

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Penguins get 3rd win in row, topping Capitals 6-3

WASHINGTON (AP) Chris Kunitz scored a hat trick in the Pittsburgh Penguins' Super Bowl Sunday visit to the nation's capital, leading a 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals that reflected both teams' fortunes so far in the lockout-shortened season.

Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Matt Cooke also scored, Sidney Crosby had three assists, and Tomas Vokoun made 21 saves against his former team for the Penguins, who have won three straight and four of five to lead the Atlantic Division.

Mike Green, John Carlson and Mike Ribeiro scored for the Capitals - and Carlson's goal was an accident that took a weird carom off a stanchion along the glass. Two-time league MVP Alex Ovechkin, who said before the game that he was somewhat embarrassed to have only three points on the season, contributed a secondary assist on a third-period power-play goal with Washington trailing by three.

Washington has lost seven of nine games to start the season. Hosting the Penguins as a Super Bowl warm-up for the third straight year, the Capitals no longer look like the formidable team that beat Pittsburgh 5-4 in overtime with a hat trick from Ovechkin in 2010 and shut out the Penguins 3-0 a year ago - both feisty games that included punches thrown by Ovechkin.

Ovechkin was overly physical in this game as well, getting a roughing call in the final two minutes.

Under new coach Adam Oates, the Capitals are feeling their way around the ice, especially on defense. Braden Holtby stopped only 20 of 26 shots, allowing Letang and Kunitz to beat him glove side 37 seconds apart in the second period to give the Penguins a 4-2 lead.

Vokoun, who shut out the New York Rangers on Thursday, made a successful return to the Verizon Center. He was signed to be the Capitals' No. 1 goalie last season but hurt his groin and was eclipsed by Holtby during the playoffs, prompting Washington to trade him to Pittsburgh.

Martin scored from the point after Crosby won a faceoff in the Capitals' zone to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the first period. Washington tied it less than two minutes later after a nice sequence in which Ribeiro won the puck along the boards and passed it to Wojtek Wolski, who then sent it along to a wide-open Green.

After Cooke made it 2-1, Carlson tied it on a bizarre goal in the second period. The Capitals defenseman was merely trying to dump the puck along the boards, but it rose up and took an odd deflection. Vokoun had already started to retreat behind the net to intercept the puck and tripped trying to change direction to get back to the crease.

Notes: Ovechkin said before the game that the Capitals were in a ``desperate moment.'' He noted that he and other NHL players who spent the lockout playing in Russia should be doing better. ``Right now I'm standing here, I have only three points, and, you know, it kind of embarrass me.'' ... The Capitals played the first of three games without D John Erskine, who was suspended for three games for elbowing Wayne Simmonds in Friday's win over the Philadelphia Flyers. ... Washington had been 12-1-3 in its pervious 16 regular-season meetings vs. Pittsburgh.

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter:http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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Despite tumultuous offseason, Brian MacLellan declares 'We've got a good team'

Despite tumultuous offseason, Brian MacLellan declares 'We've got a good team'

Reports of the Capitals' demise have been greatly exaggerated. So says general manager Brian MacLellan.

Washington has undergone a tumultuous offseason that has seen the departure of several key players including Marcus Johansson, Justin Williams, Nate Schmidt and Karl Alzner, among others. There is no doubt the Capitals are not the same team that ran away with the Presidents' Trophy the past two seasons, but MacLellan wants you to know that doesn't mean the Caps will nosedive next season.

“People make it sound like we’re a lottery team," MacLellan said in an interview with the Washington Post's Barry Svrluga. "I’m shocked by that. We’ve got good players. I want people to know: We’ve got a good team.”

RELATED: The time is now for prospect Walker to make history

The Capitals have loaded up their roster for several years in the hopes of winning the ever elusive Stanley Cup. But no team can reload forever, especially in the salary cap era. That seems to have caught up to the Caps this offseason.

MacLellan went on to address each of the major moves the team made, or didn't make, over the summer.

  • Losing Schmidt: The multiple goalies available in the expansion draft and in free agency made Philipp Grubauer less attractive to Vegas which is why the two teams could not come to an agreement to protect Schmidt. MacLellan also sees defense as an "organizational strength" for Washington with several prospects poised to compete for NHL time. “We like Schmidt,” MacLellan said. “But it’s not as huge a deal as people are making it out to be.”
  • Trading Johansson: MacLellan netted what the market dictated he could get for Johansson at that point in the offseason. Trading him earlier in the summer did not make sense because MacLellan would not know whether or not he would need to wait until after the final numbers on the Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and T.J. Oshie deals were in.
  • Signing Oshie for eight years: “The decision becomes: Do we want Oshie or not?” MacLellan said. “I don’t know what the stink is. Oshie, he’s a big part of our culture. He drives the team. We felt it was necessary. People like Williams at 36, but they don’t like Oshie at 36?”
  • Signing Kuznetsov for eight years, $62.4 million: “We sat there and said, ‘Kuzy’s 25 years old.’ He’s going to be a No. 1 center. It’s the way the league’s going — speed, youth. We’ve got two good centers [along with Nicklas Backstrom]. We spent forever trying to find the 1-2 punch. How can we not do it?’”

You can read Svrluga's full article here.

MORE CAPITALS: Why prospect Jakub Vrana can find success in 2017-18

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For the latest Caps coverage be sure to follow @CSNCapitals@TarikCSN@JillCSN and @JJReganCSN on Twitter.

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Capitals 2017-18 Prospect Preview: Chandler Stephenson

Capitals 2017-18 Prospect Preview: Chandler Stephenson

As we skate toward the start of the 2017-18 NHL Regular Season, our CSN Capitals team of Jill Sorenson and Tarik El-Bashir detail and analyze the Capitals roster.

They will take a look at breakout candidates, prospects on the rise, players in need of improvement and a look at the rest of the Metropolitan Division, all leading up to the start of the NHL regular season.

It's time to take a look at which top prospects have the tools to become a full-time NHL player and what they have to do to get the call-up from Hershey.

Our first entry was on enigmatic prospect Jakub Vrana. Next, we previewed Nathan Walker, who is on track to make NHL history this season.

Now it's time to look at Chandler Stephenson.

RELATED: Ranking the 10 best Capitals players of all time

YOU CAN WATCH TARIK AND JILL'S FULL BREAKDOWN OF CHANDLER STEPHENSON IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE.

2017-18 CAPITALS PROSPECT PREVIEW: CHANDLER STEPHENSON

Position: Center
Age: 23
Height: 6-0
Weight: 190 pounds
Contract: Two-Way. Two-year, $1.3 Million (2017)
 

AHL Seasons: 3 (172 games)
2016-17 AHL Stats: 72 games, 10 goals, 28 assists
NHL Seasons: 2 (13 games)
2016-17 NHL Stats: 4 games, 3 shots on goal

PREVIEWING 2017-18 BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Tom Wilson | Brett Connolly | Andre Burakovsky

Tarik El-Bashir's Prospect Preview:
Chandler Stephenson possesses most of the prerequisites.

Skating? Check.

Size? Check.

Hockey sense? Check. 

Now, according to Bears Coach Troy Mann, it’s time for the 2012 third rounder to mix in one final element as he attempts to make the jump from the minors to Washington this fall.
“I just think it’s consistency,” Mann said this week in a guest appearance on CSN’s Capitals Faceoff Podcast. “We talk about that with a lot of our young players.”

Mann added: “The positive note on Stephenson is I thought he was excellent for us in the playoffs. He was very good down the stretch, as well. We would not have made the playoffs if it wasn’t for him.”

In 72 games with the Bears last season, Stephenson notched career highs in goals (10) and assists (28). He also chipped in with three goals and two assists in nine playoff games.
In four games with the Caps, the 23-year-old did not record a point. But he also saw very limited ice time in those contests.

Looking ahead to training camp, Stephenson will find himself among a handful of bottom-six forwards looking to break through, joining fellow prospects such as Nathan Walker, Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Liam O’Brien and others. 

It’s going to be an intriguing battle and, obviously, a lot will be determined in training camp and the preseason. In Mann’s estimation, though, it’s only a matter of time before Stephenson is playing for the Caps full-time. 

“He could surprise some people,” Mann said. “I really believe he can be a solid NHLer for years to come based on his physical and mental makeup.”

Jill Sorenson's Prospect Analysis:
What He Has:
 Stephenson has NHL speed and could arguably have been the best skater on the Hershey Bears last season. The center is solid from the faceoff dot and serves as a solid playmaker. 

What He Needs to Do: Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann said if Stephenson could be a little more consistent in his game, that will set him apart from the competition for those forward spots open in Washington. He plays mostly Center for the Bears but could certainly make the switch to wing without an issue.