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Jay Beagle just scored his third goal of the postseason. After winning a race for a dump-in, Beagle deflected the puck off his backhand and it just randomly went into the net.

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Round 2, Game 4 Live Blog: Caps at Pens

Photo: Justin K. Aller

This is about as must-win as a playoff game can get without it being an actual elimination game. Kris Letang is out suspended and Olli Maatta is still out concussed, so the Penguins defense is prime for getting scored on. If the Caps play another game like they did on Monday night, we’ll be coming out of Pittsburgh all tied up 2-2.

Barry Trotz is for some reason playing Mike Weber tonight. He’s going to be terrible and you and I are going to be mad. Let’s hope that we get scoring from all four lines and that Braden Holtby doesn’t stop being Braden Holtby.

Might die of stress. Liveblog below.

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Auston Matthews - John Buccigross

First overall draft pick Auston Matthews (Photo via John Buccigross)

I don’t actually know who John Buccigross is. I know he does hockey coverage for ESPN, which sounds like a silly thing, but your boy Rob Vollman does it and he’s great. Maybe Bucci is great too, that’s what I thought when I clicked on today’s article about Maple Leafs prize prospect Auston Matthews.

Nope.

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Caps at Penguins Pregame: Schmidtuation Critical

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Welcome to Game Four. Let’s Do. This. It’s on. It’s so on.

The Caps need this game and, if they play much like they did on Monday night, they have a good chance of evening up the series. Just to make the challenge a little more difficult, Barry Trotz appears to have made a lineup decision that makes his team worse. More on that below.

8 PM start, unfortunately. NBCSN, even more unfortunately.

Team Record Possession PDO Power Play Penalty Kill
Washington Capitals 56-18-8 52.0% 101.1 21.9% (5th) 85.2% (2nd)
Pittsburgh Penguins 48-26-8 53.0% 100.6 18.4% (16th) 84.4 % (5th)

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mike-weber

Wednesday after the morning skate, NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti reported that veteran Capitals defenseman Mike Weber would get a sweater for Game Four. Barry Trotz is benching Nate Schmidt, the man who had a bad turnover which directly led to the Penguins’ game-winning goal Monday.

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Photo: @JPughNBC

Hi, my name is Ian Oland. I’m driving this here Capitals bandwagon. Over the last month, we’ve traveled all over the continent, picking up many new friends. In fact, there are so many strangers here, we’ve had to put on name-tags and start force-feeding IVs to our exhausted oxen via beer guzzlers. But we must carry on.

Our first new member is someone we’ve known a while. Over the last five decades, he’s walked near the bandwagon and sometimes he’s even come up and whimsically touched the side. But this year he finally jumped on.

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RyanEllisRichmond (2 of 11)

Photos by Chris Gordon.

Ryan Ellis rarely misses a Capitals game. A former college hockey player, the Ashburn native is a diehard fan. But as the Caps closed out the Flyers in Game Six of the first round, Ellis wasn’t watching, or even tracking, the game. Instead, he was making his second career start in the top-tier NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at his home track at Richmond International Raceway.

“That’s the track I grew up watching Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt race at as a little kid and say ‘Oh, it would be cool to sit a little closer next year, not knowing that 15 years later I would driving at it.” Ellis said. “I always wanted to. That’s the only thing you ever think of, but you never really expect to get the chance because you can never expect anything in this sport.”

You would think NASCAR and hockey don’t mix, but they do. NASCAR is a southern sport built on cheap beer, rivalries, and relatively unsophisticated V8s speeding past you at ear-splitting levels. Hockey is a graceful northern game featuring cheap beer, rivalries, and relatively unsophisticated people punching each other in the face. In the stands at Richmond, as Ellis raced in the Toyota Owners 400, there were dozens of people in Capitals gear to be found, including some in full jerseys.

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With Kris Letang suspended and Bryan Rust injured, the Pittsburgh Penguins have reached into the farm to fill their defensive ranks. Up comes Tom Sestito, veteran of 141 NHL games over an eight-year career, and former Capitals prospect Steve Oleksy.

Oleksy played 62 regular-season swag-filled games for the Capitals between 2013 and 2015, scoring 3 goals and 16 assists. In 2013, he added playoff games, his only postseason experience. In the summer of 2015, Oleksy was signed by the Penguins but has yet to suit up for a game.

Oleksy is a surprisingly strong depth defenseman. Relative to the rest of the 2013 Capitals, Oleksy had a positive possession swing of 1.88 percent. Sestito, on the other hand, has been a garbage fire, depressing possession by more than 8 percent in 140 NHL games for 4 different teams.

As much as I love Oleksy, I’d rather see Sestito get the sweater.

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#CapsFilmRoom: A Tale of Two Passes

Alex Ovechkin

Photo: Justin K. Aller

It was the best of games, it was the worst of games. Okay, maybe that was forced, but it still holds true. Game Three began with a grope, but ended with a 3-2 loss on enemy ice. The Caps absolutely outplayed the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Monday night, but still walked away down 2-1 in the series.

Even so, there are positives to pull from the game. It was the first match of the series that the Caps unquestionably controlled the play against the Penguins. The Capitals probably never expected to come into Pittsburgh and take both games, so while it makes Game Four on Wednesday all the more important, it is not a backbreaker either.

The Caps are rightfully feeling pretty good about their current play going into Game Four. This was a game of bounces. The Pens got them. The Caps didn’t.

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