PatrickSmithNicklasBackstrom

Photo: Patrick Smith

Every year, Nicklas Backstrom’s facial hair gets a little less terrible and Alex Ovechkin’s hair gets a little more gray. Both players are still at the top of their game — for now. But by the time next season rolls around, Ovechkin will be 31. Backstrom will turn 29 soon after. Each player is getting near the latter half of their career.

“It absolutely crosses your mind,” Backstrom said when asked about him and Ovechkin running out of time to win a Stanley Cup. “We need to get over the hump we can’t get over.”

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DrewHallowellKarlAlzner

Photo: Drew Hallowell

On Thursday, the Capitals gathered at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to discuss another season that ended prematurely. The players were more visibly emotional than in years past at the annual end-of-season confab with reporters, promising Stanley Cups to the fans and articulating their frustrations with plenty of “failures” and “sucks.”

The news, however, came in the form of injuries revealed publicly for the first time. Karl Alzner’s ailment was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Referred to by Braden Holtby as the team’s most important player, Alzner missed most of the final game with a torn groin. He played just two shifts early in the second period before being pulled from the game.

“I know that the first four games of the series, I was just out there filling a spot, Alzner said. “I was out there and I was not hurting the team I don’t think, but I also wasn’t helping in winning in the game. That’s when you know you can still do things, but once I’m getting beat up the ice trying to chase a guy and not able to at least stay in battles, that’s when you know it’s time.”

He watched the Capitals penalty kill, a unit he normally plays big minutes on, give up two power play goals in 33 seconds after Brooks Orpik took a double minor for high-sticking. Later, Alzner sat helpless on the bench as the Penguins won it in overtime.

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Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

There’s still more hockey to be played for Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov. This morning, less than 12 hours after the Capitals’ season-ending loss to the Penguins, Russia announced that they were calling up the three Caps to their World Championship team.

The 2016 World Championship is being held in Saint Petersburg and Ovechkin’s hometown of Moscow.

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ovi-ppg

You’re not gonna believe this. Not only did the Capitals gain an early lead over the Penguins, but it also happened on the gosh darn power play, thanks to hard work by Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, and TJ Oshie. Wonders never cease, and Russian machines never break.

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crosby-hissy-fit

Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby’s hand just had a semi-violent encounter. The Russian machine slashed Crosby in the arm while trying to forecheck. Crosby, injured on the play, would immediately go down the tunnel and into the locker room.

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justin-williams-caps

Photo: Doug Pensinger

The Washington Capitals played their best game of the postseason in Game Three of the Second Round, firing 49 shots at Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray. After allowing three unlucky goals, two off deflections and one off a tip-in in the crease, the Capitals pummeled Pittsburgh with 21 shots on goal in the third period, scoring twice and nearly converting on a myriad of scoring chances in the final minutes. After the Capitals mustered just 10 shots through the first 40 minutes of Game Two, Nicklas Backstrom was angry with how his team played. But speaking after Monday’s loss, which put the Capitals down 2-1 in the series, he was far more confident in his team.

“We had more shots tonight than we had last game, so that’s a good thing,” Backstrom said after Game Three. “It’s a seven game series and I think it’s so important that you take something positive even if you lose. I thought we played right.”

The message was the same throughout the Capitals locker room.

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Alex Ovechkin Scores On Impossibly Fast Shot

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Coming into tonight’s game, Alex Ovechkin had been held goalless for the last five playoff games. According to CSN’s Rob Carlin, Ovechkin had not gone more than six games all season without scoring.

I can report that streak remains intact.

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PowerPlayGameOneRobCarr

Photo: Rob Carr

The Washington Capitals’ power play has operated in the same way for years under a myriad of coaches. It features a 1-3-1 setup. The main weapon is Alex Ovechkin, who scored 19 of his 50 goals on the man-advantage in the regular season. Since 2011, it’s been one of the league’s top five units. Everyone knows what’s coming; they just can’t stop it.

In their first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals power play was key as the team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, converting on eight of 17 man-advantage opportunities, despite the Capitals often getting outplayed at even strength.

“Our power play is successful because everybody is on the same page, everybody knows what they have to do,” Ovechkin said after Saturday’s morning skate. “If they take me away, Carly’s open or Osh or Willy or Kuzy or Backy. It’s hard to stop. If I have a chance to shoot the puck I will, but I’ll take a guy with me to go to the goal line or something.”

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ovi-big-hit

In Alex Ovechkin’s opening shifts, he often likes to make his presence felt. Game One of Round Two was no exception.

Thirteen seconds after puck drop, Ovechkin railed Trevor Daley, knocking the defenseman into the boards. Daley then fell over like a bowling pin.

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