The Nail: Devils Beat Caps 2-1

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Photo: Bruce Bennett

Tuesday’s Caps game was ugly. The days that followed didn’t get much better. Adam Oates kinda sorta maybe called out Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday for being Alex Ovechkin. The national hockey media devoured it like it was some delicious Chipotle guac. Ovi wasn’t made available to reporters on Thursday to respond.

With six games left, everyone started to realize it would take divine intervention for the Capitals to make the playoffs. If they did make it, they didn’t deserve to be there — and the Capitals knew that.

The scoring got started tonight with an even-strength Alex Ovechkin tally, the first since we still cared about the Winter Olympics. Playing on a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovi took a feed from Grabo in the near circle before flipping the puck past Cory Schneider.

During a second period in which the Devs dominated play, New Jersey tied the game up. Twelve minutes into the frame, Tuomo Ruutu tipped home a shot from D-man Eric Gelinas to make it one-one.

The Caps headed into the third with a man-advantage, needing their power play to once again save them from disaster. It didn’t happen.

Ryan Carter scored a late goal for New Jersey. Devils beat Caps 2-1.

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Alex Ovechkin Scores 49th Goal of the Year (GIF)

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Photo: Julio Cortez

Over the last two days, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has become hockey’s version of a human piñata. The reason why the mainstream media has figuratively flogged Ovechkin with its bat full of angry pixels: Ovi gave up on a play that led to a Dallas Stars goal. It was already 3-0 and there were three defenders in the D-zone. Deal with it. Head coach Adam Oates didn’t help matters much on Wednesday when he said that Ovechkin “quit” on the play.

Since then, life as a Caps fan has been nothing short of depressing. On Friday, however, things got a bit back to normal in the first period.

After being reunited with Nicklas Backstrom for the first time since the mid-80′s, Ovechkin scored his first even strength goal… also since the mid-80′s.

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In Narrative Land, the biggest story in the hockey world today was Adam Oates calling out Alex Ovechkin for quitting on the play that resulted in a third period goal for the Dallas Stars. But c’mon, it was already 3-0 at that point. How much would one more goal hurt? Other than, ya know, emotionally.

The hockey media went all out covering the living ish out of this quote. How would Ovechkin react to being literally thrown under a literal bus by his head coach? By driving his six-figure price-tag car to Georgetown and shopping at the Nike Store with his two Russian bros.

So I guess Ovi’s not exactly devastated by his coach’s heel turn.

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The Achilles Heel of the Capitals Power Play

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Photo: Patrick Smith

The Caps are bad at defense and give up a lot of odd-man breaks. Even when they win, Washington can’t hide that flaw. One aspect of that is particularly troubling: the amount of rushes they allow on their own power play.

The Capitals man-advantage has kept them afloat all year, generating about a third of their offense. However, against the Stars their PP could barely get going. Dallas had two breakaways on Washington’s opening power play, which was quickly negated by a John Carlson slash.

“Usually odd-man rushes are our breakdowns, not necessarily great plays by them,” Carlson said after the game. “We can’t let that happen. We’re too good of players.”

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This photo of Beagle and Ovi celebrating a goal is from 2012. (Photo: Molly Riley)

As reported by Adam Vingan, Alex Ovechkin failed to get a single even-strength point in March. He finished the month in grand style by getting outshot* 15 to 5 against the Nashville Predators. Ovechkin is still the favorite to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals scored during the regular season, but when that happens it won’t be because of what’s happening during even-strength play. Ovi’s struggles with puck possession mirror those of the Capitals overall, but what’s happened in the last two weeks is particularly noteworthy.

Since March 16th, Ovechkin has shared the top line with Jay Beagle. Usually a fourth liner, Beagle’s promotion up the ranks has been surprising, though not totally unexpected. Injuries to Mikhail Grabovski and Brooks Laich depleted Adam Oates’ options at the center position. The big road trip in California gave Oates another reason to boost Beagle: splitting up Backstrom and Ovechkin should have created two scoring lines that would have made match-ups harder for home teams.

It didn’t turn out that way. Possession and production among the top six has been scant, and the Ovechkin-Beagle pairing has been the worst of all.

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Photos by Igor Kleyner

The Capitals took their team photo on Thursday. It was perfectly normal, with players and coaches lining up at center ice to pose for photographers. Except for two exceptions: the Chick-fil-a cow and the Parking Panda. Anything for sponsors!

The cow was helped onto the ice by defenseman Karl Alzner before being led off by none other than Alex Ovechkin. No word on the whether the panda received any assistance. The team later took a normal photo.

Thanks to an accident on 50, I missed the biggest Caps cow-related photo-op since Jenn chopped the head off some rubber animals last year. However, RMNB spaceman and Kuyza-whisperer Igor Kleyner did leave on time. He snapped these photos.

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Photo: @a0gr8

His mother Tatyana won two Olympic gold medals in basketball for Team Russia, so Alex Ovechkin has always had a love for the sport. He’s gone to Dynamo basketball games. He’s been featured playing basketball (shirtless, of course) with his friends in his DVD. He’s even shot around with BFF Nicky Backstrom during one of Bruce Boudreau’s press conferences.

On Wednesday night, on his day off, Ovechkin took fiancee Maria Kirilenko and his new best bud in the whole wide world, Evgeny Kuznetsov, to the Wizards/Suns game at Verizon Center.

It appears they had fun.

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Photo: Rob Carr

Last night, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin quietly had a three-point game. In the first period, he scored two goals, one of which was lucky, lucky, lucky. The Ovi Spot was once again accommodating for The Great Eight.

Ovechkin now has 48 goals on the season and 85 multi-goal games in his career. Last night was the tenth time this season where Ovechkin’s scored the game’s opening goal.

Here’s some more mind-blowing stats from the Capitals: Ovechkin has scored 22 powerplay goals this season, tying the Capitals single-season record. Wednesday marked Ovechkin’s ninth multi-goal game and fourth multi-power-play goal game of the season. Ovechkin has recorded three or more points in a game seven times this season and leads the NHL in goals, power-play goals (22) and shots (358).

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With forty-five seconds left in regulation and the Washington Capitals shorthanded and sans a goalie, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored one of the biggest goals of the season. Certainly the biggest of his career– seeing as it was his first. After Alex Ovechkin unleashed a rushed shot from the point, Kuzya did the dirty work in front of the net, backhanding the loose puck past Jonathan Quick. Game tied 4-4.

The goal set off a wild celebration among fans and players– with the exception of one guy, who had some captainly duties to perform.

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Scary moment at the end of Tuesday’s Caps-Kings game as Caps defenseman  Jack Hillen collided with Alex Ovechkin during overtime. Hitting one another at full speed while crossing center ice, Hillen’s head ran into Ovechkin’s chest. Hillen laid motionless on the ice, apparently knocked out.

Hillen eventually regained consciousness and was helped off the ice to the applause of a relieved Verizon Center crowd, but his injury is yet another chapter in the very sad book of Hillen’s tenure in Washington.

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