Wild beat Caps 5-3 in Braden Holtby’s Crummy Comeback

Ovi and Cookie - Bruce Kluckhohn

Ovechkin and Cookie get stupid. (Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn)

You could say the Caps have been struggling. Their puck possession has disintegrated over the last couple weeks and they haven’t been able to make up the difference with special teams, shot quality, or lucky goaltending. Heading into Minnesota, where no one wants the puck, you’d think the Caps would start the turnaround. But shot quality is a fickle fairy, and tonight she spread her lucky dust on the sticks of the Wild.

Marcus Johansson cleaned up a rebound to convert a first-period power play. Thirteen seconds later, Mike Green put some messed-up moves on Matt Cooke to make it 2-0 on the very next shot, just 13 seconds later. It was fun.

Nino Niederreiter scored on the Wild’s second shot of the game, early in the second period as no one in particular played defense. With Steve Oleksy and Karl Alzner serving time in the box, the Wild’s Ryan Suter struck twice– both times with Dany Heatley screening Braden Holtby. I’m not even gonna try to explain the tying goal, which Mike Green got credit for, so just read our story on that one. The Wild got the lead back with a bouncing puck finished off by Jason Zucker.

And then Ryan Suter got the hat trick after serving a tripping minor in the third period.

Wild beat Caps 5-3.

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After the Washington Capitals’ morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center, several players had a chance to meet Jack Jablonski, the now 18-year-old Minnesotan who was paralyzed after being hit from behind during a high school hockey game.

Instead of becoming a sob story, Jablonski has become an inspirational figure in hockey. Here’s his story, beautifully told by ESPN 360.

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Adam Oates Looks for Scoring Balance With New Top-Six

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

This season, Alex Ovechkin’s shot has been an unstoppable force of destruction. Ovi has registered 31 goals. His line’s scoring, however, has often been one-sided. Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin’s linemates for much of the season, have scored just six even-strength goals. When Ovi’s hitting the net, it’s not a problem. But if last year’s MVP hits some bad luck, as he did over the four games before last night, the line struggles. Ovechkin has just a single assist during five-on-five play.

“It’s not enough,” Oates said when I asked him about that stat. “It shows how much all three guys are important.”

For Thursday’s game against the Hurricanes, Oates switched up his lines, putting Ovechkin with Eric Fehr and Mikhail Grabovski while placing Johansson and Backstrom with Brouwer.

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Caps Auction Off Ugly Christmas Sweaters (Photos)

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The sweaters on sale. (All photos by Chris Gordon)

A couple weeks ago, the Washington Capitals released a magisterial Christmas video in which their players wore ridiculous outfits while pretending to provide musical accompaniment to Jingle Bells. Tonight, the team auctioned off the signed ugly sweaters worn Nicklas Backstrom, John Erskine, Mike Green, Brooks Laich, Alex Ovechkin, Aaron Volpatti, Joel Ward, and Tom Wilson in the video, with the profits benefiting Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic. Troy Brouwer owns the onesie he wore in the video, and according to Caps Community Relations, he refused to part with it. Instead, a signed stocking was offered instead. I imagine he’ll be wearing the onesie on Christmas day.

In the third period, it was announced by Caps PR that bidding raised $5,225 for charity. Way to go, guys.

Here are some photos of the #fashion on sale:

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Love ugly Christmas sweaters and cheesy music videos? This video will make you happy. The Washington Capitals have recorded a music video for Jingle Bells to wish you guys happy holidays. It features Caps captain Alex Ovechkin on the bells, Brooks Laich on the drums, Joel Ward on an inflatable pink saxophone, Troy Brouwer on bass, Aaron Volpatti on the guitar, Nicklas Backstrom on the tambourine, John Erskine on a pre-k piano, Tom Wilson on the ukulele, and– of course– Mike Green rocking the cowbell.

You have to see this.

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Holtby Overtime: Caps Top Isles 3-2 (OT)

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Ballgame. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Like the Bond marathon on SyFy over the last few days, the Washington Capitals are a fickle thing. Lately, the Caps have mixed the sublime elegance of the Sean Connery era with the confusing stupor of the Timothy Dalton movies. More often than not, it’s been the latter.

Plainly, they didn’t deserve to win yesterday’s game. Only the godlike brilliance of Eric Fehr kept the Caps from a fifth straight loss. They did win, however, and got their tired asses on a plane to hell Long Island this morning. With Braden Holtby making his second start in as many days, the setup for this one didn’t look good.

Washington’s start, however, was better than we’ve come to expect. Though New York handily outshot them early, the Caps controlled possession. The teams traded chances, with no one converting. Hey, that’s better than being 3-0 after 20!

As usual, the Caps got it going in the second. The period was filling with odd-man breaks and open looks for Washington, with the fourth line converting midway through the frame. Martin Erat – yes, that one — made a nice play behind the net before setting up the puck for Tom Wilson, who fired it on net. Aaron Volpatti did the net crashing thing to put the Caps on the board.

In the third, though, the Isles got the goal back — and they did on a Caps power play. Four minutes into the period, local pariah Mike Green missed a pinch and Cal Clutterbuck took the puck the other way on a breakaway. Yeah, it was awful. Then, Thomas Vanek gave the Isles the lead with some whacking in front, to Braden’s dismay. With less than two minutes left, this one looked over. HOWEVER… Nicklas Backstrom was stone cold clutch, converting in front with the Caps down a man. In overtime, the big Russian — that would be Alex Ovechkin — did his thing. Boom. Crazy times. Caps top Isles 3-2 (OT).

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Thanks to @jp_daddi0 for the screenshot

Back on October 26th in Calgary, Alberta, Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom‘s took a puck to the face. Midway through the second period, the Swede was hit in the jaw by an errant pass from Marcus Johansson. Backstrom, bleeding from his lip, returned to the bench. One of our readers caught him ripping one of his teeth out and handing it to the trainer. Yikes.

Playing the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night, Backstrom endured more facial violence. After recording three assists in the game, Nicky spoke to reporters in the locker room. His smile was somewhat less pearly.

According to the District Sports Page’s Katie Brown, Backy had lost another tooth. How did it happen?

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This is not the 2010 playoffs, Halak.

Heading into Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin had scored in two straight. You can make that three straight now. Ovechkin has four goals in three games and is tied for the league lead in goals (17) with Alex Steen. And he has a certain Swedish bro to thank for all of it.

Ovechkin attempted six shots on net in Sunday’s first period. Three missed the net, one was blocked, and the two that actually reached the goaltender — well those suckers went in. 100% shooting percentage, baby. Regress this.

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom seems to do everything quietly. He’s tied for third in the NHL point race, but you’d be hard pressed to hear anyone talking about it. In Thursday’s shootout win over the Minnesota Wild, Backstrom had 4 shots, the primary assist on Alex Ovechkin‘s power play goal, and the SOGWG (shoot out game-winning goal).

In a game where the Capitals were outplayed for long stretches, Backstrom was the difference-maker.

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Who's this guy? (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Who’s this guy? (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Fehrsie looking resplendent at right wing. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Martin Erat and Eric Fehr have both spent significant time this season stuck on the fourth line, a misuse of their considerable talent. But with Alex Ovechkin missing his second game due to an upper-body injury, both wingers now find themselves on Washington’s top trio, skating 20 minutes a night. In 120 minutes of play, the new first line of Erat, Nicklas Backstrom, and Fehr has been fantastic, registering three goals and nine points. For Nick, three of his five goals this year have come in the last two days.

So what’s the key to Nick’s newfound goal scoring ability, and the line’s success as a whole? Well, Ovechkin has generated the vast majority of the first line’s shots this season. Though they are improving, Johansson and Backstrom had the maddening tendency to pass, pass, pass early in the year. Without Ovi, has Backstrom been forced shoot the puck more, always an important factor in scoring goals? In short, no. When I asked him about it, Backstrom insisted that he wasn’t directing any more pucks toward the net than usual. A little late-night research backs him up. Nick has attempted three shots in each of the two games without Ovechkin, roughly in line with his normal pace. So, some nice shots and a bit of luck.

“Yeah, that’s just a coincidence,” Backstrom said with some sass.

Nevertheless, the temporary first line has been impressive. Erat and Fehr deserve credit for holding their own in a new and challenging position, each playing on their third different line this year. Fehr, especially, made a large jump, playing two total polar opposite roles in one week. Monday in Vancouver, he played 12 minutes as the gritty fourth line center. Saturday, he played almost twenty minutes as the first line right wing.

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