Mike Knuble, Corey Crawford

Game of the Week: Capitals win overtime thriller against Blackhawks 4-3

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If the NBC Game of the Week between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals really ends up being a preview of the Stanley Cup finals, then hockey fans are in for an absolute treat. The two teams played a fast-paced, feisty game that ended with an electric overtime frenzy capped by a Mike Knuble game-winner.

Capitals fans must be delighted to see the team catching fire at the right time, as they are on an eight-game winning streak with the playoffs about a month away.

Washington 4, Chicago 3 (OT)

For a moment it seemed like the Blackhawks might have been able to steal a game in which they were generally outplayed, as Jonathan Toews scored a brilliant power-play goal with only 39 seconds left in the third period. Duncan Keith shot wide on purpose, forcing the puck to carom off the boards and onto Toews’ stick for the tying goal.

The Capitals didn’t let that goal take the wind out of their sails, though, as they came out charging in the overtime period. Although there was plenty of end-to-end action (I only counted one whistle for offsides during a frantic four minutes of four-on-four hockey), Washington out-shot Chicago 6-0 in overtime.

Knuble showed excellent patience in moving the puck from his backhand to forehand and then raised it just high enough to put it past Corey Crawford’s glove for the winning goal.

Brooks Laich gave the Capitals a 3-2 lead in the third after Eric Fehr set him up with a gorgeous feed from behind the Hawks’ net. Boyd Gordon and Jason Arnott scored Washington’s other goals while Tomas Kopecky and Nick Leddy joined Toews as the Blackhawks’ goal scorers.

Braden Holtby had some shaky moments in this game (particularly with the Kopecky goal in the second period), but he still earned his fourth straight win after stopping 27 out of 30 shots. Crawford was pretty strong at times for the Hawks, keeping them in the game by making 38 out of 42 saves.

While their transition to a more defensive-minded approach has been noticeable during most of the 2010-11 season, this game provided one of Washington’s best all-around efforts since they were dangerous on offense and responsible on defense. They also played pretty well on special teams, earning a goal on the power play and penalty kill.

The Caps improved their Southeast Division lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning to five points while they moved within one point of the Philadelphia Flyers for the top spot in the East. (It’s important at this point in the season to note that the Lightning hold a game in hand while the Flyers have two more games remaining than Washington, though.)

Chicago probably has mixed feelings about this game. The negative side is that the Blackhawks are now on a three-game losing streak after reeling off eight straight wins. That being said, two of those losses included “charity points” so their current road trip probably won’t bury their chances. Toews & Co. remain in fifth place in the West, at least as of this writing.

It’s starting to look like the “old” Capitals are back, only this time they might be a whole lot tougher on defense, making the Eastern Conference playoffs that much more intriguing.

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.