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.

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”

Lupul apologizes, takes ‘full responsibility’ after calling out Maple Leafs on Instagram

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Joffrey Lupul made headlines earlier this week after appearing to make accusations against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Instagram.

The comments — which have since been deleted but caught on a screen grab — came after the Maple Leafs announced Lupul failed his physical prior to training camp for the second year in a row.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per the screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

On Wednesday, the 33-year-old forward, who hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season, posted a statement on his verified Twitter account, saying his Instagram comments were an “inappropriate response.”

Here is his entire statement:

What’s also significant is that he stated he will not seek a second medical opinion regarding this failed physical. As previously noted, that option was available to him, although, per reports, the deadline for this was 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Lupul is in the final year of his five-year, $26.25 million contract.

Erik Cole retires as a member of the Hurricanes

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Erik Cole has officially retired.

The Carolina Hurricanes made the announcement on Wednesday, stating that Cole signed a ceremonial contract with the NHL team and retired as a member of the Hurricanes.

Now 38 years old, Cole played 892 regular season games in the NHL, scoring 265 goals and 532 points. A number of his best seasons occurred while he was with the Hurricanes, reaching 30 goals with the 2005-06 Stanley Cup winning team.

His best season came with the Montreal Canadiens in 2011-12, as he scored 35 goals and 61 points.

His last season was in 2014-15. He began the year in Dallas and was moved to Detroit at the trade deadline, but a spinal cord contusion essentially meant an end to his playing career.

From the Detroit Free Press in April, 2015:

Cole revealed Wednesday that he has a spinal cord contusion severe enough doctors have cautioned him not to play again this spring.

“It stems back from my neck injury in 2006,” Cole said. “When I ran into the player in the Arizona game, I bruised my spinal cord. A spinal contusion is something that you have to let heal and obviously, it’s a pretty serious occurrence. Doctors feel I need to look out for my well-being as a person, not just as a hockey player.”

Cole is now a team ambassador for the Hurricanes.