Alex Ovechkin, Todd Bertuzzi, Jay Sharrers

Capitals hold on for big win against Red Wings – in Detroit

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If you looked at things from a pure numbers perspective – throwing out contextual bits like the Detroit Red Wings’ serious injury issues – it would seem like the Washington Capitals were doomed to lose tonight. Just factor the two teams diverging records coming into the contest:

Red Wings: 28-4-2 at Joe Louis Arena
Capitals: 13-20-3 on the road; no wins in Detroit since 2003 (according to Stephen Whyno)

Combine those factors with the general air of negativity surrounding the Caps for most of the season and you have a layup for the Wings, right?

Nope. Alex Ovechkin (two goals) and the Capitals had to bite their nails a bit after a 4-1 lead turned to 4-3 in the third period but Jason Chimera iced it with an empty-netter at 5-3 – preserving the DC bunch’s place in eighth in the East in the process.

 

Capitals update

First things first, the Capitals are pretty far removed from the Southeast Division title race. Florida has three more standings points and two games in hand on the Capitals. Washington’s lone trump card is that they currently hold tie-breaker advantages.

Honestly, Washington’s primary focus is keeping that eighth playoff spot right now – Ottawa’s four-point lead for seventh place makes that a longer term concern. Here’s what the race for the eighth spot looks like now:

8. Washington: 80 points, nine games left (37 wins, 35 in regulation/OT)

9. Buffalo (won tonight): 78 points, nine games left (34 wins, 27 in regulation/OT)
10. Winnipeg (lost last night): 76 points, 10 games left (34 wins, 30 in regulation/OT)

(Click here for a more detailed look at how certain factors lean fairly heavily in Washington’s favor.)

The Capitals obviously have some things going in their favor, including a soon-to-be easier schedule after a tough road game coming up against the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s still far from a sure thing, but Washington can lick its chops imagining the fun that could come from being an uneasy first round opponent for whoever emerges with the first seed.

Declining Detroit

The Red Wings have now lost five games in a row (0-4-1) and are a disturbing 1-6-1 in their last eight games. Considering the way they’re plummeting and the Chicago Blackhawks are surging, it’s quite possible that Detroit might slip to the sixth seed – only four points separate the two teams right now.

Then again, some might say that facing the Pacific Division winner is a preferable fate to facing the rugged Nashville Predators – fresh with Alexander Radulov – so maybe it’s not all bad news for the Winged Wheel.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.