Nicklas Backstrom on Henrik Lundqvist

Three reasons for concern in Washington

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Of all the teams that are off to poor starts, it feels like the Washington Capitals have managed to fly a bit under the radar.

Maybe it’s because the Caps haven’t been blown out to the extent the Rangers have. Or they haven’t had to fire the coach like the Flyers. Or they haven’t had horrendous goaltending like the Oilers. Or there aren’t major trade rumors surrounding them like the Sabres. Or they’ve actually managed to win a game (two, in fact), unlike the Devils.

But make no mistake, things have not been good in DC. The Caps dropped a 2-0 decision last night at home to the Rangers, pushing their record down to 2-5-0 after seven games.

With that in mind, here are three things that have to be concerning for the club and its fans:

1. Even strength, the Caps have scored just eight times.

The other eight goals they’ve scored (for a total of 16) have come on a power play that probably can’t keep clicking at a rate of 30.8 percent. Overall, Washington ranks 20th in the NHL in offense, averaging 2.29 goals per game.

Now, to be fair, there may be an element of bad luck to all this — the Caps have actually averaged a respectable 30.3 shots per game.

“We have our chances out there and we just, to be honest with you, can’t score,” captain Alex Ovechkin said after being shut out by the Rangers.

Still, you have to wonder how much the Caps are missing their second-leading scorer from last season, Mike Ribeiro.

2. Ovechkin can’t do it all.

The captain’s six goals lead the club; Mikhail Grabovski is second with three; nobody else has more than one.

Not to mention, Grabovski — essentially Ribeiro’s replacement — got all three of his goals in the season-opener and has been held to just two assists in the six games since.

The Caps could really use guys like Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer and Mike Green to put some pucks in the net.

3. It’s not about to get any easier.

The Caps host Columbus Saturday then head out on a five-game trip to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Philadelphia.

No, those some of those teams they’ll play on the trip aren’t the best, but road games are road games and that’s a lot of miles they’ll have to travel.

Where will the Caps be in the standings when they get back? Seven games in — including five home games — they’re already in a hole.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.