NHL on NBC: Capitals and Red Wings clash in Washington

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NBC continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign this afternoon when the Washington Capitals host the Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center at 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game online.

The Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals meet yet again, this time in a Super Bowl Sunday matinee in D.C.

These two teams just met in Detroit on Friday night in a wild affair that saw Joel Ward score the game-tying goal in the closing seconds. The game rolled on to the shootout where Jimmy Howard stole the show stopping all seven Capitals as Patrick Eaves eventually beat Michal Neuvirth in the seventh round to get the win.

As it was, Neuvirth made 42 saves to keep the Caps in the game in the first place, but both teams have bigger problems to worry about. Both the Caps and Wings are sitting on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Wings are one point back of Philadelphia for the final Wild Card spot while the Caps are three back.

Detroit has been making do without Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) since Jan. 7 and Johan Franzen with a concussion since Dec. 15. Franzen did attempt to return on Jan. 26 against Florida, but wound up out of the lineup again after suffering a setback.

Going without two players picked to their countries’ Olympic teams makes life hard on Detroit’s offense which has been miserable lately, especially on the road. Detroit has been shut out three straight games away from Joe Louis Arena and have never been shut out in four straight.

The Caps have problems of their own, of course. They’re winless in nine of the past 11 games and are without Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) and could be without Mike Green (upper body) and Brooks Laich (groin) as well.

It’s not all negative for the Caps, however. Alex Ovechkin is two goals shy of having his sixth 40-goal season. Joel Ward has a goal in each of the past two games and has 15 this season, good for second on the team. One thing to watch is how the Caps do on the power play. They’ve been quiet lately going 4-for-its-last-44 but they’ve been one of the better teams on the man-advantage this season.

If you’re wondering if the Red Wings road scoring problems could come into play in Washington, know this: The last time the Capitals shut out the Red Wings at home was Dec. 9, 1984 and the Capitals don’t have a shutout at home yet this season.

With all that said, both teams need a win desperately to get in better shape for a playoff run following the Olympic break. Desperation sometimes makes for a great game.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.