Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Alex Ovechkin

Caps need ‘better effort from the top guys,’ says one of their top guys

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The Washington Capitals may have won four of their last five and put themselves right back in the playoff picture, but not all of them are satisfied with how they’re playing.

“I think something that the first two lines need to do is look at our third line,” center Nicklas Backstrom said, per the Washington Post.

“They’re cycling the puck, and off that they create chances. I think our first lines haven’t been doing that, not the whole year. That’s something we need to do. We’ve been talking about it but we need a better effort from the top guys for sure.”

In a related story, CSN Washington notes that the Caps have been winning despite a lack of goals from one Alex Ovechkin, who has just three tallies — all of them on the power play — in his last 11 games.

No doubt, some of that has to do with coach Adam Oates’ decision to move grinding center Jay Beagle — he of the 14 career assists — onto Ovechkin’s line.

But there was a reason Oates did that:

Before he was united with Beagle, Ovechkin was a minus player in nine straight games for a combined minus-14. In his last three games he’s been even on the plus-minus sheet, which means he’s not watching other teams score, a problem evidenced by his minus-31 rating.

The Caps host Los Angeles tonight before welcoming the Bruins to town Saturday.

With Toronto in collapse mode, Columbus treading water, and Detroit still badly banged up, there’s renewed optimism in DC, regardless of how the wins are being earned.

Watch angry Quenneville bolt out of press conference (Video)

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Chicago had a disallowed goal in its 2-0 home loss to San Jose on Tuesday night, when Brandon Mashinter‘s tally was wiped out after Dennis Rasmussen was judged to have interfered with Martin Jones.

It marked the second disallowed goal the ‘Hawks have had in a week and, for head coach Joel Quenneville, it appeared to be a breaking point.

“It’s gone to a different level,” Quenneville said. “I don’t know the rules anymore or something’s changed because my understanding, played a lot of hockey, that, I don’t know.

“I think everybody has an interpretation of what’s a good goal and what’s a bad goal, but I can’t believe it.”

And with that, Coach Q stormed off.

We all should’ve seen this coming, really.

Last Thursday, the ‘Hawks had another disallowed goal in an eventual win over Arizona, a call that sent Quenneville into histrionics on the bench.

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers, Penguins renew acquaintances on Rivalry Night

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Tonight, there’s a big Metropolitan Division showdown at Consol as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Rangers. You can catch the game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET), or watch live online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

Rangers ‘are doing a lot of good things’

‘I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Malkin (lower body) to miss rest of week

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

 

 

PHT Morning Skate: It’s not like they robbed a bank

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley seems pretty chill about healthy-scratching Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Lance Bouma. That goes for Monahan and Gaudreau in particular, noting that they’re “great kids.”

Besides … it’s not like they robbed a bank. (NHL.com)

Uh oh, did Nazem Kadri make the throat-slashing gesture to Mark Giordano? See for yourself in the video above. (Puck Daddy)

What should the New York Islanders do with unrestricted free agent Kyle Okposo, who’s enjoying a productive contract year? (The Hockey News)

What a playoff berth would mean to the Florida Panthers. (Sportsnet)

Checking in with various teams as the trade deadline looms. (NHL Numbers)

On the Canucks using those Pavel Bure-era jerseys. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Despite tough fight, Stars hand Wild their sixth straight loss

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The Minnesota Wild put together the kind of effort that would beat a lot of NHL teams on Tuesday. Unfortunately for that beleaguered group, it wasn’t enough to edge the Dallas Stars.

Despite generating 40 shots on goal and generating 1-0 and 2-1 leads, the Wild lost to the Stars 4-3 in overtime. With that, they’ve lost six straight games.

(The view doesn’t get much prettier if you pull away a little further, either, as Minnesota’s only won once in the last month, going 1-9-2 in their last 12.)

Ultimately, the Stars’ big guns were too powerful. Tyler Seguin generated two assists and so did Jamie Benn, who set up John Klingberg‘s overtime game-winning goal.

Again, the effort sure seemed to be there for the Wild, even if they’re far beyond the point of accepting moral victories.

As frustrating as this must be, Minnesota’s not that far from a playoff spot. Still, it has to sting to see “Close, but not good enough” as a prevailing theme as of late.