Alexander Steen, Nate Schmidt

East update: Caps stay alive as Detroit, Columbus also win


The Washington Capitals need to win out and enjoy a staggering array of breaks to make the playoffs, but they at least did their part on Tuesday, handling the St. Louis Blues to a tune of a 4-1 win.

It was the kind of victory that left many Capitals fans and writers wondering, “Where has this team been all this time?”

… And left St. Louis fans booing a team that is now on its first three-game losing streak of the season:

Oh yeah, if that’s not enough for Blues fans, it appears that David Backes might have a foot injury. Updates were scarce on Tuesday, so that might be something we learn more about it later on.

Circling back to the Capitals’ desperate playoff run, the good news is that they won; the bad news is that the teams ahead of them also almost uniformly improved their leads (most notably the wild card teams). The Detroit Red Wings handled the Buffalo Sabres while the Columbus Blue Jackets managed a spirited overtime win against the even-more-desperate Phoenix Coyotes. Washington basically needs to win out and have at least one of these teams more or less collapse to make it to the playoffs.

See for yourself:


There are now only four teams who can mathematically end up with the two final East spots: Detroit, Columbus, Washington and the New Jersey Devils (who are hanging on by even less of a thread).

The Capitals can top out at 91 standings points, 39 wins and 29 regulation/overtime wins. Want an idea of how likely that may be? Here are the four teams’ closing schedules:

Detroit: Wednesday – at Pittsburgh, Friday – vs. Carolina and Sunday – at St. Louis
Columbus: Wednesday – at Dallas, Friday – at Tampa Bay, Saturday – at Florida
Washington: Thursday – at Carolina, Friday – vs. Chicago, Sunday – vs. Tampa Bay
New Jersey: Thursday – at Ottawa, Friday – vs. NY Islanders, Sunday – vs. Boston

Could Washington finish ahead of at least two of those teams when it’s all over? It’s not impossible, it’s just improbable. They at least kept that door open on Tuesday night, though.

Related: Flyers clinch spot; Maple Leafs, Senators and Hurricanes bow out

The Jimmy Vesey show leads Rangers over Capitals

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: Jimmy Vesey #26 of the New York Rangers waits for the faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on October 6, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin had the big highlight early in the game on Saturday night, but it was New York Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey that ended up stealing the show.

Vesey scored a pair of goals for the Rangers — the first multi-goal game of his career —  to help lead his team to a 4-2 win in Washington.

Even though he had never played a game in the NHL before this season, Vesey was still one of the most sought after free agents this summer after he completed his college career at Harvard. He eventually signed an entry level deal with the Rangers, and given how much attention his free agency saga generated it seemed hard to believe that he could ever match the hype. Especially given the track record of players signed as free agents coming out of college (it’s not a great one).

It’s obviously still very early in his career, but so far Vesey has not disappointed in New York.

Saturday was by far his best performance of the season, scoring both of his goals just three minutes apart in the second period. The first goal tied the game at two to help erase a two-goal deficit, and then his second goal proved to be the game winner.

It was also a heck of a play.

Rick Nash would add an empty net goal late in the third period to put the game away for the Rangers while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced.

For Washington, the loss is its first regulation loss of the season and snaps what had been a three-game winning streak.

Video: Marc Staal was no match for Alex Ovechkin on this goal

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on against New York Islanders during the second period at Verizon Center on October 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After being held without a point in his first two games of the season, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has now scored a goal in three consecutive games.

That includes his goal on Saturday night in the first period against the New York Rangers.

It’s one that will probably make the personal highlight reel for Ovechkin, but it certainly won’t make the highlight reel for Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.

To say that this head-to-head matchup turned out to be a mismatch would be … well … a bit of an understatement.

As Ovechkin crossed the blue line into the Rangers zone he started to toe-drag around Staal, only to stop midway through and just rip it from outside the circle, using Staal as a screen and beating Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.

It is probably not a good sign when the defenseman has his back to the shooter when the puck is released.

That goal gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead.

Red Wings’ Abdelkader out with lower body injury

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 15: Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Red Wings 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Detroit Red Wings will be without veteran forward Justin Abdelkader on Saturday night when they host the San Jose Sharks.

The official word from the team is that he is sidelined with a lower body injury.

He will be replaced in the lineup by Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou has appeared in three games this season and yet to record a point.

He was not only in the lineup on Friday in the Red Wings in their 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, but also scored his first goal of the season and played a season-high 17:55.

After scoring 19 goals and recording 23 assists in 82 games in 2015-16 the Red Wings signed a seven-year $29.7 million contract extension.

According to general manager Ken Holland (via Helene St. James) he is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Former Canadiens coach Jacques Demers hospitalized

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers has been hospitalized.

Demer’s director of parliamentary affairs confirmed Saturday that the 72-year-old Demers, a Canadian senator, had been admitted to a Montreal hospital, but couldn’t immediately provide any details.

Demers had a stroke in April. He was at the Canadiens’ home opener Tuesday night, smiling in a wheelchair while handing a torch to captain Max Pacioretty to close out a pregame ceremony.

Demers led the Canadiens to their last Stanley Cup in 1993. He also coached Quebec, Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa Bay in the NHL, and Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Quebec in the WHA.