Cam Tucker

Caps didn’t play with ‘a ton of emotion’ in win over Maple Leafs

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WASHINGTON (AP) Another blast from the point by Matt Niskanen on the power play got the Washington Capitals another victory in a season full of them. But pulling one out of the fire against the NHL’s last-place team didn’t make anyone all that thrilled.

The Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday night to match the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings’ mark of 47 wins through 63 games. Washington is lapping the rest of the field and cruising toward home-ice advantage, yet that’s not what players are thinking about.

“We didn’t have a ton of emotion tonight, a ton of fight in our game,” Niskanen said. “We’re struggling with that part of it right now. We’re winning. But I think we all know deep down that we’re much better than we’ve showed.”

The youthful yet physically overmatched Maple Leafs put 29 shots on net to the Capitals’ 23. Washington backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves, which teammates said was the key.

Perhaps more importantly, the Capitals continued to flex their muscles on the power play. After Nikita Soshnikov and Colin Greening erased the 2-0 lead built on goals by Taylor Chorney and Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals won the game in the third period 11 seconds into their fourth power play.

“The power play here has found different ways to score goals,” said forward T.J Oshie, who set a screen on Niskanen’s goal. “Obviously, you got (Ovechkin) over there on the side, that’s always your No. 1 option. But there’s so many different ways we’ve been scoring them, and that’s going to be huge at the end of the season here and into the postseason.”

With the playoffs in mind, Capitals players expressed concern over their recent play. Chorney, whose goal was his first since Feb. 15, 2011, lamented a lack of full, 60-minute performances of late.

“We’ve been fortunate where we got enough firepower where we can kind of find a way to win, but we know down the stretch and in the playoffs it’s not going to be that easy,” Chorney said.

It wasn’t even easy against the Maple Leafs, who have a league-worst 52 points in 62 games. This is a rebuilding season for Toronto, which had four young prospects playing their second NHL games in Soshnikov, William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen and Zach Hyman.

“I thought some of us were pretty good, and some of us got to compete harder,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said of his young players. “If you’re not going to compete, it doesn’t matter how much skill you have, you’re not going to play in the National Hockey League very long.”

Mentoring the kids is one reason the Maple Leafs took on Brooks Laich in a trade with the Capitals on Sunday. Washington got Daniel Winnik in the deal for Laich, who was honored with a video tribute Tuesday night in his quick return after 12 years with the Capitals.

Laich and the Capitals should get some closure, with the 32-year-old turning his focus toward his next job and his former teammates setting their sights on the playoffs. The game against the Maple Leafs was not a positive sign on the road there.

“We weren’t very good tonight, I don’t think,” Winnik said. “I think the shots kind of showed that. They were holding us at bay, but that’s what they do. Maybe just a lull in our game tonight in back-to-backs.”

That can explain a lot, given that the Capitals played the Pittsburgh Penguins the previous night. Still, a one-goal game against the Maple Leafs wasn’t a cause for celebration.

“Give them some credit, they have a bunch of young guys in there full of energy and excited as all hell to be in the NHL,” Niskanen said. “They gave us all we could handle tonight. Grubi was really good and we won. I guess at the end of the day that’s what really counts.”

NOTES: Capitals D Nate Schmidt was out with a lower-body injury. … Connor Carrick, the defenseman Washington sent to Toronto with Laich for Winnik, picked up a secondary assist on Greening’s goal.

Ducks continue march up the standings after ninth straight win

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The Anaheim Ducks just keep on winning.

After struggling to Christmas, the Ducks have rapidly ascended through the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings. They’re the hottest team in the National Hockey League right now with nine straight victories. They came back to beat the Montreal Canadiens by a final score of 3-2 in the shootout on Wednesday.

They now move into a tie with their rivals, the L.A. Kings, for first place in the Pacific Division. Both teams are even with 78 points.

Corey Perry, who was left off Team Canada’s preliminary World Cup roster, scored the tying goal — his 27th of the season — and Jakob Silfverberg scored the winner in the shootout.

That race in the Pacific has tightened considerably over the last few weeks. Previously considered the weaker of the divisions in the league, the fight for top spot has become between three teams, while Vancouver, Arizona, Calgary and Edmonton have all fallen well off the pace.

And those top three California teams now have 20 games remaining on each of their respective schedules to try to win the division and avoid what would likely be a physically brutal opening round confrontation.

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A new look: World Cup of Hockey 2016 uniforms revealed

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The initial rosters have been released. (The debate is already underway.)

And now the uniforms for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 have also been revealed, in cooperation with the NHL, NHLPA and adidas.

“We took iconic emblems from each of the participating teams to create jerseys that honor the traditions of each nation and fused those with an emphasis on technical design for elite performance on the ice,” said Keith Leach, senior director NHL, the adidas Group, in a statement.

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Made with adidas’ cutting-edge adizero technology, the new uniform features the blending of three lightweight, resilient fabrics, which have been tested and tuned over the past four years. Engineered for durability, while providing greater airflow, the innovative adizero fabric has been developed to keep athletes cool and comfortable. Additionally, the new adizero cresting reduces weight, adds flexibility and improves overall movement, allowing players to perform at their highest levels.

The uniforms feature some new looks and designs, particularly for Team Europe and Team North America, as those teams enter into the competition for 2016.

Related:

Kessel among notable omissions as U.S. names preliminary World Cup roster

Canada unveils preliminary World Cup roster — no Subban, Perry or Marchand

Lundqvist, Sedins highlight Sweden’s veteran-laden World Cup roster

No Jagr — not yet anyway — for the Czech Republic at the World Cup

Finns announce preliminary roster for World Cup led by Rask, Koivu

Ovechkin, Malkin highlight Russia’s initial World Cup roster

 

 

 

 

Kings sign Budaj to one-year contract extension

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The L.A. Kings have signed goaltender Peter Budaj to a one-year contract extension.

The 33-year-old Budaj has played only one game for the Kings this season after he was signed in October to bring added depth at that position within the organization.

Budaj has spent the bulk of this season in the AHL, where he has posted some impressive numbers for the Ontario Reign. Appearing in 43 AHL games, he’s posted a 30-10-3 record with eight shutouts and a save percentage of .934.

Video: Leafs’ Soshnikov celebrates first NHL goal in style

Go ahead and celebrate, Nikita Soshnikov.

Playing in his second career game with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 22-year-old winger scored an absolute beautiful goal on Wednesday against the Washington Capitals. It’s also the first of his National Hockey League career.

Skating down his off-wing, Soshnikov beat Philipp Grubauer short side with a wrist shot under the crossbar.

And Soshnikov loved it.

His celebration was almost as good as the goal. Adjust the volume on your computer accordingly.