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.

Looking back at the Blackhawks’ Scott Foster game

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take an occasional look back at some notable “this day in hockey history” moments. Today, Scott Foster gets to play a game for the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Before there was David Ayres with the Carolina Hurricanes, there was Scott Foster with the Chicago Blackhawks.

It was two years ago Sunday that Foster, an accountant by day, was forced into action as the emergency goalie against the Winnipeg Jets.

He stopped all seven shots he faced in 14 minutes of ice-time to help the Blackhawks hold on for a 6-2 win. You can see the highlights of his performance in the video above.

At the time of Foster’s appearance the entire thing was pretty unheard of because the NHL hadn’t really seen an appearance like this — a non-professional player forced into a game — in the modern era.

It all happened because of a series of goaltending injuries that left the Blackhawks shorthanded at the position. Chicago signed Foster to an amateur tryout contract the night before the game due to injuries to Corey Crawford and Anton Forsberg. He was supposed to serve as the backup to rookie Collin Delia as he made his NHL debut. Everything was going as planned until Delia was also injured early in the the third period, forcing Foster into the game.

His performance earned him No. 1 star honors for the game.

Because the Blackhawks were already comfortably ahead when he entered the game he did not get credit for the win. It was probably the biggest highlight of the season for the Blackhawks as they missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

At the time Foster’s appearance and performance was mostly celebrated and treated as the feel-good story that it was.

But when Ayres had to enter a game for the Hurricanes this season — and ended up being the winning goalie against the Toronto Maple Leafs — there was a very vocal minority that thought it was an embarrassment for the league and that, maybe, the emergency goalie protocol needed to be changed. It was eventually decided that no change needed to be made. Even with two instances in the past couple of years it is still a very rare occurrence that needs a very specific set of circumstances to actually happen.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Olympic hockey on NBC: 2018 women’s gold medal game

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Hockey Week in America continues Sunday with the unforgettable Olympic women’s gold medal game in 2018.

NBC will present the women’s gold medal game at the 2018 Olympics between Team USA and Canada, won by the Americans in a 3-2 shootout in PyeongChang. With the victory, the women’s ice hockey team claimed its second ever Olympic gold medal and ended the Canadians streak of four straight gold medals.

Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko and Pierre McGuire called the gold medal game in PyeongChang.

You can catch a replay of the 2018 women’s Olympics gold medal game Sunday on NBC at 1 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SUNDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Maple Leafs vs. Bruins (Game 7, Round 1, 2013 playoffs) – 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Golden Knights vs. Sharks (Game 7, Round 1, 2019 playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (Game 7, Western Conference Final, 2014 playoffs) – 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Kuznetsov’s overtime series clincher

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

In 2018, the Capitals and Penguins met in Round 2 for the third straight postseason. Pittsburgh won the previous two series en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. But this time Washington would have its revenge. Evgeny Kuznetsov would score in overtime of Game 6 to help the Capitals advance as they went on to win their first championship in franchise history.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2018 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday night on NBCSN beginning at 12:30 a.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Bonino Bonino Bonino!

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

The Capitals needed a win to force Game 7 in Round 2 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Facing the Penguins yet again, the clawed back from a 3-1 third period deficit to force overtime. It was there, however, that Pittsburgh once again topped their Metro Division rivals. This time it was Nick Bonino breaking their hearts to put the Penguins on a path to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2016 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday on NBCSN beginning at 10 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2016 playoffs) – 10 p.m. on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.