Caps hoping for more starts like Tuesday’s against Carolina


WASHINGTON (AP) As the Washington Capitals clanked shots off the post against Carolina, forward Jay Beagle said players didn’t let frustration seep in.

Slow starts have dogged the Capitals, but this wasn’t one of them.

“I think it was a great start,” captain Alex Ovechkin said of Tuesday night’s win. “So far it was the best in maybe 10 or 15 games. Just hit crossbar, post, lots of good chances. That’s how we have to play.”

That game against the Hurricanes, which clinched a playoff berth for Washington, represented a divergence from the lingering trend. The Capitals had allowed the first goal in the previous five games and in 13 out of the last 15.

The Capitals are 10-5-1 in their past 16 games, but in the first period, they have led only 2:16, been tied 106:41 and trailed for 210:53.

“I’m kind of sick of talking about it, but it’s a stat, it’s there and it’s ugly,” forward Justin Williams said. “I think sometimes if you just keep talking about it, talking about it and talking about, then it becomes a problem. They you can get it in your head and all sorts of other things.”

It has been in players’ heads because it’s not an isolated issue. Opponents have outscored the Capitals 17-4 over this 16-game span, and yet the top team in the NHL has shown an uncanny ability to roar back in the third period.

Yet with just over three weeks left in the regular season, it’s not about victories or points for the Capitals as much as preparing for the playoffs, a process that continues Friday when they host the Nashville Predators. That’s why the start against Carolina was so encouraging.

“We showed what we can do to start the game and set up our game,” goaltender Braden Holtby said of the 2-1 win. “You look at it as we only scored two goals with the overtime goal, but we could’ve had quite a few more – just the posts and the tough shots we threw on net in traffic. Just didn’t go our way, but we stuck with it and that shows that we played a committed game.”

Coach Barry Trotz said he’ll take that start on most nights. Holtby cited the energy with which the Capitals played as a reason it’s a foundation to build from.

Falling behind in the playoffs, where games are tighter and goals are harder to come by, especially on the power play, isn’t a recipe for success for a team trying to win its first Stanley Cup. If the Capitals can replicate their start against Carolina in April and May, it could pay big dividends.

We “didn’t wait for them to kind of see how the game was going to play out,” Beagle said. “We went after them and tried to dictate the pace and game in our barn, and that’s the way we got to play.”


Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.