Alex Ovechkin confident he will sign extension with Capitals

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Alex Ovechkin said Tuesday he is confident he will sign an extension and play again next season for the Washington Capitals franchise he led to the Stanley Cup in 2018. Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie also hope to be back.

After a third consecutive first-round exit following their 2018 Stanley Cup run and the Seattle expansion draft looming, there is no assurance all three will be teammates next season. Ovechkin is the surest bet because he controls negotiations along with owner Ted Leonsis and general manager Brian MacLellan; the longtime captain will likely be able to play for the Capitals as long as he wants.

“We still have time,” said Ovechkin, whose $124 million, 13-year contract expires this summer. “Obviously I want to finish my career here. I’m pretty sure we will do something soon.”

Asked when that will get done, Ovechkin joked, “Maybe we’ll sign contract right now” after going through exit interviews. He and the Capitals were eliminated by the Boston Bruins in five games, ending Ovechkin’s season prior to the third round of the playoffs for the 15th time in 16 NHL seasons.

Ovechkin played through a back problem against Boston and missed seven of eight games late in the season with a leg injury. He still had two goals and two assists and said he wouldn’t need surgery.

“I have back problem, (but) I was feeling good,” Ovechkin said. “I didn’t take any medicines. I don’t take any shots. I feel pretty confident, and it was not bothering me at all.”

The Russian winger is sixth on the NHL’s career goal list with 730, 164 behind of Wayne Gretzky’s record. Despite losing several games because of work stoppages and the pandemic, Ovechkin said there are still chances to chase that mark.

“You still have chances,” Ovechkin said. “You just have to go out there and do your thing and maybe it’s happen, maybe not, but one step at a time.”

Ovechkin, who turns 36 in September, said he still loves the game and wants to keep playing as long as he can. It’s almost impossible to imagine him playing for another NHL team, though Ovechkin could moonlight a season or more back home in the Kontinental Hockey League at some point.

Teammates would be surprised if Ovechkin isn’t back.

“When you think of the Washington Capitals, you think of Alex Ovechkin,” Oshie said. “I think Ovi loves it here, I think Ovi wants to stay here forever, I think they want him here forever, so I’m hopeful that something will get done that’s fair for both sides.”

The salary cap remaining flat at $81.5 million and Washington wanting to remain a playoff contender will likely keep Ovechkin from getting a substantial raise. But the Capitals also won’t lowball the face of the franchise.

“We’ve won a Stanley Cup, we want to win more Stanley Cups, we’ve built D.C. into a hockey town,” Leonsis said May 14. “Alex is happy. Alex knows that if he plays five more years, 10 more years, whatever it is, we’ve got his back.”

KUZNETSOV QUESTION

Trade rumors emerged about Kuznetsov after he was back on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list and unavailable May 4 after missing several weeks early in the season because of COVID-19.

The first time, the Capitals were fined $100,000 for violating protocol for Kuznetsov, Ovechkin, goaltender Ilya Samsonov and defenseman Dmitry Orlov being together unmasked in a hotel room. Kuznetsov was also suspended three games by the NHL in September 2019 for “inappropriate conduct” less than a month after he was banned from playing for Russia for four years because of a positive test for cocaine.

Kuznetsov has four years left on his contract at a $7.8 million cap hit with a limited no-trade clause. He said “of course” he’d like to be back.

“I like to be here, and this organization, the team, did a lot of good things for me and I believe I done some good things, also,” Kuznetsov said. “It’s like a long marriage right? Sometimes in family situations, (things) happen when you have to go through some tough moments.”

OSHIE TO KRAKEN?

Oshie is originally from Everett, Washington, and has been linked to the Kraken with the expansion draft coming up in July. Still, cooach Peter Laviolette is a fan of Oshie, who doesn’t want to leave the Capitals.

“I signed an eight-year deal here because this is where I wanted to spend the rest of my career and retire here,” Oshie said. “I’ve approached every day since I’ve been here like this is going to be the last team that I ever play for.”

CHARA PONDERING

Zdeno Chara said he will take a few days to talk with his family before deciding whether to retire at age 44 or try to play another season. Chara, who captained Boston to the Cup in 2011, left the Bruins when they couldn’t guarantee him a regular role on their blue line and signed a one-year deal with Washington.

“It’s not always decision that I can make myself,” Chara said. “After those conversations I’m going to probably let those emotions settle in and see where I’m at.”

GOALIE CAROUSEL

The Capitals thought Henrik Lundqvist and Samsonov would be their goaltenders this season. Then Lundqvist discovered he had a heart condition that kept him from playing, Samsonov got COVID-19 and Vitek Vanecek became the go-to guy in net.

What that position looks like next season is anyone’s guess. Vanecek left Game 1 of the Bruins series with a lower-body injury to give way to veteran Craig Anderson, and Samsonov started Games 3-5 with mixed results. Washington will have to choose which of Samsonov or Vanecek to protect from Seattle and could look for an experienced netminder via trade or free agency.

Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

“It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

“It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

“Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

“That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

“You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

UP NEXT

Capitals: At Vancouver.

Devils: At the New York Rangers.

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.