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WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Sunday as the Washington Capitals visit the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here. 

CAPITALS
Alex OvechkinEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Andre BurakovskyNicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaLars EllerDevante Smith-Pelly
Chandler StephensonJay Beagle – Brett Conolly

Michal KempnyJohn Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikJakub Jerabek

Starting goalie: Philip Grubauer

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

[Ovechkin, a durable ‘Russian machine,’ reaches 1,000 games]

WATCH LIVE – 7:30 p.m. ET

PENGUINS
Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyBryan Rust
Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel (game time decision)
Conor ShearyRiley SheahanPatric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-ReeseJosh JoorisTom Kuhnhackl

Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Olli MaattaJustin Schultz
Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

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Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kuznetsov scores OT winner as Capitals down Rangers

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The Washington Capitals have chosen a fine time to get hot.

The Caps entered Wednesday with a five-point cushion on the top spot in the Metropolitan Division thanks to a four-game winning streak coupled with eight wins in their last 10 contests.

And by nights’ end, those numbers both increased to seven, five and nine of their past 10, respectively, after a late comeback to force overtime and a quick winner in the extra frame in a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers on Wednesday Night Rivalry, sweeping the home-and-home series.

Indeed, the Caps needed a big goal late to thwart what was looking like a 2-1 decision going New York’s way.

But Lars Eller was having none of that, producing the tying goal with 65 seconds remaining in regulation.

Eller’s goal forced overtime, and if Henrik Lundqvist didn’t appear properly defeated on Eller’s late equalizer, he sure did after Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s winner just 38 seconds into free hockey.

Who could blame him? Kuznetsov’s goal was a stunner and reversed the Rangers fortunes before they could catch their breaths.

The Capitals didn’t look especially special on the night but did what needed to be done to pick up the win. Braden Holtby, who has struggled in a mighty was lately, turned aside 35 of 37 shots for the win — just the second time he’s allowed two goals or fewer since Feb. 9.

The charity point and the loss meant nil to the Rangers, who are already eliminated from the playoffs.

But rookie Lias Andersson picked up his first NHL assist, two nights after picking up his first NHL goal in a 4-2 loss to the Caps.

New York’s season has turned into an evaluation camp for their final few games.

Andersson saw 12:20 of ice-time while fellow rookie Filip Chytil played 14:40, ending with a minus-1 and four shots on goal.

Washington can clinch a playoff spot providing the Philadelphia Flyers lose in any fashion to the Colorado Avalanche.

Currently, Philly is leading 2-1 in the second period.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL on NBCSN: Ovechkin continues pursuit of 50 as Capitals visit Rangers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Monday night with the Washington Capitals visiting the New York Rangers. You can catch all of the action at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.

The Washington Capitals have an opportunity to tighten their hold on the top spot in the Metropolitan Division on Monday night.

The Caps, winners of three straight, sit three points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and will use up their game in hand over the Penguins, who are idle on Monday.

The focus of this one could shift to Alex Ovechkin and his pursuit of the 50-goal plateau. Ovi comes into the game sitting on 44 goals, six back of the milestone. With seven games remaining, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

The Great 8 hasn’t scored in this past two games, and he’s one goal ahead of Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrik Laine in the Rocket Richard race.

“Everything is in my hands,” Ovechkin told the Washington Post on Sunday about the race to 50. “Of course as you get closer and closer, you want to get it done.”

If Ovi can do it, he’d become just the third player in NHL history with eight seasons of 50 goals or more, joining Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky.

For Ovi to go on a late-season run, as the Post’sIsabelle Khurshudyan pointed out, would also go a long way to helping the Caps keep up their winning ways in the final two weeks of the season.

[NHL Playoff Push: Panthers, Avalanche in search of key wins Monday]

The Rangers aren’t making the playoffs, so the rest of the season is a chance to give their future some NHL looks.

To that end, New York called up first-round picks Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Sunday, with the New York Post reporting that the duo will play out the rest of the regular season in the Rangers lineup.

“I think I’ve improved my game,” Chytil told NYRangers.com. “Everything is different here than in Europe. I’ve had to adjust my style for the U.S. It didn’t take so long, so I’m glad. All season has been very good for me. I’m learning in every game, so that’s most important.”

Andersson joined Hartford after playing with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League this season but an injury brought him to New York to rehab. Once healed, he didn’t return to his native Sweden, opting to head to the AHL.

“I’m more confident now than I was just a month ago,” Andersson told the team’s website. “It’s getting better and better every day.”

The duo could make some history if both are in the lineup on Monday.

Per the Rangers:

If both Andersson and Chytil play, they’d become the first pair of teenagers to play in the same game with the Rangers since Dec. 19, 1974 (Dave Maloney, who was playing in his second career NHL game, and Ron Greschner).


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings

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If you were looking for a barn-burner, this game wasn’t that.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders combined for 13 goals, and the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes scored 11 in total, the Washington Capitals and their hosts, the Detroit Red Wings, played 60 minutes with just one goal between them.

It wasn’t nearly as exciting in the goal-scoring department, but the win for the Washington Capitals put a bit of separation between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, who the Caps (93 points) lead by four points now.

Brett Conolly’s third-period marker at 6:41 was all the Capitals needed for their

Andreas Athanasiou appeared to make it 1-0 in the first period on a nice wrister, but a goaltender interference challenge by Washington was successful after Tyler Bertuzzi was judged to have made contact with Grubauer. This one was pretty cut and dry, as far as GI calls go.

The loss for the Red Wings meant they were officially eliminated from playoff contention, something that had been known for a while but hadn’t happened in the mathematical department.

Grubauer was solid, making 39 saves for his third shutout of the season. At the other end of the rink, Jimmy Howard wasn’t too shabby either, stopping 25-of-26. All he needed was a bit of run support.

Prior to puck drop, the Red Wings announced that defenseman Mike Green, who was hampered by a neck injury back in February, will go under the knife, ending his season.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Patrik Laine, Alex Ovechkin meet to kick off Rocket Richard stretch run

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From a team perspective, Monday’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and visiting Winnipeg Jets has its own set of storylines.

A win for the Capitals would vault them back into first place in a volatile Metropolitan Division, a revolving throne that was last claimed on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Penguins leapfrogged the Caps with a 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars.

For the Jets, a win accomplishes two things: First and foremost, it keeps a six-point gap between themselves and the Minnesota Wild for second place in the Central Division. Secondly, a win claws back a couple points from the Nashville Predators, who sit atop the summit of the toughest division in hockey with a seven-point lead.

Given that the Jets play Nashville on the back-to-back on Tuesday, they could close that gap to just three points with two wins on the trot over the next 48 hours.

But these are all team goals and mumbo jumbo. The real story on Monday night, in Washington, in Winnipeg, and across the NHL, is focused squarely on the battle between Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine.

Yes, Monday’s game is the unofficial beginning of the race to the Rocket Richard Trophy.

[Who’s going to win the Maurice Richard Trophy?]

Both Ovechkin, a six-time winner, and Laine, a 19-year-old NHL sophomore, sit tied for first place on 40 goals, one ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin is clearly in the race, as are a bevy of other players. But tonight’s spotlight is on the champ and the pretender.

Both teams have 14 games remaining on their respective schedules.

“It’s always been one of my dreams to win it,” Laine told Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun over the weekend. “It’s something that every goal-scorer dreams about. There are still 15 games to go. There are a lot of things that can happen, but (along) with our team goals, it’s a good motivation for me.”

In many respects, Laine has emulated parts of what has made Ovechkin — Laine’s childhood idol — the NHL’s best goal-scorer since he was drafted years ago. Laine’s one-timer, like Ovi’s, is as lethal as they come. His position on the power play, Ovi’s office, as it were, is much the same. The release? Both are world-class, and well beyond their peers in the NHL.

Ovechkin has been scoring consistently all season long. For Laine, he’s produced 15 goals in his past 11 games, is on an 11-game point streak and has at least one goal in five-straight and nine of his last 10.

Unlike last season, where his offense sputtered down the stretch, Laine has come alive to make himself the favorite to capture his first goal-scoring crown.

Laine is shooting at a few ticks over 20 percent thus far and leads the NHL in power play goals with 18. And his scoring on Winnipeg’s current six-game road trip has helped his team tremendously in the win department. Laine has seven of the Jets’ 11 goals through four games. Winnipeg is 3-1-0 on the trip so far.

Ovechkin, by comparison, has just one goal in his past five games. But no one takes more shots in the NHL than the Great 8. His sheer volume would lead one to suggest that he’ll get back on that goal-scoring wagon soon. Perhaps even tonight.

On your marks.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck