Unleashing Fury with Jordan Bondurant

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Predators snap Washington's winning streak
Holtby mistake, late penalty lead to Caps demise in first home game since the all-star break

Braden Holtby
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Some weird bounces and a case of being in the right place at the right time allowed the Caps to overcome an early 3-1 deficit and eventually take a 4-3 lead into the 3rd period. But Nashville took advantage of a blunder on a Washington power play and a late penalty to come away with a 5-4 victory in the Predators only visit to the nation's capital this season.

Alexander Ovechkin managed to find the back of the net in his return to the ice for the first time since Jan. 18. Ovi sat out Monday's 4-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens serving a one-game suspension for choosing to sit out the all-star game this past weekend in St. Louis.

Ovi scored career goal number 693, moving him past Detroit Red Wings great Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time on the NHL's goal scoring list.

Richard Panik scored in the 1st period and was credited with a second goal in the 2nd period after Nashville put the puck in their own net. It was something head coach Todd Reirden said was a welcomed sight.

Tom Wilson also registered on the scoresheet with a goal in the 2nd period. Wilson has scored in both of Washington's games since the bye week/all-star break and scored in three straight games dating back to Jan. 18.

The Caps head to Ottawa Friday to take on the Senators before returning home to kick off a four-game homestand on Super Bowl Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Three of the four home contests will be against Metropolitan Division opponents.

Oshie scores twice, Caps beat Boston in battle of East's best
John Carlson continues to make his early pitch for the Norris Trophy with a goal and an assist

If the stars align and both teams win the playoff series they need to win in April and May, we very well could see the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals square off either in the Eastern Conference semifinals or the final. And if the first two meetings between these two teams are any indicaiton, a playoff series would be wildly entertaining and could likely go the distance.

But we have yet to turn the page on 2019, and there's still over half a season left before we can think about the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Washington Capitals once again rallied from behind and beat the Bruins 3-2 Wednesday night at Capital One Arena.

David Pastrnak, who is in sole-possession of the NHL goal scoring lead, got Boston on the board early in the 1st period. A few minutes later, the Bruins appeared to extend their lead to 2-0 on the power play, but Capitals head coach Todd Reirden challenged that Boston was offside on zone entry. The officials took a look and waived off the goal.

Reirden credited his video coaches for paying close attention and signaling him to challenge.

Had the goal been upheld, a two-goal deficit isn't insumountable by any stretch in the NHL. Washington came back from down four against Vancouver earlier in the season. But the successful challenge made a difference in the outcome of the game.

TJ Oshie tied the game early in the 2nd period with a strong effort in front of Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halaak, but a few minutes later, Oshie scored one of the best goals you'll see all year. Oshie deked his way through two Boston defenders, elevated the puck with a backhand shot, and brought the Capital One Arena faithful to its feet with a goal that gave Washington a 2-1 lead.

After Boston tied the game at 2, it was John Carlson who gave the Caps the lead for good with a one-time slapshot goal off a pass from Nicklas Backstrom.

Washington hung on to win 3-2.

Vrana's goal early not enough as Washington loses in shootout
Shootout goes seven rounds, Lars Eller's goal overturned on video review

A rare 12:30 matinee on a Saturday pitted the Vancouver Canucks against the Capitals in their final meeting of the season. In what turned out to be a total goaltending battle, Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom stood tallest in a seven-round shootout as Vancouver came away with a 2-1 victory.

Both Markstrom and Braden Holtby made 32 saves on 33 shots between regulation and overtime for their respective teams. Markstrom entered play on Saturday having made a career-high 48 saves as Vancouver beat Nashville 6-3 on Thursday.

But Holtby bounced back after giving up a few goals in the 3rd period Wednesday against the New York Rangers, which saw Washington suffer just its second regulation loss since Oct. 14.

Jakub Vrana gave Washington an early lead at 2:22 of the opening period. Lars Eller fed Vrana the puck from just beyond the red line and Vrana one-timed a slapshot in for his 11th goal of the season.

That would be all the scoring the Caps could muster. Washington scored three or more goals in a game in 16 straight contests from Oct. 8 to Nov. 11. Since then, which spans six games, the Caps have scored three or more just twice, and Reirden said it's likely a case of the offensive production normalizing itself.

Canucks young gun Elias Petterson tied the game on the power play at 14:00 of the 2nd period.

Neither team would find the back of the net until the shootout when Bo Horvat went blocker side with a wrist shot in Round 7 to end the game.

Washington has now lost three of its last five games. The Caps are off Sunday, but will be back in practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Monday and Tuesday before welcoming the Florida Panthers to Capital One Arena Wednesday night for a Thanksgiving Eve showdown.

Here are a couple other things that stood out to me from this afternoon's game:

From the Press Box: November 23

The iron has been unkind to Washington as of late

Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic found that Washington leads the NHL in hit posts and cross-bars right now. The Caps have rang the puck off the iron 30 times so far this season, including twice in the loss on Saturday.

Looking back at the loss to New York on Wednesday, the Caps could've easily put a few more goals on the scoreboard if the nets were a little taller and a little wider. There were at least three instances, including where rookie Michael Sgarbossa had shots clang off the post or cross-bar.

Either way, Reirden has taken notice of what amounts to a small anomaly.

Caps have played a lot of extra time so far

The 2019-20 season is just past the quarter-way point. Twenty-five games are now in the books, and of those 25 games, Washington has gone to overtime in 11 of them.

Regardless of whether the circumstances for OT are a blown lead, a stalemate or a comeback, it's kind of astounding to see the Caps spending so much of the early portion of the season playing extra hockey.

Obviously the Capitals have one of the best strength and conditioning staffs in professional sports, but one would have to think that all that extra time, if the trend continues, will add up once playoff time rolls around in April. And rest assured, barring some sort of catastrophic injuries to the core of the Caps lineup, Washington will undoubtedly be among the 16 teams taking part in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But then again, hockey players are incredibly tough and finely-tuned machines as athletes. So maybe there shouldn't be much cause for concern in terms of playing a lot of OT.

Caps take down Anaheim in physical Monday night contest
Hathaway likely to face discipline from NHL for spitting on opponent

Jakub Vrana
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WWE superstar Braun Strowman's catchphrase is "Get these hands", and in the midst of the Washington Capitals 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks at Capital One Arena, Washington newcomers Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway were happy to hand out knuckle sandwiches.

Unfortunately for Hathaway, who signed a four-year $1.5 million deal over the summer with Washington, was thrown out of the game when the dust settled and the referees dished out their penalties for the donnybrook that took place late in the 2nd period. Hathaway was being restrained by referees while simultaneously eating punches from Ducks defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Hathaway ended up spitting on Gudbranson, further escalating the situation.

Hathaway will likely face additional discipline from the NHL.

"It has no place. It was an emotional play by me," Hathaway told reporters in the Capitals locker room after the game. "You don’t plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me to a sucker punch."

Gudbranson weighed in after the game also.

"It's just disrespectful," he said. "I mean, we're competing. That's fine. I've got no problem with guys fighting. That's what this game is all about is guys fighting to win hockey games and sometimes that's what happens. But going to that level is wrong."

Washington and Anaheim meet again in Anaheim on Dec. 6.

More on the melee and the incident can be found below.

But the Capitals managed to return to their winning ways on the heels of a comeback shootout win over the Boston Bruins on Nov. 16.

Washington found the back of the net 50 seconds into the game. Richard Panik, another Caps newcomer via free agency prior to the start of this season, scored his first goal in a Washington uniform.

Panik missed 10 games from Oct. 18 to Nov. 9 due to injury, and after generating some chances over the last few games, said he was relieved to finally break through.

"My game changed after the injury," Panik said. "I think I did a really good job with Nemo (Caps Strength & Conditioning Coach Mark Nemish). I think my game got a lot better after that, and I had shots but they didn't go in. It finally went in, so I'm good."

Alex Ovechkin scored his 15th goal of the season on a power play early in the 2nd period, extending the Washington lead to two.

The Ducks and Caps elevated their physicality over the course of the middle frame, and things came to a head with 34 seconds left in the period. But right as Brendan Leipsic came charging in to levy a big hit that set the fighting off, Chandler Stephenson put a puck past Anaheim goaltender John Gibson.

The goal was lost on nearly everyone in the arena until it was announced over the arena PA system prior to the end of the period.

Jakub Vrana made it a 4-0 Washington lead at 5:44 of the 3rd period before Anaheim started to show a little life and made it a two-goal game.

But Tom Wilson added an empty netter for Washington's fifth and final goal of the night.

The Caps pick up their 16th win of the regular season and eight of their last ten games. Washington heads to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday for a date with the New York Rangers in primetime before returning home for the rare 12:30 p.m. Saturday puck drop against the Vancouver Canucks.

Here are a couple things that stood out to me from tonight's game:

From the Press Box: November 18

Spitting aside, Hathaway and Leipsic lived up to expectations

Brendan Leipsic
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Hathaway and Leipsic both were brought in to fill vacancies further down in the lineup. But both of them came with the ability to get under the skin of opponents. Even when we saw Anaheim doing their best to match Washington physically, Hathaway and Leipsic were among the guys that continuously answered the bell.

Reirden also sensed that something was brewing between the two teams as the game went on.

"You could kind of feel it going in that direction," he said. "Anaheim has a team that plays hard. They have some players that go to the net hard and finish their checks, and their coach pushes them to play hard. They're trying to establish something different in their locker room. I wasn't expecting them to back down."

But for a couple teams from opposite conferences, who only place twice a season, this Monday night game had a different feel.

"It just kind of heated up," Richard Panik said. "I was expecting way more in the 3rd, but I think they just shut it down."

I'll also say that I do think Hathaway deserves to be suspended. Everyone in the hockey world has freaked out on Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand for his incidents in which he's licked opponents. But in any case, spitting on someone definitely desrves a suspension of some kind. It's one of the most disrespectful and nastiest things you could do to someone.

I'll give credit to Hathaway for owning up to what he did, acknowledging that the act has no place in the game of hockey. But clearly he'll need to watch his back when Washington and Anaheim meet again in a couple weeks. I'm sure Erik Gudbranson will want to pick up where things left off.

Monday wasn't Washington's most complete win of the season

Yes, the Caps put five goals on the scoreboard. The game wasn't all that close until late in the 3rd period. But one could say that Washington's victory over Anaheim wasn't flawlessly executed.

The passing just wasn't quite as crisp as you'd like to have seen, especially when Washington was moving the puck around Anaheim's zone. The Caps could've had multiple other scoring chances had the puck found the stick of a Caps player at the right time.

And there were some defensive lapses late that allowed Anaheim to crawl back. In fact, had the officials not waved off what would've been the Ducks first goal of the night mid-way through the 3rd, the score could've been even tighter.

Obviously not every game is going to be perfectly played. It was evident when Montreal came to DC on Nov. 15 and blew the doors off Washington in the 2nd period. But one has to think that head coach Todd Reirden and his staff will have the Caps players back to the drawing board in some regards to fix a few things prior to Wednesday's game against the Rangers.

Caps Post-Game Reports

Coyotes survive Washington comeback, win 4-3 in shootout
Kuznetsov scores two goals, official reviews go against Caps

Kuzy and Oshie
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals extended their point streak to 12 games Monday night, but in the end the Arizona Coyotes left Capital One Arena with a tally in the win column. Nick Schmaltz bested Ilya Samsonov in the third round of a shootout giving Arizona a 4-3 victory over the Caps.

"It feels good to get at least a point, especially after we were down 3-0," said defenseman Radko Gudas. "We weren't on our best, but I thought in the 3rd we turned things around. We started doing the right things, and we got rewarded for that."

Arizona took a 1-0 lead into 1st intermission - a pretty manageable deficit for any team in hockey. But things unraveled a bit for Washington not even a minute into the 2nd period.

Christian Fischer was credited with his first goal of the season after video review, initiated by the NHL's video war room in Toronto, determined that the puck crossed completely over the goal line in Samsonov's glove. That made it 2-0, before a neutral zone turnover sprung Michael Grabner on a breakaway and extended the Yotes lead to three.

"We just gave them some offense," Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said after the game. He talked about the pace his team likes to play and how they got away from playing their offensive style in the 1st and 2nd periods, which led to Arizona jumping out to that lead.

Evgeny Kuznetsov got Washington on the board near the end of the 2nd, and then within one with another score at 2:23 of the 3rd.

Fans thought Kuzy picked up the hat-trick with 2:16 left in regulation, but replay showed it was TJ Oshie who ended up netting the equalizer. Still, many in Capital One Arena initially threw hats on the ice.

"I don't know if you could tell, but I was kind of regretting that (Kuznetsov) didn't grab it first," Oshie said. "But you can't pass those ones up especially when you're down a goal."

Oshie appeared to have scored the OT game-winning goal for Washington, but video review determined Lars Eller was offside.

"That was unfortunate because it was a great move," Reirden said of Oshie's no-goal. "TJ is pretty on top of things, so he had a strong feeling it was offside."

Samsonov made 35 saves in net for Washington.

From the Press Box: November 11

Here are a couple things that stood out to me from Monday's game:

Mismanagement of the puck cost the Caps

Many of the players talked about it, and so did Todd Reirden after the game. But Washington turning the puck over in the neutral zone and in their defensive zone ultimately cost them big time against Arizona. Oshie and Kuznetsov accounted for two of Washington's eight giveaways on the night.

Oshie owned up to it after the game, and Radko Gudas said that sometimes games like that will happen. After all, it is a long season. He also talked about playing against the Arizona forecheck.

"Communication between the partners on the back and good support through the middle from the center was huge," Gudas said. "I thought they played pretty well, pretty hard. I thought we had some chances out of that, but obviously we need to do a better job."

Aanti Raanta was the difference maker

Aanti Raanta
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Raanta was a man possessed in the early part of the game, when Washington turned the heat all the way up on the forecheck.

Raanta made three saves all within a short window of time, showcasing his abilities with the pad, stick and glove.

"They came out hard," he said after the game. "Obviously there was a lot of chances in the 1st period."

One stop in particular came on the Washington power play, and Alex Ovechkin was well within striking distance. But perhaps some familiarity for Raanta dating back to his days as a member of the New York Rangers helped him out. But Raanta came up big, stonewalling Ovi in what turned out to be Washington's only shot on goal on that particular power play in the 2nd period.

"The only thing is for a goalie to try and be there and try and make the first save," Raanta said. "And hopefully the puck doesn't bounce straight to their stick."

He made 34 saves, stopped every Caps attempt in the shootout, and picked up the victory.

The 30-year-old Finnish goaltender is 3-1-2 in six starts so far this season as the backup to Darcy Kuemper. Raanta has a 3.06 goals against average and a save percentage of .912.

Unleashing Fury: Power Play (11-12-19)

Post-Game Audio: November 11

Washington hands Vegas fourth straight loss in DC dating back to 2018 Cup Final
Jonas Siegenthaler scores his first-career NHL goal

Jonas Siegenthaler
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Two goals in the first six minutes of the game was more than enough for the momentum to swing in the Washington Capitals favor on Saturday night at Capital One Arena, as the Caps defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2.

Washington picked up its sixth consecutive victory and fourth win in a row at home against the Golden Knights. The win streak dates back to the two home games Washington won at home during their 2018 Stanley Cup title run.

"We talked about it being a man's game tonight," Caps head coach Todd Reirden said. "I was really impressed with our start to the game because they were ready to go. They had been hyping this game up. I challenged our guys pretty good before the game and got a really good response to start with."

"Coming off the road and everything I think it's big to have a good start," John Carlson said. "I mean I think it's important every game to have a good start, but it seems like we've been lacking a little mojo at home, and I think that was a good way against a really good team to start the game."

The Golden Knights, who were playing the first of back-to-back games this weekend had to play catch-up from the onset, as Evgeny Kuznetsov's breakaway goal 53 seconds into the game on a feed from Dimitry Orlov brought the Capital One Arena crowd to a crescendo.

"I don't think we played as good as we had in the past," Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant said after the game. "We just didn't look ready to beat a good team, and we had to play better than that."

Despite a Max Pacioretty goal at 8:57 of the 1st period, it was Jonas Siegenthaler who helped keep the Caps out front for good. Siegenthaler, on the one-year anniversary of his NHL debut with Washington, put a puck past Marc-Andre Fleury at 15:32 for the first goal of his career.

"It took me a year, but it feels great," Siegenthaler said. The 22-year-old Swiss defenseman received the puck and a celebratory shaving cream pie in the face courtesy of Tom Wilson in the locker room after the game.

Braden Holtby made 30 saves on 32 shots, improving to 8-1 on the season in net.

From the Press Box: November 9

Here are a couple things that stood out to me from tonight's game:

Jonas Siegenthaler's work and patience all led to that first goal

Jonas Siegenthaler
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Jonas hasn't played in the equivalent of a full season for the Capitals yet. But in 44 career games in Washington, his effort to constantly get better is something that has garnered the attention of his coach and his teammates.

"He's doing the right things, he's supporting the rush like he's supposed to, and sometimes you're gonna get those opportunities," Reirden said of Siegenthaler's first career goal in Washington's 5-2 win over Vegas on Saturday. "It's always fun to watch a guy get his first NHL goal."

Reirden also added that it probably takes around 200 NHL games for a defenseman to hit his peak potential.

"You're still forming their identity in terms of what they can do and what they can't do," he said. "Then you slot them properly and then see how they respond. You try to re-slot them again later on in the year and next year and now you start to see what they're really capable of."

Siegenthaler himself said there are certain areas of his game he needs to continue improving upon.

"Having good breakout passes and being hard in front of the net," he said. "Just need to keep following the system, and that's what I try to do."

"I said at the beginning of the year he was ready for a big year," fellow defenseman John Carlson said. "He has just so much talent and skill. Upstairs he's a balance guy, is into it every day in practice and games, and I think he really wants to learn."

Special teams came up big

Washington Capitals
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Golden Knights were 1-for-5 on the power play Saturday night. Washington entered play with the 13th best home penalty kill in the league (3-for-21), while Vegas was just 5-for-31 on the power play on the road.

Washington started both the 2nd and 3rd periods on the penalty kill, but managed to come away unscathed on the scoreboard.

"The PK was good, especially when we needed it," John Carlson said. "Special teams is always important especially against great teams with great special teams like they have."

The Caps were also aided on the penalty kill by blocking shots. Washington is second in the NHL in blocked shots (281) and blocked 14 shots against Vegas.

But ultimately it came down to execution and Braden Holtby making the key saves when needed.

"We got some clears, we were able to disrupt (their power play) a little bit, we got an offside and then we got a couple really good stoppages of play by Braden," Reirden said. "That really takes the air out of a power play."

Caps beat the Flames with the Washington Nationals in the house

Caps and Nats
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get caught up

Washington Capitals
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Capitals return to Capital One Arena for a 7 p.m. tilt with the Buffalo Sabres. They then host the Calgary Flames on Sunday to conclude a weekend homestand. Washington played the last five games over a span of 11 days on the road and picked up points in each of those contests, going 4-0-1.

The Caps are now 9-2-3 and own the best record in the NHL. Washington's 21 points in the month of October set a new franchise record.

Buffalo comes to Washington also with nine wins on their record this season. The Sabres are 7-2-1 over their last 10 games. They dropped their last contest 3-2 in a shootout against the Arizona Coyotes.

Friday's game against the Caps will be the front end of a back-to-back for Buffalo. They head home Saturday to host the New York Islanders before a six-day break prior to their next game.

Buffalo enters sporting the second-best power play in the league, converting on 14 of 47 attempts this season.

While Washington boasts the league's sixth-best penalty kill, head coach Todd Reirden said Friday the team just needs to stay out of the penalty box.

"They've done a really good job with their structure and recoveries of pucks," he said about what the Buffalo power play does well. "They've got a guy that's shooting it really well in terms of their rookie (Victor) Olofsson. He's had a strong start to the year and added a different element to that side with a lefty that can really bring it in addition to the right-handed shots they have that can shoot it as well."

Oloffson has 6 goals, all on the power play and 4 assists this season. He is the first player in NHL history to score each of his first eight career goals on the power play. He was also named NHL Rookie of the Month for October.

In addition, the Caps will need to be mindful of Sabres star Jack Eichel. Eichel, the 2nd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, has 7 goals and 10 assists on the season.

"He's obviously one of the top players in the league," Reirden said. "Just with his size, reach, hands, speed, he brings a lot of different talents to the table. And now that they're able to spread their lines out a little more with the depth they have through their forward group it's made it much more diffuclt to just focus on him."

Jeff Skinner also has 7 goals on the season. He, Sam Reinhart, Olofsson and Rasmus Dahlin round out the Buffalo group of 10-point scorers so far this season. But Reirden said Eichel is benefitting from the team spreading the wealth.

"He seems confident as he's always been," he said. "But it just seems like he's a lot more calculated and takes less risk with the puck at times. I think that's because of the structure they have in place, and that's enabled him to showcase more of his skill level."

Former Capital Marcus Johansson will be in Buffalo's lineup Friday as well. Johansson has 4 goals and 5 assists in 13 games played with the Sabres this season. He's also one of the team's alternate captains. Marcus spent the first seven seasons of his NHL career in Washington. He played with the New Jersey Devils before being traded to the Boston Bruins last season. Johansson played a role in Boston's run to the Stanley Cup Final a season ago.

"He's a good kid overall," Nicklas Backstrom said of the now-29-year-old Johansson. "That's just who he is. He works hard and does the right things out there. That's probably why he's got the "A" on his chest."

When Calgary comes to DC on Sunday night for the final meeting of the season between the two teams, the Flames will be on the back end of a back-to-back. Calgary plays Saturday night in Columbus.

Washington won the initial meeting between the two teams 5-3 back on Oct. 22 in Calgary.

In that game, John Carlson scored two goals, becoming the fourth defenseman in NHL history with at least 20 points in the month of October.

Alex Ovechkin scored a goal and recorded an assist, and the Caps won their fourth game in a row at the time.

Calgary ranks 21st in the league in power play percentage (8 for 48), but has the third-best penalty kill in the league.

Washington will need to be mindful of Flames tough guy Matthew Tkachuck, who has 6 goals, 7 assists, and 20 penalty minutes so far this season. Despite finding ways to get under the skin of opponents, Tkachuk is quite the goal scorer. He turned heads across the league with this game-winning goal against Nashville on Thursday:

Elias Lindholm is another name to watch, as he's scored goals in four of the last five games coming into the weekend. He's got the team lead in goals (9) and power play points (5).

Puck drop against Calgary on Sunday is 7 p.m. at Capital One Arena.

Here are some news and notes from the last couple days at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.

John Carlson named NHL's 1st Star for October

John Carlson
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

John Carlson had one of the best starts to a season possible for a defenseman and was rewarded by the league with its 1st Star honor for the month of October.

Carlson scored 7 goals and had 16 assists, leading all defensemen in the NHL in that category. His 23 points on the season rank him third in the league and are a franchise record for a defenseman in any calendar month. The previous record was 22 points set by Sergei Gonchar in 2000.

Over the course of the road trip, Carlson scored 4 goals and had 2 assists.

Caps celebrate the Nationals winning the World Series

Nationals World Series
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals claimed their first World Series title on Oct. 30, beating the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 7. It was the first time in World Series history the road team won every game in the series.

The Nationals and Capitals players and organizations have gotten close ever since the Caps won their first Stanley Cup championship in June 2018. When the Nationals began their postseason run in 2019, the Caps were among the first of DC's pro sports teams to show their support on social media.

After the Nats won the National League championship, the Capitals hosted the Nats at their game on Oct. 18, putting players and staff in a suite, giving pitcher Max Scherzer the honor of doing the ceremonial puck drop, and showing a video montage on the Capital One Arena scoreboard.

When the Nationals won the World Series on Oct. 30, Capitals players celebrated like they were the ones that won a championship.

But following practice on Oct. 31, Braden Holtby, Tom Wilson, TJ Oshie and head coach Todd Reirden all provided perspective and reaction to the championship victory.

"It's going to hit them, how hard they've gone the last few months," Holtby said about what the Nats will be going through over the course of the next few days. The team will parade through the streets of DC on Nov. 2 and hold a rally for fans adjacent to the US Capitol Building. "And then they'll go through a whirlwind of emotions, fun, enjoying it with family, the team and the city obviously. Hopefully they can soak it all in."

"When you've been a part of something like that like we were last year, to see it from a fan perspective how much those guys cared about each other, how much everyone was all-in, it was really, really cool to watch and brought back some good memories of us," Oshie said.

"Regardless of your beliefs on other topics, one thing that definitely brings everything together is success in sports," Reirden said. "And that's what is fun to be a part of, that's for sure."

From the Press Box: October 18

Another 3 point night from John Carlson helps lift Caps past Rangers

John Carlson
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Defenseman John Carlson picked up 3 assists for his second straight 3 point night, tying Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid for the NHL lead in points (17), and despite New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's best efforts, the Washington Capitals defeated one of their Metropolitan Division rivals 5-2 Friday night at Capital One Arena.

The Capitals won back-to-back contests to end a three-game homestand and kick off a five-game road trip beginning Sunday night in Chicago taking on the Blackhawks.

"I really liked how it was a big team win today for us," Caps head coach Todd Reirden said. "There were a number of different reasons why tonight was significant, and it was a big game for our team."

Defenseman Michal Kempny made his season debut for Washington tonight, scoring a goal at 15:16 of the 1st period giving the Caps the lead for good. It was reported earlier in the week that the Czech would make his return to game action, and was confirmed Friday morning. Kempny had been recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in March.

"It was not an easy situation for me," Kempny said. "I just got to say thank you to all the staff, the whole organization, my family, my friends, who were supporting me all the way through here and helped me. It means a lot."

Washington got on the board first not even three minutes into the contest. TJ Oshie drew a 2-minute slashing penalty skating through two New York defenders and in on Lundqvist. A minute, 15 seconds into the man advantage, Oshie received a pass from Nicklas Backstrom, tapped the puck into the pad of Lundqvist, but continued swatting at the loose puck before it eventually crossed the line and in.

"Nicky made a great play," Oshie said. TJ finished the night with 2 goals. "I had been kind of waiting for that lane to open up on the back door there, and Lundqvist got over there pretty quickly. I thought I had good power behind the original shot and kept trying to get it up and couldn't do it...When we scored I thought actually one of the other guys put one in."

Pavel Buchnevich tied the game 10 minutes later before Kempny put Washington back out front a few minutes later.

Lundqvist made 33 saves for the Rangers, stopping multiple Capitals players who skated in on breakaways and stood tall when a penalty shot was awarded to Jakub Vrana in the 2nd period. It kept the score at 3-2 Washington going into the 3rd.

"Lundqvist is a great goaltender," Reirden said. "He kept them in it. That's a dangerous situation that you're a mistake away from making it a real competitive game, and that was a time for us to convert on the power play."

Washington would convert on the power play in the 3rd, getting an insurance goal. Oshie would get his second goal of the night, tipping the puck past Lundqvist off a Carlson slapshot.

Garnet Hathaway, who broke his nose after taking a hit in the 2nd period, added an empty net goal.

After Sunday's game in Chicago, Washington makes a trek through Alberta and British Columbia, visiting the Calgary Flames on Tuesday before a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday with stops in Edmonton and Vancouver. The road trip concludes on Oct. 29 with Washington's first visit to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto this season taking on the Maple Leafs.

Todd Reirden Post-Game Press Conference

Unleashing Fury: Power Play

Reports from Caps/Leafs

From the Press Box: October 16

Washington Capitals
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

An early two-goal deficit looked like more of the same from the Capitals for the second straight home game, but a late 1st period goal by Jakub Vrana and three goals in 1 minute, 18 seconds in the 2nd powered Washington to its first home win (a 4-3 result over the Toronto Maple Leafs) Wednesday at Capital One Arena.

Ilya Samsonov, who started over Braden Holtby for the Caps, made 29 saves and picked up his third victory this season.

Ilya Samsonov
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

"It was definitely tough stuff for us," Samsonov, who's still learning English, said through a team representative translating. "Especially the way I gave up two goals. But I'm happy with the way we battled back as a team and played the way we were supposed to play in order to get those two points."

"It was a really good game for a young goaltender," head coach Todd Reirden said of Samsonov's play. "Things probably didn't go exactly how he wanted them to go in the 1st, and he made an adjustment. For a young goaltender to make that adjustment in-game with the amount of emotion he had in his game in the 1st, he completely settled down...It says a lot about him being able to know what things he does well and what things he doesn't."

The Capitals have an off day Thursday, followed by a morning skate at MedStar Capitals Iceplex Friday morning before taking on the New York Rangers that night. One can presume that Braden Holtby will be back in net for Washington opposing Henrik Lundqvist, but it should be noted that Holtby is still THE GUY in net for Washington.

John Carlson scored a goal on the power play for Washington, his third of the season, and had two assists. He now has 14 points on the season, which leads the NHL.

"He's making some strong plays for sure," Reirden said. "The vision to be able to see the play to Vrana on that goal is outstanding...He's playing really well."

Here are a couple other things that stood out to me from Wednesday's game:

Ovi-Backy-Oshie line looked solid

It's a neverending quest for a head coach to find that perfect line combination.

At practice on Tuesday, we saw that Tom Wilson had moved down to the second line of forwards with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Carl Hagelin, while TJ Oshie had been moved up to the first line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

Prior to Wednesday, the trio of Ovi, Backstrom and Oshie had played nearly 1,500 minutes together and scored 74 goals.

Backstrom gave the Caps the lead in the 2nd period on a bang-bang play 11 seconds after Kuznetsov tied the contest at 2. Oshie picked up the primary assist on Backstrom's second goal of the season.

Vrana definitely played well

Jakub Vrana
Getty Images

Seemed like only a matter of time before Jakub Vrana scored on Wednesday, and he lit the lamp for Washington's first goal before the end of the 1st period.

While it was his only goal of the night (He finished +1 with 6 shots), he still impressed.

"He's still gonna go through peaks and valleys in games and in the season," Reirden said about Vrana. Reirden spoke about how Vrana is still pretty young even though he's been with the Capitals a few years now. "The consistency is important. I think we had a good talk about the line adjustments, and I just love when he shoots the puck. He was attempting a lot more shots on net, and that's something I was really pushing him for. He's got a great release."

Vrana eclipsed the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career last season and attempted a career-high in shots. He's taken 19 shots so far this season. Playing on the same line as Lars Eller and Garnet Hathaway, expect Vrana to be the go-to guy for scoring chances when they're out on the ice.

At 23 years old, Vrana has a lot of great hockey time ahead of him.

Expect From the Press Box after most home games this season

Unleashing Fury: Power Play

Reports from Caps/Avalanche

From the Press Box: October 14

Alex Ovechkin
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Much like the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of their series-deciding game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Oct. 9, the Washington Capitals' Columbus Day afternoon tilt with the Colorado Avalanche seemed pretty over before any late-arriving fans could find their seats inside Capital One Arena Monday. Washington got within two goals twice, thought they were within one with just over two minutes to go, but had the goal overturned on a Colorado coach's challenge, and the Avalanche hung on for a 6-3 victory.

The Caps now fall to 0-1-2 at Capital One Arena. Washington will have another chance for the first home win on Wednesday night when they welcome Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 7 p.m. clash.

"It's tough to compare all the home games, because they've been different," Caps head coach Todd Reirden said. "And it is a small sample size where we didn't have good 3rd periods."

This time out the Caps struggled right out of the gate. Colorado scored three goals on three shots, forcing Reirden to swap goaltender Braden Holtby for Ilya Samsonov not even eight minutes into the game. Mikko Rantanen added a fourth Avalanche goal 90 seconds later, and just like that Washington was facing a four-goal deficit.

"We got away from our team identity right from the start," Reirden said after the game. "You could see the difference when we played to our identity and started to be physical and forecheck, the whole game changed. We've got to be able to do that for 60 full minutes, that hasn't been a problem for us with our starts, but it was tonight."

If you scroll down, you'll see that was a point I made following Washington's 4-3 OT loss to the Dallas Stars last week. Regardless of whether the lulls in play come at the beginning, middle or end of games, the Caps, at least on their home ice for the most part, need to dig deep and find a way to play an entire game at their full potential.

But here are a couple things that stood out to me from this evening's game:

Braden Holtby needs to hit re-set

Braden Holtby
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Everyone knows Braden Holtby is in a contract year. The deal that former Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky signed in the summer has led some to believe that Holtby will price himself out of Washington at this season's conclusion.

But that conversation can be had when Holtby's fate in the nation's capital is formally decided.

Tonight Holtby gave up three goals on three shots before being pulled. He surrendered six goals in his last start against the Nashville Predators back on Oct. 10, a game that saw Washington get handed its first regulation loss of the season.

"I put a lot of that weight on my shoulders," Holtby said of his performance in the first few contests this season. He's 1-1-2 with a 3.67 goals against average and a .868 save percentage so far this season. "It's something I really need to get better at, because we've fought hard."

His play is also giving way to competition with Samsonov, who's impressed in his two starts and kept the Caps in the mix down the stretch tonight.

"We evaluate all players, from every different position," Reirden said. "And talk with specific position coaches and get an overall feel from our entire staff when we're making decisions like that."

There's a lot that can be said or thought in terms of the Capitals goaltending situation, and regardless if the Washington coaching staff decides to ride with Samsonov or let Holtby try and work out the kinks, there shouldn't be a rush to judgement at least at this point in the season.

Michal Kempny can't come back fast enough

The Washington corps of defensemen are leaving a lot to be desired right now. And right now not having a guy like Kempny in the lineup is making a big difference.

Fortunately, it appears Kempny could be making his much-anticipated season debut within the week, per The Athletic's Tarik El-Bashir:

Granted, Reirden has been shifting some of the d-man pairings around, and it appears that the guys are still trying to find good chemistry to work with. But, one thing is for sure that the blue line has been one of the weaker aspects of Washington's game in this opening stretch of the season.

Often we've seen opposing skaters speed by Caps defenders and get one-on-one looks on Braden Holtby. Some over-pursuing has opened up stretch passing lanes too. They are, however, playing physical and helping set the tone of games. But the ultimate tone in hockey games is set on the scoreboard.

You can expect From the Press Box after most home games throughout the season.

Unleashing Fury: Power Play

Reports from Caps/Stars

Todd Reirden Post-Game Press Conference

From the Press Box: October 8

USA Today

So the Capitals, despite their best efforts, came up short for the second consecutive game losing 4-3 in overtime to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday at Capital One Arena.

The Caps gave themselves a chance to win, leading for almost 3/4 of the game. But ultimately found themselves making the big mistakes that led to scoring chances and goals that made a difference on the scoreboard.

Here are a few things that stood out to me from tonight's game.

Washington needs to command a game for a full 60 minutes

That may be the armchair coach in me, and obviously easier said than done. But I think even head coach Todd Reirden knows that his team has had one too many lapses in execution over the course of the last two games that have seen the pendulum swing in favor of the opposition.

It seemed like Washington's 2-1 lead in the 3rd period would be enough, but the Stars found a way to make Washington pay for their turnovers in the neutral zone as evidenced by the rush generated by Dallas that led to Nick Caamano's first-career NHL goal. It also tied the game at 2.

But I expect as everyone continues to settle into the season, we'll see less sloppiness (Hopefully). Remember, Washington didn't actually play a complete lineup until opening night in St. Louis.

Kuznetsov looked like Kuzy

It was only three games, but it felt like longer since we had seen Kuznetsov on the ice in a game. Yes, he suited up a few times during the preseason and skated with the team during training camp, but it still was a welcomed sight to see Kuznetsov out there mixing it up in a game situation.

The fans welcomed him in his first shift by chanting "Kuuuuuzzzz" and then he wasted little time being a difference maker in his second shift, getting the game's scoring going.

Kuznetsov was +1 on the night in 18:44 of ice time, despite adding a minor penalty to his stat line in the 3rd. He went 5 for 11 from the face-off dot as well.

Power Play saw SOME Improvement

While Washington saw another 0fer on the power play conversion sheet, I think having Kuzy back definitely aided them in spending more time in the attacking zone and putting pucks on the net.

But Washington was unable to get a puck past Bishop on the man advantage, despite having numerous scoring chances. The Caps benefitted from back-to-back holding calls on Dallas, which eliminated a Stars power play and allowed Washington to skate 4-on-3 for about a minute before skating 5-on-3 for a brief time late in the 3rd period.

The Caps pulled Holtby for the extra attacker with about a minute left, and Todd Reirden likened the man advantage situation to a power play chance after the game. The Caps did score with 30.7 seconds left in regulation to force OT. So expect the Caps to continue working on special teams play in practice.

Washington will see Dallas again this Saturday in the final regular season meeting of the year in Dallas. It's kind of crazy in a way that the season won't even be two weeks old, and already one season matchup will be completed. But that's just the way the schedule goes.

Washington returns home for a 5 p.m. tilt with former Cap Andre Burakovsky and the Colorado Avalanche on Monday.

You can expect From the Press Box after most home games throughout the season.

From the Press Box: October 5

Garnet Hathaway
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

So what are some takeaways from the Caps 3-2 OT loss to Carolina on Saturday night?

First: It's nice to see Hathaway and Leipsic coming into their own.

We saw a little bit of why Hathaway was brought to Washington Friday night in the Capitals win over the Islanders. Garnet is a chippy, physical player who can get under the skin of opposing players. He throws his body around on the ice, and he's not afraid to shove back if trying to be intimidated around the goal crease. But Hathaway can also take advantage of scoring opportunities, like we saw in the first period against Carolina. We also saw that in the second period too, but after official review, what would've been Hathaway's second goal of the night was wiped out due to goaltender interference.

The Capitals front office needed to re-tool its third and fourth lines in the offseason after the departures of guys like Brett Connoly and Andre Burakovsky. Leipsic is one of those guys that can deliver. Leipsic moved the puck well and generated scoring chances for his linemates. He also had three shots on goal in 8 minutes, 54 seconds of ice time Saturday.

Second: This power play needs to get better

It's not quite time to sound the alarm, after all it's only been three games. But against St. Louis, the Islanders, and the Hurricanes, Washington absolutely struggled to get anything going on the man advantage. As head coach Todd Reirden said, you can't go 0-for-6 and get the outcome you want. That was evident as the Caps coughed up a two-goal lead in the third period.

We'd like to see some better play on the power play from guys like Ovechkin and newcomer Richard Panik, but I think it'll definitley help getting Evgeny Kuznetsov back in the mix beginning Tuesday against Dallas.

At the very least, when the Caps and Stars tangle early next week, you'd like to see Washington convert on one power play, just one.

Third: Capital One Arena looks even better than it did with the new improvements

I tweeted about it when I was here for the preseason game against St. Louis, but Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the group that owns and operates Capital One Arena, the Caps, Wizards and Mystics, recently finished its second phase of improvements to the 24-year-old venue.

MSE revamped the concourses on the 100 and 400-levels last year, but fully completed the arena-wide concourse improvements this past summer. There are a number of new food and beverage options, brighter lights, LED boards on the walls, and it just feels more open walking around. You don't feel like you're walking around in a basement.

Inside, there's a new, larger retractable scoreboard and videoboard. The scoreboard and videoboard will serve different purposes for hockey and basketball, but the rectangular middle tier of the scoreboard can rise up into the videoboard. And there's a circular LED ribbon at the bottom. You definitely don't need to squint your eyes to see what's happening.

Also, for the fans in the corners of the 400-level, there's a front-facing videoboard showing the action on the ice, while directly across on the opposite side the boards show information like who's on the ice, out of town scores, and additional stats and information.

And at the top of the arena, there's a 360-degree LED board. It shows player information, but it generally was used to showcase additional sponsors throughout the night.

You can expect From the Press Box after most home games throughout the season.

Canes spoil Caps home opener, win 3-2 in overtime

Washington power play struggles in loss

Washington Capitals
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There was a lot of hype coming into Saturday night's game between the Capitals and Hurricanes regarding the last time the two teams met in the final game of the preseason back on Sept. 29. But in the end, in a game that actually counted in the standings, Washington and Carolina let their play on the ice do the talking. Carolina picked up the 3-2 victory, erasing a two-goal deficit in regulation before sealing the W on a Jake Gardiner goal with 56 seconds left in overtime.

"I was disappointed to be ahead in the game like that and see us let them back in it like that and ultimately get the extra point," Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said. Washington (2-0-1) earned a point even with the defeat, and got five out of a possible six points in a stretch that saw the Caps play three games in four nights. "Five out of six (points) if you're looking at it to start the year is something that would be above average with what we're looking for, and I think we did some good things in these three games and have some stuff to grow on."

That includes special teams play. Washington is 1-for-10 on the power play to start the 2019-20 season. The Caps had six chances on the man advantage Saturday night, including a power play 19 seconds into OT on a Jordan Staal hooking penalty, and failed to convert the opportunities into goals.

"You can't go 0-for-6 and expect to have the outcome you want," Reirden said.

Washington was without suspended forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, who plays an integral part in the Caps power play. But Carolina (2-0), much like they did in their first-round upset of Washington in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, made establishing an offensive zone on the man advantage difficult for the Capitals.

"When they clogged things up we just tried to make too many plays," TJ Oshie said. Oshie played 7 minutes, 54 seconds while Washington was on the man advantage and scored a goal in the second period. "The penalty kills were really trying to out-work the power plays, and you got to know that going in as a power play unit."

The Caps saw production from two of its newcomers. Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic both factored into Washington's successes Saturday night. Hathaway scored his first goal as a Capital at the end of the first period, Leipsic had the primary assist and earned his first point.

"(Leipsic)'s a great guy to have on a line," Hathaway said. "He's skilled with the puck, and makes them turn it over. We're sticking to the game-plan pretty well right now."

Washington has an off day Sunday before returning to the ice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex for practice on Monday morning. The Caps host Dallas on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena.

SEASON PREMIERE: Unleashing Fury

Reports from practice: October 1

Reports from training camp: September 25

From the press box: Washington 3, St. Louis 2

Nicklas Backstrom
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
This is something you can look forward to throughout the 2019-20 season for games I attend. In what I'm calling "From the press box", I'll give you some reaction from the game, and some players that caught my eye.

Initial reaction from the Caps 3-2 win over St. Louis on Wednesday is, whew! It wasn't necessarily the finish we were expecting, but it was the finish we got. Nicklas Backstrom lobbed a shot from just beyond the St. Louis blue line with less than 10 seconds to play in regulation, the puck bounced a few times, and snuck between the legs of goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick and into the net. Joe Beninati's reaction on the NBC Sports Washington broadcast was about the same as mine was. It was pure surprise.

Suddenly instead of planning to settle in for five minutes of overtime for the second consecutive preseason game, fans that stuck around inside Capital One Arena were getting ready to celebrate a Washington victory. Although wins in the preseason don't amount to a hill of beans, it still was something to see and take in, especially considering the way Washington fought to tie the game late in regulation after being rewarded with a power play with 2:20 to play.

Head coach Todd Reirden said after the game when asked about whether Backstrom normally throws pucks at the net from that range randomly, that just about every shot Backstrom takes has some intentionality behind it.

And now those of you who are like me that have played EA Sports NHL games with some regularity over the years know that the frustration of goals like that happening in the game can in fact happen in real life. It's not a regular occurence, but it does happen.

So while the second preseason game has come and gone, here are a couple of guys that stood out to me:

Connor McMichael
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Connor McMichael

Connor McMichael, Washington's 1st round draft pick in 2019, looked really good in his 13:54 of ice time on Wednesday. He managed to put three shots on goal, and had one opportunity all alone on Blue goaltender Jordan Binnington where he tried to get fancy and dangle the puck between his legs as he closed in. But Binnington, who helped clinch the 2019 Stanley Cup title for the Blues, read it all the way.

But the main thing for these young players and recent draft picks that got some ice time in the first two preseason games before roster cuts on Thursday, was just getting out there and trying to show the coaches, veterans, fans, and front office what they can do. McMichael had an assist in the 4-3 overtime win over Chicago back on Sept. 16 and went 5-for-5 from the faceoff dot. He cooled off on Wednesday in the faceoff department, going 1-for-6.

McMichael impressed a lot of folks in the media in game situations and in the first few days of training camp. Washington announced Thursday that he'll be heading back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League on loan from the Capitals. So there will be a lot to watch out of the 18-year-old, who scored 36 goals and recorded 36 assists in 67 regular season games for the Knights a season ago.

A couple takeaways from Sept. 17 at Capitals training camp

Jordan Bondurant was on location at Capitals training camp on Tuesday, and here are a couple of takeaways from all the action on the ice:

Everything moves like clockwork

It probably shouldn't be a surprise that a professional sports team keeps to a schedule. The first group of Caps players was on the ice at 9:30 this morning at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, and the last group, the group of players that took part in Washington's 4-3 OT win over Chicago on Monday in the preseason opener, got off the ice around 2:30. Head coach Todd Reirden and his coaching staff were methodical when putting all the players through the ringer of drills. The drills were run at game speed, and there was some physicality among players. Nothing ever got heated, but Reirden has talked at the onset of camp about making his Capitals team tougher to play against in 2019-20. Physicality will be one aspect of that, and as we all know, hockey can be a brutally physical game.

But each group spent 60 minutes total on the ice Tuesday. Washington has two rinks here at the Iceplex, so when 30 minutes were through on one rink, everyone would walk next door and hop on the ice at the other rink.

Kuznetsov quitely goes about his business

Evgeny Kuznetsov
Jordan Bondurant

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov will miss the first three games of this regular season with a suspension after the Russian tested positive for cocaine following the IIHF World Hockey Championshipsthis past spring. Kuzy didn't speak to the media at media day this past week, and hasn't done any interviews since the NHL levied its suspension over the weekend. But he has been on the ice every day during camp getting his work in preparing for the new season.

Kuznetsov played in 76 games a season ago, scored 21 goals, recorded 51 assists and 72 points, a slight downtick in his numbers from the Stanley Cup year. But when Washington takes the ice at Capital One Arena on October 8 against Dallas, Kuznetsov will be in the lineup, and will start in one of the top two forward lines with either fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin and hard-hitting winger Tom Wilson, or alongside Jakub Vrana and TJ Oshie.

Next up: St. Louis

Washington welcomes the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to Capital One Arena for the second of three consecutive home preseason games on Sept. 18. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on NBC Sports Washington. Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov will split time in net for the Capitals.

Photos from camp:

Braden Holtby
Jordan Bondurant

Alexander Ovechkin
Jordan Bondurant

Richard Panik
Jordan Bondurant

Alexander Ovechkin
Jordan Bondurant

TJ Oshie
Jordan Bondurant