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THE aftermath of the Washington Capitals’ all-too-familiar early playoff exit has an unfamiliar feeling this time.

No longer could players fall back on learning from the latest loss, in seven games in the second round to the Pittsburgh Penguins, because some if not many of them won’t be back next season. With forwards T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams and defenseman Karl Alzner among the unrestricted free agents and several players set to eat up bigger chunks of the salary cap, changes are coming to Washington after back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies and a decade of playoff failures.

Sidney Crosby #87 and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate.
Sidney Crosby #87 and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate.Source: AFP

Led by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals have made nine playoff appearances in the past 10 seasons and haven’t made it past the second round once.

“Obviously, it’s not working,” Backstrom said Friday on another sombre exit day. “I’m sure the organisation will figure that out and try again.” How much needs to be different is a matter of opinion, and really owner majority owner Ted Leonsis, general manager Brian MacLellan and others in the organisation are the only ones whose thoughts matter. Because of the impending salary-cap crunch and new contracts needed for centre Evgeny Kuznetsov, winger Andre Burakovsky and defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt, MacLellan made it no secret before the 2015-16 season he saw this as a two-year window. Now it’s over.

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NHL

Vegas Golden Knights Ryan Reave banned for pulling out chunk of hair, Colorado Avalanche’s Ryan Graves

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Vegas Golden Knights tough guy Ryan Reaves has been slapped with a two-game ban after he pulled out a “chunk” of the hair of Colorado Avalanche player Ryan Graves during Sunday’s NHL playoff match in Colorado.

Reaves, who has been suspended numerous times during his NHL career, was given a match penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, which occurred halfway through the third period of Colorado’s 7-1 game one victory.

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“During this scrum both the officials and Reaves acknowledge that a chunk of Graves’ hair was pulled out by Reaves,” the league’s Department of Safety said in a video statement.

Reaves also punched Graves in the back of the head and took him aggressively down to the ice. His actions sparked a fracas at the side of the net and led to a nine-minute Colorado powerplay.

Graves remained on the ice for several minutes before heading to the locker room.

In 686 career games, Reaves has 49 goals and 937 minutes in penalties while playing with St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Las Vegas.

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Ice Hockey news, NHL, fight, video, New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals, why, pictures

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The Rangers’ measure of revenge came courtesy of their fists and not the scoreboard on Wednesday.

In the 4-2 loss to the Capitals, which came two days after Tom Wilson cheap-shotted his way against the Blueshirts, the teams took part in a wild rematch at the Garden that included six first-period fights and totalled 141 penalty minutes.

Wilson and his teammates were forced to answer for his punching of a defenceless Pavel Buchnevich and throwing Artemi Panarin to the ice on Monday, which resulted in Wilson receiving just a $5,000 fine from the NHL.

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NHL hockey news 2021: Pittsburgh Penguins photoshop fail, coronavirus, mask rules, online backlash

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American ice hockey team the Pittsburgh Penguins sparked online backlash this week after a social media staffer photoshopped face masks onto fans in a photo taken during the side’s first home game in front of spectators since last March.

“We just had to say this again … thanks for the continued support, Penguins fans,” the team’s official Twitter account posted alongside an image showing all fans properly wearing face coverings. “We can’t wait to see you tomorrow night.”

The NHL franchise had returned to PPG Paints Arena to face the Philadelphia Flyers en route to a 5-2 win. Just 2800 people were allowed inside to watch the action and a zero-tolerance mask policy was in place.

It was the Penguins’ first home game in front of fans since March 2, 2020, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

But some eagle-eyed Twitter users noticed something was amiss. In the original photo, taken by Jeanine Leech of Getty Images, a female fan wearing her mask incorrectly is seen in the top-right corner, while two others didn’t have their faces properly covered.

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