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Takeaways: Copley & Capitals Rally, but Brutal Start Dooms Caps vs. EDM

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Capitals netminder Pheonix Copley

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Things didn’t go according to plan for the Washington Capitals to kick off Wednesday’s tilt with the Edmonton Oilers. With both Alex Ovechkin and Vitek Vanecek unavailable, Washington fell into a 3-0 hole in the first 5:07 minutes.

“It just went flat dead on the bench. When you’re looking up and it’s down 3-0, we needed more energy,” head coach Peter Laviolette said, adding, “Found back in. We knew if we won the second, it would set it up for the third… we were doing the right things.”

The team ended up rallying, with three unanswered goals from Lars Eller, Conor Sheary and Evgeny Kuznetsov evening the score in the third. However, a late shorthanded goal and a tough 0-for-3 night on the man advantage resulted in a 5-3 loss.

Here are all the takeaways from the defeat:

Copley Comes Up Big For Capitals In Relief Of Samsonov

After putting on a show on Tuesday against Pittsburgh, Ilya Samsonov earned the start and his second straight game in net for the Capitals. However, he had a very rough go of it in the opening frame, surrendering three straight goals to Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane and Connor McDavid on the first four shots against. In turn, Peter Laviolette made the decision to pull the Russian for Pheonix Copley.

Copley had just come up from the AHL’s Hershey Bears on Wednesday and was dressed as the backup in place of Vanecek and after coming in, he took over and gave Washington the strong showing it needed in his first NHL game since 2019. However, a late shorthanded goal he may like to have back on a missed block check on a cross-ice pass resulted in an eventual 5-3 loss.

Still, the Alaska native came up big and gave the Capitals a chance with 21 saves on 22 shots (.955 save percentage). He has been stellar of late for Hershey, with three wins and a .961 save percentage over his last five AHL starts.

Capitals Turn It Up In Second, But PP Woes Continue

The Capitals fell victim to another slow start and found themselves chasing the game early. Lars Eller had pulled them within two, but after 20 minutes, they were trailing 12-6 in shots on goal and appeared to lack some much-needed momentum. In the second period, the team found its spark.

Arguably, this huge check from Garnet Hathaway got things going, as No. 21 leveled Evander Kane and flipped him head-first into the Washington bench.

After that, the Capitals woke up. Washington upped the pressure big time. The play through the neutral zone was better, and the team spent more time in the offensive zone and did a solid job of shutting down Edmonton. Sheary ended up making it 3-2 entering the third, and the Capitals led the period in shots, 11-5, and evened up the game total to boot.

Sheary now has points in back-to-back games and has 11 goals and 21 points through 36 games this season and is on pace for 42 points, which would be his highest total since his 53-point campaign back in 2016-17.

Still, Washington’s power play proved to be a back-breaker. It went 0-for-3 and surrendered a shorthanded goal.

“I feel like it’s always something, right? I feel like we are playing for each other. We try to do the right things, and sometimes it doesn’t go well,” Kuznetsov said. “We going to keep working hard and we going to fight until we going to get successful.”

Kuznetsov Stays Hot Ahead Of All-Star Game

As Kuznetsov prepares for the 2022 NHL All-Star Weekend, he came in clutch yet again for D.C. and scored the game-tying tally on a strange shot early in the third period.

Kuznetsov continues to pull off the ultimate revenge tour this season. He has 17 points over his last 18 games and is up to 14 goals and 45 points through 44 games. He is on pace for 82 points, which would mark his first 80-plus point campaign since 2017-18.

No. 92 looked solid on the top line with Joe Snively and fellow All-Star Tom Wilson. He was moving the puck well and using his speed and skill to serve as a catalyst on offense as Ovechkin’s absence loomed largely. He led all forwards with 18:12 minutes of ice time.

Snively Puts Himself On Capitals Radar

With Ovechkin out, Laviolette promoted Snively to the top line. He has liked the speed he has seen from the Herndon, V.A. native so far, and he made the most of that opportunity.

The Little Caps alum was moving his feet and generating several quality chances. He was serving as a net-front presence and played well at both ends. He also almost scored his first NHL goal.

Snively ultimately finished the night with two shots and one block through 13:11 minutes.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Justin Schultz picked up a helper and now has assists in three straight games.
  • Nicklas Backstrom also dished an assist and now has 13 points through 14 games this season. He has points in 10 of those 14. Not only that, but the Swede was strong in the face-off dot, winning 11-of-18 draws (61 percent).
  • Leon Draisaitl appeared to get away with a controversial play on Aliaksei Protas, spearing him in the groin. Protas went down in a heap and was in visible pain. There was no call on the play, and Protas stayed in the game.

  • Wilson led the Capitals with four shots on goal.
  • Hathaway led the team with four hits.
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