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Takeaways: Capitals Stunned By Late Goal, Special Teams In Loss To CBJ

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Capitals forward Nic Dowd

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Coming back from the NHL All-Star Break, the Washington Capitals were well-rested and ready to start the second half of the season on the right foot following inconsistencies, injuries bouts with COVID-19. And to open action against the Columbus Blue Jackets, things appeared to be heading in the right direction.

In the second period, though, things took a turn as the Capitals experienced a back-and-forth roller coaster of a game, exchanging goals with the Jackets. Ultimately, though, despite Tom Wilson tying it, Boone Jenner would doom Washington with a late goal in a 5-4 loss for the Capitals.

“It’s a league where two points are huge every game of the season… I think we got to give ourselves tonight to be pissed about it… but that’s all we can give ourselves. We got to turn it around,” Garnet Hathaway said postgame.

Here are all the takeaways from the defeat:

Fourth Line Helps Get Things Going For Capitals

Washington’s fourth line has been one of its most consistent combinations under head coach Peter Laviolette’s tenure with the team, and Tuesday proved no different for the Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway trio.

All three were driving hard to the net and generating pressure on the forecheck, and also playing well in their own end, too. Ultimately, the trio would combine for the Capitals’ first two goals.

Hathaway opened the scoring with a nice goal off a rebound from Nic Dowd to make it 1-0, and then, a nice give-and-go with Hagelin and Martin Fehervary would give Dowd a goal and another point on the night.

Dowd ended up with a goal and assist and is now nine points away from 100 career points, and he has put up points in two of his last three outings. Meanwhile, Hathaway ended a 17-game goal drought. Before Tuesday, he’d last scored against Columbus back on Dec. 4. Additionally, Hagelin picked up two helpers for his second multi-point performance of the season. He is also eight points shy of 300 in his career.

Capitals Let Off Gas As Tough Go-Of-It On Special Teams Put Jackets Back In It In The Second

Over the last stretch, the Capitals found themselves often chasing the game, but on Tuesday, they were on top after a strong start with a two-goal lead early in the second period. However, things would go downhill due to special teams.

Washington failed to convert on its first two power-plays on the night, and with 19 seconds left in their second attempt, John Carlson took an unnecessary tripping call against Gustav Nyqvist.

After that, the Jackets started to turn things in their favor. Patrick Laine rocketed a home a shot from Ovechkin’s office to cut the Capitals lead to 2-1.

Just a few minutes later, Nicklas Backstrom would take a clear holding penalty in the offensive zone, and even though Columbus didn’t technically strike not the power play, Adam Boqvist tied the game as the penalty expired.

Washington would take a 3-2 lead, but another late penalty, this time to Trevor van Riemsdyk for unsportsmanlike conduct, would help Laine make it 3-3  on the power play with just seconds left in the second period.

The play got looser as the pressure started to shift. To end the second, the Blue Jackets ended up outshooting the Capitals 14-11 after Washington had allowed just four shots from CBJ in the opening frame.

Ultimately, Columbus would go 2-for-3 on the man advantage.

“I think the best thing we can do is stay out of the box. We are all trying to do that, right?” Dowd said. We can help ourselves. But then we can try to do a good job of doing things like not putting ourselves in situations where weird things can happen, like getting clears. Doing a good job of standing at our blue line, stuff like that.”

Kuznetsov Breaks Through For Capitals On Power Play With Milestone Strike

Before going on their third power play of the night, the Capitals were 5-for-30 over their last 10 games and struggling to get much going. An 0-for-3 showing against the Edmonton Oilers also revealed struggles, which led to Peter Laviolette to make a change and swap out Evgeny Kuznetsov for Lars Eller on the top unit.

However, after going 0-for-2 to start against Columbus, and seeing a lot of bounces fail to go their way, Kuznetsov was promoted back up and quickly capitalized on his return, rocketing home his 15th of the season. The tally not only extended his point streak to four games but set up milestones, too.

With the primary assist on Kuznetsov’s PPG, Alex Ovechkin picked up his 30th assist of the season and the 620th of his career, moving him past Sergei Zubov for the third-most assists by a Russian player in NHL history. Meanwhile, John Carlson picked up the secondary helper, moving him to 557 career points and past Dale Hunter for sixth on the franchise’s all-time points list.

Copley Pulled For Samsonov As Capitals Turn Up Pressure In Third

The third period did not start off well by any means for Washington. Trey Fix-Wolansky took advantage of an offensive-zone turnover and ripped a shot that dribbled past Pheonix Copley. The play ultimately ended a rough showing for Copley, who earned the start with Vitek Vanecek out of the lineup and Ilya Samsonov out for Monday’s optional skate after a lengthy break.

“Sammy missing seven days in a row, not getting on the ice yesterday and just trying to get him an opportunity to feel the puck… It was just at that point in the game where I felt like we needed to make a change, and so I made it,” head coach Peter Laviolette said.

“Again, Sammy missing seven days in a row, not getting on the ice yesterday and just trying to get him an opportunity to feel the puck. Cops, I thought came off the bench and played really well for us and gave us an opportunity. It was just at that point in the game where I felt like we needed to make a change and so I make it.”

He stopped just 15 of 19 shots (.789 save percentage), and ultimately, Samsonov took over in net for the 30-year-old early in the third as Washington gave up its first lead of the night.

The move appeared to ignite a bit of pressure, as the Capitals got some good looks and extended zone time in the third. It was the Connor McMichael-Lars Eller-Daniel Sprong line, though, that got things going with a long shift and a lot of looks in the offensive zone. Other lines followed suit, and Washington started to pile on the pressure.

Wilson Comes To Rescue, But Late Fluke Puts Nail In Coffin

With the Capitals trailing late with under three minutes to go, Tom Wilson drove to the front of the net as the team deployed its hero line. Ultimately, it paid off, as Wilson unleashed a rocket for his 14th of the season to make it 4-4 late. He now has points in three of his last four outings.

However, after that, the team let off the gas, and a neutral zone turnover gave Columbus a late chance, where Samsonov surrendered a big rebound. Gustav Nyqvist tracked it down and snuck the puck past Nick Jensen to Jenner, who deked his way around Samsonov to make it 5-4 with just 42.2 seconds left in regulation.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Dmitry Orlov played a strong game for Washington and was physical and active on the backcheck. He led the team with three takeaways, forced turnovers and also moved the puck to generate some opportunities as well. Orlov led the Capitals with four shots (tied with Backstrom) and four hits (tied with Martin Fehervary) and also logged a team-leading 24:01 minutes to boot.
  • Dowd was exceptional in the face-off dot, winning 17 of 18 draws (94 percent).
  • Sprong and McMichael both skated under eight minutes. Sprong had the least amount of ice time with 7:44 minutes, while McMichael logged 7:54.
  • After a week away from the ice, Samsonov stopped just six of seven shots faced (.857 save percentage).
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