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Takeaways: Capitals’ Depth Steps Up, But Weaknesses On Display In Loss To L.A.

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Capitals forwards Connor McMichael and Beck Malenstyn

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It was an interesting Sunday night for the Washington Capitals against the Los Angeles Kings, as continued COVID-19 and injury woes saw all of Washington’s top-6 forwards, excluding Alex Ovechkin, draw out of the lineup. In turn, they relied on their depth to step up, and though they got some good performances, a lack of momentum on special teams — as well as poor coverage — resulted in a 3-2 loss.

Here are all the takeaways from the defeat:

McMichael, Malenstyn, Snively Have Strong Showings For Capitals

With the Capitals balancing COVID-19 and injuries, head coach Peter Laviolette put former Hershey teammates Joe Snively, Connor McMichael and Beck Malenstyn together. Despite not logging too much ice time, they had a solid showing together, skating well, generating pressure on the forecheck, throwing their weight around and ultimately, finding twine.

Laviolette wanted to see more from McMichael. It had been seven games since he found the scoresheet, and he finally ended that lengthy drought on Sunday. On a great give-and-go with former Hershey Bears teammate Joe Snively, he roofed the puck past Garret Sparks to put Washington up 1-0 in the first.

The goal was McMichael’s fourth of the season, and he now has nine points in 29 games so far. It should be a major confidence booster for the 20-year-old, who skated just 9:23 minutes in Washington’s last game. He is on a mission to keep his spot in the lineup when the Capitals return to full strength.

Meanwhile, Snively got the primary assist on the goal, marking his first career NHL point. The Herndon, Virginia native made his long-awaited NHL debut on Sunday with the Capitals working through COVID-19 struggles and made quite the impact on the third line with McMichael and Malenstyn. He drove to the net, made strong plays and generated pressure on the forecheck at Capital One Arena, which is just 25 miles down the road from his childhood home.

Malenstyn also reached an interesting milestone. The 6-3, 200-pound forward was a physical presence and moved the puck well on his line. He was involved in a strange first NHL fight with tough customer Brendan Lemieux. Malenstyn appeared to not want to engage in fisticuffs with the Kings enforcer but ultimately dropped the gloves and stood up for himself.

Capitals Power Play Continues To Struggle

The Capitals’ power play was noticeably lacking on Sunday, and it wasn’t just because of Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie’s absences. Washington couldn’t execute on several opportunities at first, and also saw Los Angeles track their plays well and break up a lot of their passes before clearing it down the ice.

Justin Schultz finally called his own number at the end of a four-minute power play in the second, rocking a shot past Sparks for his second of the season. However, the goal came when the PP expired and wasn’t a PPG.

Not only that, but the man advantage surrendered a shorthanded goal on its sixth attempt of the night. Alex Iafallo drew a lot of attention to himself entering the zone and slid the puck to Blake Lizotte, who went undetected and wired a quick shot past Vitek Vanecek to cut the Capitals’ lead in half. The goal came just 22 seconds in the PP attempt and resulted in Ovechkin and the top unit heading off until there were six seconds left on the opportunity.

Ultimately, Washington went 0-for-6 on the man advantage. Granted, the Capitals are missing a lot of their arsenal up front, which led to Dmitry Orlov playing the half-wall, but this isn’t a one-off. The power play has gone 3-for-29 over its last 10 games.

Tough Third Period, Missed Assignments Turn Tide

The Capitals had a solid showing through the first 40 minutes of play, but the ice seemed to tilt in the Kings’ favor in the final frame. After Lizotte made it 2-1 to close out the second, Los Angeles turned up the pressure quite a bit. They got a goal early in the second from Christian Wolanin on a rebound at 4-on-4 to make it 2-2.

Later on, John Carlson misplayed a loose puck and missed his defensive assignment, and with Martin Fehervary tangled up, Ovechkin was left as the only one back-checking and couldn’t catch up with Adrian Kempe behind the play as he made it 3-2 for L.A. on a breakaway.

A number of the Kings’ chances arose from weak coverage and missed assignments, and though Vanecek did what he could, he couldn’t stop everything. He finished the night with 21 saves on 24 shots (.875 save percentage).

“We weren’t playing with the same intensity,” McMichael explained, adding, “We kind of just let them back in the game.”

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Ovechkin had quite a busy night. Through the first two periods, he already had nearly 20 minutes under his belt, including 10:01 on the power play. He ultimately led all skaters with a season-high 27:24 minutes, totaling six shots.
  • Conor Sheary picked up an assist on Schultz’s goal and is now on a five-game point streak, the longest of his career. He has six points total over that span. Not to mention, he’s up to eight assists now on the season, matching his total from last year (53 GP in 2020-21).
  • Garnet Hathaway also got a helper to get on the scoresheet in his first game back from COVID-19 protocol. He now has points in his last three games.
  • It was a physical night, with a number of big hits and a couple of scrums and fights breaking out. Along with Malenstyn and Lemieux, Conor Sheary and Lias Andersson also got into it.
  • With Oshie, Backstrom and Wilson out, Orlov got to wear the “A” for Washington.
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