WASHINGTON, D.C. — In their final game before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, the Washington Capitals found themselves in strange territory against the Dallas Stars. The Capitals not only saw key absences due to injuries, but the lineup shuffled and ultimately, couldn’t overcome Dallas.
Alex Ovechkin got the power play going and Dmitry Orlov pulled the Capitals within one in the third, but a rough start to action, a tough night on the penalty kill and strong play from Jake Oettinger led to a 3-2 loss on home ice, ending an eight-game point streak for Washington. It marked the Capitals’ first regulation loss since Feb. 28.
“Not our best game. Not our best game,” Lars Eller said bluntly.
Here are all the takeaways from the defeat:
Capitals Get Off To Slow Start, Chasing Game After First
Washington didn’t start off on the right foot. Alexander Radulov got the Stars going early, scoring his fourth of the season on a speedy play just 2:17 minutes into the opening frame to make it 1-0. It was a deflating goal and set up a rough rest of the first 20 for the Capitals.
Despite three power-play chances in the first, Washington couldn’t find twine. Meanwhile, on Dallas’ first power play, the Capitals PK found itself out of position and allowed Roope Hintz to go on a semi-breakaway, leading to his 25th strike of the season.
After the opening frame, Washington was trailing 1-0 and was also being outshot 11-9 heading into the second.
“I think we should not play like that because they come from back-to-back. I think we fresher team, and we should put more pressure on them,” Orlov said, adding, “We have to learn from that… we need to take positives from this game and bring it next one and try to play a full 60 minutes, not just every period better.”
Ovechkin Ignites Capitals Power Play With Record Strike
After going without a goal on the first three power-play opportunities, the Capitals finally got a PPG on the board thanks to a signature Ovechkin tally.
The Great 8 rocketed a one-timer from his office to pull Washington within one and give the team life in the middle frame. It marked his fourth straight game with a goal and his 40th tally of the season. He now has 12 seasons with at least 40 goals, moving him into a tie with Wayne Gretzky for the most 40-goal campaigns in the history of The Show. Ovechkin is also the fourth player this season to reach 40 strikes.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 20, 2022
He is now at 770 career tallies and 32 goals shy of passing Gordie Howe for second on the NHL’s all-time goals list and 125 red lights away from breaking Gretzky’s record for the most goals in NHL history.
“He can shoot the puck, and he shoot it and it goes in the net,” Orlov said of No. 8. “He’s special and he uses his strength to do it. It’s amazing to be with this guy and watch what he does and when he scores.”
Meanwhile, John Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov also picked up helpers on Ovi’s PPG. Carlson now has assists in three straight games and seven helpers in his last six outings overall. Kuznetsov’s apple also extended his point streak to nine games, a career-high for No. 92, who now has 62 points in 61 games on the year.
Capitals’ Fight Through Absences, As Rally Falls Short
While Eller returned from COVID-19 protocol, the team was dealing with quite a few key absences, with Nic Dowd and T.J. Oshie out with upper-body injuries and Trevor van Riemsdyk on the injured reserve with a lower-body injury. That led to a few lineup changes and some noticeable absences that the Capitals certainly felt.
Without Oshie for the second straight game, the Capitals were without a key piece of their powerful second line, which had been heating up and finding plenty of chemistry over the last few games. Daniel Sprong started the game on that unit, but Tom Wilson slotted in for No. 10 later on. Another strong line of late was the Wilson-McMichael-Sprong unit, but that had to be broken up with Dowd out as Connor McMichael moved to the fourth line to center Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Brett Leason.
The lines ultimately shuffled in the third, with Conor Sheary moving up to the top line with Kuznetsov and Ovechkin. Wilson moved to the second line, and Garnet Hathaway, who started with Eller and Sheary, moved to the fourth line. It appeared to provide a spark, as the team pulled within one thanks to an Orlov goal and the Capitals outshot the Stars 14-2 in the final 20. However, it wasn’t enough.
Orly makes it a one-goal game pic.twitter.com/nePu67xnKg
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 20, 2022
Dowd’s absence was also especially prominent, with the team struggling in the face-off dot and the team also not having a key center on the penalty kill or the powerhouse fourth line. TVR was also an asset that could have been helpful on the PK, which went 1-for-3 while surrendering two key PPGs to the Stars.
Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes
- Carlson saw a scare at the end of that tilt, as he was hustling on the backcheck late with the net empty to prevent Jamie Benn from scoring on the empty net. Benn cross-checked Carlson, causing him to lose an edge and go hard into the boards. Benn and Wilson received matching roughing penalties on the play, and Carlson was livid while going straight to the dressing room.
- Orlov’s goal was his 10th of the season. That ties his career-high, which he set in 2017-18. Tom Wilson also picked up an assist on Orlov’s tally and is now two points away from tying his career-high in points (44) set in 2018-19.
- Justin Schultz did his best TVR impression, leading the team with a whopping five blocks.
- Speaking of TVR, Michal Kempny drew in for No. 57 for his first game since Feb. 28.
- Ovechkin had two shots on goal and passed 6,000 career shots.
- Braden Holtby received a very special homecoming, returning to Capital One Arena for the first time in over two years. He received a standing ovation and video tribute for his monumental time in D.C., which spanned over a decade. The last time he was in the building, he was a member of the Capitals. And though he didn’t dress for Dallas, he was still one of the highlights of the night.
— Sammi Silber (@sammisilber) March 20, 2022
- Speaking of goalies, Vitek Vanecek stopped 19 of 22 shots (.870 save percentage).