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Takeaways: Depleted Capitals Try To Rally, But Fall To Kraken In Strange First Meeting

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Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and Kraken defenseman Adam Larsson

It was by no means business as usual for the Washington Capitals as they headed to Climate Pledge Arena for their first-ever showdown with the Seattle Kraken.

With late injuries and fatigue striking for Washington, the Capitals struggled against the Kraken. They played their hearts out in the third with a strong rally, but it wasn’t enough as they fell 5-2 in their final game of their West Coast swing. Washington finished the trip with a 2-1-1 record and saw a seven-game point streak come to an end.

Here are all the takeaways from the Capitals’ third regulation loss of the 2021-22 campaign:

Unexpected Injury Trouble Strikes Again For Capitals

Shortly before puck drop, Washington announced that T.J. Oshie would miss his homecoming game in Washington State due to a lower-body injury. He came off the injured reserve on Saturday just a day ago. Then, after warm-ups, the Capitals had another late scratch in a key player: Conor Sheary. Sheary took warm-ups and was supposed to skate on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. However, he suffered an upper-body injury at some point and is now day-to-day.

With that move, Washington had just 11 healthy forwards left on the roster and were left without two key top-6 contributors. Sheary has four goals in his last five games, and Oshie has seven points in eight games this season. Both also worked on the first power-play unit.

As a result, the Capitals dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, including Kraken alum Dennis Cholowski, who made his debut with his new club. Ovechkin also took double and triple shifts to account for the voids on the forward lines. Aliaksei Protas and Tom Wilson filled in for Sheary and Oshie on PP1.

Weak Second Period Costs The Capitals, Furious Rally Not Enough

It was 1-1 heading into the middle frame, but fatigue appeared to hit hard in that second period. Washington was slow coming out of the gate and couldn’t get their legs moving. The Capitals turned over the puck quite a bit and allowed several chances, and also didn’t do a good job of protecting the net.

That tired second period led to three unanswered Kraken goals. Jaden Schwartz and Adam Larsson struck 43 seconds apart, and later on, Calle Jarnkrok struck to make it 4-1. Seattle was also outshooting Washington 23-16 heading into the final 20.

Washington got going in the third period and maintained momentum for a strong showing until the buzzer. They managed a whopping 23 shots in the third and tilted the ice completely, but it wasn’t enough to overcome that flawed middle frame. Philipp Grubauer also shut them down with a spectacular showing to redeem himself greatly following struggles for Seattle of late.

Kuznetsov, Wilson, Ovechkin Come Up Big For Capitals

Tom Wilson opened the scoring with the Capitals’ first-ever strike against the Kraken early in the first period. Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up the primary helper by forcing the turnover that led to the goal for No. 43. He’s up to 16 assists and 22 points this season, which both rank fourth in the league.

Wilson later added another helper for his sixth point in his last six games, this time on an Alex Ovechkin rocket that turned the tide in the third period. Ovechkin, who went without a goal for three games prior to Saturday’s two-goal game against San Jose, now has three goals in his last two games and 745 now in his career (22 shy of passing Jaromir Jagr for third on the NHL’s all-time goals list). He is the third player to hit the 30-point mark this season in just 19 games this season, joining Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Ovechkin sits third in the league in scoring and is now tied for the league lead in even-strength goals with Kyle Connor.

Sammi’s Top-Shelf Takes

  • The power play had some good looks but again cost the Capitals in a major way. They had quite a few man advantages that could have helped them force a point, but Washington’s power play was 0-for-4 and struggled once again.
  • Washington was perfect on the penalty kill for eight straight games but surrendered a power-play goal to Jared McCann in the first.
  • Fatigue was justifiable for this group in this one, as Washington was coming off a back-to-back and playing in their seventh game in 11 days. And reminder: Records don’t matter once teams hit the ice. Games can go either way depending on who comes out swinging.
  • Kuznetsov and Nic Dowd were tied for the team-lead in face-off percentage (61) and were excellent in the dot.
  • Ovechkin led the way with six shots, and Wilson had the team lead in hits with four. He also got into it with Jeremy Lauzon quite a bit.
  • Stick taps to Grubauer, who stopped 37 of 39 shots against his former club. Also shoutout to Schwartz on 400 career points.
  • It was a tough net for Vanecek in his revenge game, as he stopped 26 of 30 shots (.867 save percentage). He did get a tribute from his former club in Seattle, though. Vanecek is now 4-3-4 through 12 games with a .906 save percentage and 2.54 GAA.
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