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Takeaways: Capitals Have Not-So-Super Bowl Sunday With Rough Loss To Sens

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Capitals forward Tom Wilson

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  On a snowy Super Bowl Sunday in D.C., the Washington Capitals found themselves struggling yet again on home ice. From the get-go, they found themselves a step back, and a shorthanded goal against on their first power-play attempt would spell out how the night would go.

The jump wasn’t there, and ultimately, the Capitals couldn’t bounce back against the Sens, who escaped Capital One Arena with a 4-1 victory.

“Every other team is buzzing right now, and we’re not,” Nicklas Backstrom said bluntly. “That’s something we got to get back to.”

Here are all the takeaways from the defeat:

Slow Start Dooms Capitals Again

Washington’s recent tough stretch hasn’t seen one common thread, but there has been one constant: poor starts. Sunday was no different.

The Capitals didn’t have a lot of energy coming out of the gate, nor did they really get a lot of time on the forecheck. As they fell into a 2-0 hole, they were being outshot 9-3 toward with just under six minutes left in the first. They ended up trailing 12-7 in SOG after 20.

Washington came out with more jump and more firepower in the second, piling on the pressure and seeing strong shifts from the Joe Snively-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson and Connor McMichael-Lars Eller-Daniel Sprong. However, Anton Forsberg played a strong game, stopping 14 of 15 shots the Capitals put on in the second and 33 of 34 of Washington’s shots overall.

FEATURES ON WHN: Capitals’ Sprong Talks Growing Up In Amsterdam And Going From ‘Outsider’ To Pro 

Capitals Power Play Giveth And Taketh Away

Early on, the Capitals got a power-play opportunity and a chance to jump out to an early lead, but things took a turn quickly. Washington was tracking the puck behind the net in the offensive zone, but the Senators got to it first, leading to a break the other way for Connor Brown and Alex Formenton. The Capitals couldn’t get back in time, and ultimately, Formenton buried a shorthanded goal on a one-timer to make it 1-0 just over five minutes in the game.

The shorthanded strike is the sixth time Washington has allowed a goal on the man advantage this season, tied for second league-wide.

“That’s something that happened way too many times this year. That’s on us,” Backstrom said. “We got to be better.”

Early in the second, though, the Capitals would get one back, as they generated motion and connected on their passes, while also generating traffic in front. Ultimately, it was Nicklas Backstrom to strike on the PP, knocking in a rebound off an Alex Ovechkin office shot to cut the lead in half.

Overall, Washington went 1-for-4 on the night and couldn’t convert on the man advantage at key times, especially with a power play and the goalie pulled at the end of the third. The team’s lone goal would come on the power play.

“You want the power play to click because that can help win hockey games. Gets a little frustrating, I think,” Backstrom said. “We are squeezing the stick a little too hard. That’s part of it for sure… I feel like we can be better using the whole ice a little bit better, not just there on the boards.”

Though Penalty kill Comes Up Big, Lack Of Discipline Costly For Capitals

Washington put on a show on the penalty kill, but one too many penalties was a hefty price to pay. The Capitals were trying to rally late in the third, but a holding call for Conor Sheary and interference penalty for Garnet Hathaway led to a 5-on-3 at a crucial time — and it was the second two-man advantage for Ottawa of the game.

In the end, Washington went 5-for-5 on the PK, but it allowed for the Senators to run time off the clock and also took away the momentum, as well as critical time on the forecheck.

Samsonov Struggles, Capitals Get ‘Careless’ As Game Falls Out Of Reach

After a strong showing on Thursday against Montreal, Ilya Samsonov got the call against Ottawa. However, inconsistency would continue for the 24-year-old netminder.

While he did come up with a couple of big stops, he struggled at times, surrendering rebounds and not tracking the puck well. There are also a couple of plays he may want to have back, including the fumble that led to Brady Tkachuk’s tally and Connor Brown’s quick shot. Samsonov ultimately stopped 22 of 26 shots (.846 save percentage).

Head coach Peter Laviolette didn’t cite the goaltending, though, saying that he wants to see improvement throughout the entire lineup. He also said that the team was playing “careless” early on while on the forecheck.

“I think we need more from everybody. I don’t think it’s fair to go to one guy, when you’re looking to win hockey games everybody’s gotta put their hands on the rope,” Laviolette explained. “We’ve got to be better.”

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Ovechkin dominated in the physicality department, leading the way with a whopping 10 hits. He also managed four shots.
  • Ovi, meanwhile, picked up his second assist in as many games. He now has 60 points on the season, good for fifth in the NHL.
  • Snively led the team with six shots in just 11:44 minutes.
  • McMichael logged the least amount of ice time, skating just 10:14 minutes. Garnet Hathaway played just 11 minutes, while Sprong played 11:02.
  • Backstrom’s goal was his fourth of the season, and he now has 14 points in 17 games since returning to the lineup.
  • John Carlson is on a three-game point streak and has points in five of his last six outings.
  • Nic Dowd continued his strong play in the face-off dot, winning 11 of 16 draws (69 percent). Kuznetsov and Eller also won over 60 percent of their face-offs.
  • Tom Wilson had a huge hit on Thomas Chabot that’ll likely make the highlight reels and did spark some momentum — and led to a fight with Nick Paul.

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