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Takeaways: Early Jump Spoiled By Missed Chances, Poor Second As Capitals Fall To Blues

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Capitals forward Daniel Sprong

Friday started off as another wild day for the Washington Capitals after a five-day layoff, seeing two key assets in Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie head to the IR. And ultimately, it ended in a tough result as they opened their back-to-back road swing in St. Louis.

It didn’t appear to start that way for Washington, as they jumped on the Blues early and even picked up the first goal of the game. However, things faltered, and a poor showing in the second, and a number of missed opportunities, led to a 5-1 loss. The road doesn’t stop there, though, as the team heads to Minnesota for a tilt with the Wild in their second game of a back-to-back.

Here are all the takeaways from the defeat:

Capitals, Sprong See Early Jump

The first period was a frenzy for the Capitals, who saw several high-danger chances in the first, including a point-blank chance for Alex Ovechkin on a sneaky pass from Martin Fehervary. However, they could only convert once early on — and ultimately it cost them.

Aliaksei Protas, Mike Sgarbossa and Daniel Sprong were outstanding, however, and despite the lack of production, that line got things done, and a great pass from Protas led to an even better wrist shot from Sprong to put Washington up 1-0.

Sprong now has three goals and an assist in his last five games. Protas, meanwhile, got a point in his first game back in the lineup, and Sgarbossa continued to make an impact. Trevor van Riemsdyk picked up the secondary assist for his second helper in as many games.

With eight minutes to go in the first, the Capitals were leading 10-3 in shots on goal. However, Torey Krug responded to even the score, and that shot total was tied at the end of the opening frame.

Things Fall Apart In Second, Capitals Surrender Five Unanswered

Washington’s strong start appeared to evaporate, and the Blues put on a show in the second period. There were several odd-man rushes, missed assignments and poor positioning and coverage from the defense as St. Louis controlled the tempo well.

It paid off, as Samsonov surrendered three goals on six shots in the second, with Pavel Buchnevich, Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev making it 4-1 by the end of the second. The Capitals were still outshooting St. Louis by the end of the period but failed to beat Ville Husso, who came up big with a couple of key stops.

Washington also failed to convert on three power-play opportunities as its man advantage continues to struggle, and has just two PPGs on its last 34 opportunities.

Fucale Shines In Third-Period Appearance

Zach Fucale ended up taking over in goal for the third period, and though it provided a bit of a spark, the Capitals couldn’t produce.

Still, Fucale, who was playing in his first game for Washington since posting a historic shutout in his NHL debut in November, kept the streak going. He was outstanding, shutting down the high-flying Blues with a solid breakaway stop, impressive glove save without his stick and a quick stop on a 2-on-1. The 26-year-old stopped all seven shots against.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Alex Ovechkin led all forwards with 20:55 minutes of ice time. He, Sprong, Brett Leason, John Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov all led the Capitals with three shots each.
  • There was a lack of physicality for Washington, as they threw just 11 hits and took 19 in return. Garnet Hathaway had four of those hits, and Tom Wilson had two.
  • Wilson had a tough night, posting a minus-4 rating. However, he did hit a milestone, playing in his 600th career game and becoming the fifth-youngest player in franchise history to do so. Conor Sheary, Lars Eller and Ovechkin also struggled in the +/- department and were all a minus-3.
  • The power-play continued to struggle, but the Capitals did do well on the penalty kill, shutting down both of the Blues’ chances at 5-on-4.
  • The Sprong-Sgarbossa-Protas line was great, but Sgarbossa was among the best skaters in his 10:23 minutes. He won five of six draws, leading all centers in FO% (87). Sprong also stood out and logged 18:24 minutes.
  • Martin Fehervary made some decent plays and passes in his first game back from COVID-19 protocol.
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