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Takeaways: Wild Rally Not Enough For Shorthanded Capitals In OT Loss To NJ

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Capitals forward Conor Sheary

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tom Wilson called the Washington Capitals’ start to 2022 “another crazy day for the Caps,” as they dealt with more news and roster changes ahead of puck drop, which ultimately resulted in a back-and-forth, roller coaster of a Sunday matinee against the New Jersey Devils.

In their first game of the New Year, the Capitals surrendered two goals early in the first and found themselves outplayed in the first 40 and down by two heading into the third. And, despite a furious rally and goals from John Carlson, Nic Dowd and Conor Sheary, Nico Hischier ultimately led the Devils to a 4-3 win in OT.

“It always feels good to come back, [but] there’s no need to put ourselves in that situation against a young team like that,” Dowd said. “We should be jumping on them right away in our building.”

Washington is now 0-for-7 in overtime this season. Here are all the takeaways from the defeat:

Johnny (Still) B. Goode: Carlson Gets Capitals On Board

After falling behind 2-0 early and surrendering quite a few odd-man rushes in the opening frame, the Capitals started to turn up the pressure toward the end of the opening frame. And, in the McNugget Minute, Carlson got them on the board.

On a great passing play with Dmitry Orlov and Mike Sgarbossa, Carlson got to the front and rocketed a shot past Mackenzie Blackwood to pull Washington within one. The goal came with 46 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

No. 74 now has points in three straight games since returning from the COVID-19 pause, with two goals and four assists over that span. He’s up to eight goals this season, which is tied for the fourth-most by a defenseman in 2021-22. His 32 total points rank third overall.

Sloppy Second Period Ultimately Costs Capitals

Despite that late Carlson tally late in the first, Washington couldn’t keep the momentum going, and in the second, the ice tilted in favor of the Devils. A Hischier tip-in put New Jersey back up by two just 22 seconds into the period. And, by the 10-minute mark, the Devils were outshooting the Capitals 9-1.

Washington did get some time on the power play as Nic Dowd tried to spark the game by dropping the gloves with P.K. Subban, but the Capitals couldn’t convert despite a couple of good looks.

Ultimately, they ended up generating a bit of pressure near the end of the period and headed to the dressing room with five shots on goal through that frame, while NJ pushed their shot total to 24 on the night heading into the third.

“That was the story of the night. We were chasing the game and not clean, we gave up too much defensively,” head coach Peter Laviolette said.

“We want to be better for 60 minutes,” Nick Jensen added. “Having guys out of the lineup has never been an excuse for us this year, so that’s out of the question. We got to make sure we show up earlier in the game.”

Dowd, Sheary Power Furious Rally In Third

The Hagelin-Dowd-Hathaway got a lot of ice time on Sunday and ultimately broke through for Washington in the final minutes of regulation. Dowd charged to the front of the net and bounced on a loose puck before chipping it up and batting it out of mid-air and past Blackwood to pull the Capitals within one.

“It was planned that it was going to be chipped into the air, but I don’t know why I did it,” Dowd said. “When it was in the air, I just happened to hit it… maybe playing ball hockey and stick and puck with my kid for the last 30 days in quarantine has done something for me.”

Dowd’s marker was his fifth of the season and his second goal in his last three games. Meanwhile, Garnet Hathaway continued his impressive hot streak, picking up the primary assist for his sixth assist in six games. He has now found the scoresheet in five of his last six outings.

Soon after, in the final four minutes of the frame, Conor Sheary got to the front of the net, picking up a nice pass in front from Lars Eller and tapping in the puck to make it 3-3 and ultimately force overtime and guaranteed at least a point.

It marked Sheary’s eighth goal of the season, and he now has four points in his last six games and eight goals on the season. Seven of his 16 points this season have come in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Meanwhile, the helper was Eller’s 10th of the season and he now has points in seven of his last eight games.

However, it wasn’t enough, as the Capitals couldn’t get it done in OT and surrendered another Hischier goal in the loss.

Capitals Experiment With Line Changes

With the Capitals down 3-1 after a tough go-of-it in the second, head coach Peter Laviolette mixed things up a bit for the final 20 minutes of regulation.

In his first game back from COVID-19 protocol, Daniel Sprong earned a promotion to the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. He switched places with Tom Wilson, who went to the second line to play with Lars Eller and Conor Sheary. Later on, Sheary also got time on that top line as the rotation continued throughout the third.

Washington was missing Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, both of who were out with non-COVID illnesses. Aliaksei Protas also headed back down to Hershey in a somewhat surprising move after 22 games at the NHL level.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Sheary led the Capitals with four shots on goal. Ovechkin had three and five other attempts blocked. The Capitals ultimately ended the night with 30 shots.
  • In his first game back up after heading to the taxi squad, Sgarbossa picked up a primary assist, his third point in his last two outings for Washington. He also managed three shots and continues to make an impact each time he’s in the lineup. However, he struggled in the face-off dot, going 1-for-8.
  • Orlov picked up a secondary helper and now has three assists in his last three games.
  • Wilson led the way with six hits, while Ovechkin, Hathaway and Orlov added four apiece.
  • The power play went 0-for-1 against the Devils, and the man advantage is now 1-for-21 in Washington’s last five games.
  • That one PPG, though, came from Ovechkin, who broke the NHL’s all-time PPG record on Friday and was honored with a jumbotron tribute early in the game.

  • Kuznetsov led all skaters with 23:15 minutes. Connor McMichael skated just 6:03 minutes, and Brett Leason got 5:42 minutes.
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