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Takeaways: Sheary, Rookies Step Up, But Vasilevskiy, Bolts Shut Down Capitals

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Capitals forward Brett Leason

It was a quick start for the Washington Capitals and a solid showing in the first period. However, the final 40 saw a lack of discipline and a few errors, as well as strong play from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s stars and a red-hot Andrei Vasilevskiy, which resulted in the Capitals’ first regulation loss of the 2021-22 campaign, 3-2.

Brett Leason and Conor Sheary converted for the Capitals, while Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Brayden Point struck for the Bolts.

Washington is now 5-1-3 to open the season. Here are all the takeaways from the action:

Leason, Protas Have Solid Showings For Capitals

Prince Albert Raiders alumni and Hershey Bears linemates Brett Leason and Aliaksei Protas laced ’em up for the Capitals against Tampa. Leason was playing in his second NHL game, while Protas made his debut following a call-up on Monday in wake of Nic Dowd’s IR status. Both of them put on quite a show for Washington, stepping up early and often.

Leason got the puck on net quickly and scored his first NHL goal just 1:13 into the first period. He was active and generated a lot of chances, making solid plays and doing what he could to get shots on goal. In 5:58 minutes on the ice, the 6-foot-5 winger managed a goal, two shots, a hit.

Protas also played a strong game in his debut but saw just 3:53 minutes on the ice. He used his size and reach to his advantage, battled for the puck, got saw one or two looks as well. He didn’t register a shot on goal.

The Capitals will need a lot from their youth with Dowd, T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom on the shelf for a bit. Ultimately, it wasn’t a large sample size, but they did manage to make the most of what they got.

RELATED: Lapierre Talks Life In The Pros, Living In The Moment With Capitals

Errors, Lack of Discipline Hurt The Capitals

Tampa’s first goal from Killorn came off a mistake on the draw. Washington fumbled the puck, and no one got back in time to stop Killorn from an easy strike to even the score early in the second period.

Later on, the Capitals gave up one too many power-play chances and saw a couple of soft calls. Dmitry Orlov took two penalties, and Tom Wilson had an unfortunate run-in with Alex Killorn that led to a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa. Cirelli ended up striking on an easy tap-in with Washington down two men. The Capitals ultimately took five penalties.

Point’s goal came off a breakaway as Washington missed the read and couldn’t get back in time to stop the talented pivot following a strong chance for Connor McMichael at the other end.

Sheary, Kuznetsov Finally Spark Capitals’ Power Play

The Capitals also struggled on the man advantage, and it took a long time to break through. Vasilevskiy was on fire, stopping nearly everything he could keep track of, and it ultimately took a net-front presence to get past him. Erik Cernak, meanwhile, was outstanding in his own end and didn’t shy away from blocking Alex Ovechkin’s blasts from the office.

Kuznetsov ultimately made a beautiful past to the front, which Sheary buried while making himself prominent in front of the crease. That was Sheary’s first of the season and his third point over his last four games. Kuznetsov’s now up to eight assists on the season, putting him in a tie for third in the NHL in helpers so far in 2021-22.

Washington’s power play went 1-for-4 to end the night and struggled with keeping the puck in the zone and managed just seven shots on goal at 5-on-4.

Connor McMichael Staying Hungry For Capitals

Despite not getting on the scoresheet, McMichael was outstanding. He generated several high-danger chances, got to the front of the net and showed off his talent with the puck. He’s gotten more confident in himself and his own game, but he just couldn’t get anything past Vasilevskiy (a recurring theme over the course of the game).

The 20-year-old ended the game with three shots through 12:16 minutes on the ice. He’s doing all the right things, but also needs to improve in the faceoff dot. He won just 20 percent of his draws against the Lightning.

Sammi’s Ice Chips

  • Ovechkin’s eight-game point streak came to an end, but he was still one of the Capitals’ best players on the ice. He led the team with six shots on goal and 6:05 minutes on the man advantage. The chances were there for him and he was also solid on the backcheck.
  • Kuznetsov led all forwards in ice time with 23:09 minutes and is on a three-game point streak. He also has points in seven of nine games to start the year.
  • Vitek Vanecek stopped 23 of 26 shots for a .885 save percentage. He is now 2-1-2 with a 2.36 GAA and .906 save through six games this season.
  • The Capitals managed 33 shots on goal and did dominate when it came to scoring chances.
  • Martin Fehervary was solid and was tied with Wilson for the team lead in hits (4) and also had two blocks and two shots. He’s continued to grow more confident in his game.
  • Speaking of Wilson, he looked solid, drawing penalties, driving to the net and making a couple of solid plays and passes. He had three shots, four hits, two blocks, a takeaway and two PIM through 22:54.
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