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Takeaways: Third Line Shines, But Slow Start, Posts Cost Capitals In SO Loss To Hawks

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Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Garnet Hathaway said the Washington Capitals didn’t have their best start on Thursday against Chicago, but an Alex Ovechkin hit in the second period sparked the team.

Washington scored twice in the second and added one more in the third to take the lead. But a third-period strike by Seth Jones and a shootout winner from Patrick Kane — and a couple of posts (including two in the SO) — led to a 4-3 loss.

“It’s still frustrating… I think we thought maybe they’re an inferior team, but they’re playing a lot better than I think they were at the beginning of the year… I thought we made it a good game,” Hathaway said of the defeat. “We’ll digest it tonight. It’s a point. It’s better than zero, but we’re a good enough team that we need to fight for two points.”

Here are all the takeaways from the defeat:

Hagelin-Dowd-Hathaway Spark The Capitals

The Capitals continue to get great play from their third line of Carl Hagelin, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway, and they came up big once again. With Washington trailing 1-0 heading into the second after a late Alex DeBrincat goal, Dowd got the momentum going by driving to the net and redirecting a Carl Hagelin shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to start the second.

That combination didn’t stop there; Hagelin and Dowd were working in tandem on the penalty kill to open the third period, and as the Hawks’ power play expired, Dowd picked off Dominik Kubalik and made a great saucer pauce up the ice to Hathaway, who went on the breakaway and chipped a shot past Fleury for his sixth goal of the season and fourth multi-point outing of the year.

“They understand each other, they know exactly what they’re gonna do,” Kuznetsov said of that combination. “They predictable to each other and you know, I think they have all the goal support. If one guy lost the puck there’s another one. I feel like they pretty good friends off the ice. It’s always, you know, helps you on the ice if you have a great relationship like that.”

Overall, all three were great in creating pressure and generating scoring chances. Dowd now has four points and two multi-point performances in his last five games, and Carl Hagelin also has helpers in back-to-back games. Hathaway had six goals in 56 games last season; he has tied that total in 24 games.

Kuznetsov, Ovechkin Clutch

With the Capitals trailing late in the second after a Kubalik power-play goal, Evgeny Kuznetsov came to the rescue. It all started with Alex Ovechkin, who turned the tide with a major hit on Connor Murphy.

“God, he does so much good for our team,” Hathaway said, adding, “O went out, and he was a leader for us. That was a huge hit, I hope he’s okay but it was one that got our bench going, brought us into the game, grabbed you by the throat and dragged you in. That’s a testament to him.”

Ovechkin later made an outstanding centering pass to generate a chance on net. The puck ultimately tricked to the crease behind Fleury, and Kuznetsov crashed the net and buried it to make it 2-2.

Kuznetsov continued his revenge tour and is now up to eight goals and 28 points on the season, which rank fifth in the league. Meanwhile, Ovechkin’s 19th helper puts him at 38 points through 24 games, and he is just three points behind Leon Draisaitl for the NHL scoring lead.

Posts Cost The Capitals

The Capitals hit a myriad of posts throughout the night, including Ovechkin in regulation. Kuznetsov and Daniel Sprong both also hit the post in the shootout.

“Just a little bit unlucky,” Kuznetsov said.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Both Ovechkin and Hathaway led the Capitals with four shots on goal.
  • Eller impressed in the face-off dot and led the Capitals with a face-off percentage of 67 percent. Connor McMichael was also solid in his first game back at pivot, winning six of 11 draws (55 FO%). Dowd struggled, going 4-for-11 in the dot (27 FO%).
  • Connor McMichael continues to get better and better in the face-off dot and came in clutch in his first game back at pivot.
  • Dowd led all Washington skaters with six hits.
  • Kuznetsov came in first in ice time among forwards with 20:31 minutes.
  • Peter Laviolette said that Sprong was “working hard” and thought he was good in his return. Sprong finished the game with two shots and a hit through 14:02 minutes and got called to go second in the shootout.
  • Vitek Vanecek came up with a few big saves in his first start since Nov. 21 against Seattle. He stopped 25 of 28 shots (.893 save percentage). He is now 4-3-5 through 13 games with a .905 save percentage and 2.56 GAA.
  • Dowd mentioned that the Capitals “need to play with jam throughout the whole game” and play a full 60-minutes.
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