Takeaways: Ovechkin-less Capitals Fall Flat vs. Golden Knights
Without captain Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals fell apart in a 6-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Here are all the takeaways from the defeat.
As the Washington Capitals took on the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, they were without a key piece of the puzzle in their captain Alex Ovechkin. That absence loomed large from the moment the puck dropped, and ultimately, the team fell flat and got rolled over without him in Sin City.
Sloppy play through 60, as well as a lackluster showing, turnovers and costly mistakes, led to a 6-2 loss to Vegas.
Here are all the takeaways from the forgettable defeat:
Washington Capitals Play Sloppy, Leading To Vegas Domination Throughout
The Capitals's performance on Saturday was something of a paradox from the last game they played; whereas Washington did everything right in a 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, the team struggled and made several mistakes against the Golden Knights, and it proved costly.
There were several neutral zone turnovers, miscues and missed assignments, along with bad passes and reads, that led to odd-man breaks or and high-quality chances against, and Vegas capitalized on two early, with Alec Martinez and Nico Roy finding the board. Martinez snuck past the defense to cash in on a rebound that went off the pipe less than three minutes into the contest, and minutes later, Roy converted on a nice 2-on-1 break with Jonathan Marchessault.
That sloppy first lingered through 60 minutes, as Vegas ended up chasing Darcy Kuemper from the net with two more strikes from Michael Amadio and Byron Froese. Paul Cotter then struck twice on Charlie Lindgren for six goals against.
Six goals is the most the team has allowed in a loss this season. They'd let six go by back on Nov. 13 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Kuemper was pulled in that game as well.
Ovechkin's Absence Looms Large As Washington Capitals Offense Stumbles; Oshie & Johansson Strike
Right before the pregame skate, Washington announced that Ovechkin would not play and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. The tough news ended up foreshadowing what the night would be about.
Without Ovechkin in the mix, Washington was a different team and didn't seem to playing with the same jam or attention to detail that it usually does when the captain is in the mix. It didn't seem that the Capitals had a lot of energy coming out of the gate, and there also wasn't a lot of urgency or pressure at times. Something that made Washington so strong back in December was consistency and effort for 60 minutes, and that wasn't the case in Nevada on Saturday.
While the Capitals couldn't muster up much. T.J. Oshie got the lone goal for Washington. He has three goals in his last six games. Erik Gustafsson picked up his 20th helper of the year with the primary assist, while Dylan Strome extended his point streak to three games with the secondary helper.
Marcus Johansson would make it a 6-2 game in the third with a tip on a Trevor van Riemsdyk shot. It marked Johansson's 12th of the season, his highest total since 2018-19 with the New Jersey Devils. Both he and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who recorded the secondary assist, have points in three of their last four games. Kuznetsov is also the second Washington player to hit the 40-point mark this season.
– Kuemper allowed four goals on 18 shots (.778 save percenetage) before being pulled for Lindgren, who stopped seven of nine shots against (.778).
– Frustration boiled over, as Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson got into it in the second period. Backstrom was visibly upset with Nicolas Hague, and when Hague went after Backstrom, Wilson threw off his gloves to stick up for his linemate. Wilson and Hague got matching roughing minors.
Here's what happened between Caps and Golden Knights on that last scrum. Backstrom was extremely upset with Hague. pic.twitter.com/LJQOS6Io71
— Sammi Silber (@sammisilber) January 22, 2023
– Washington went 0-for-3 on the power play as the man advantage continues to struggle despite getting a goal last game.
– Anthony Mantha was a minus-2 in his return to action for the Capitals after back-to-back healthy scratches.
– In the third, the lines jumbled, as Dylan Strome went to work with T.J. Oshie and Conor Sheary while Lars Eller operated with Mantha and Aube-Kubel. The Milano-Backstrom-Wilson line, despite a rough go-of-it in Vegas, stayed together, as did Johansson-Kuznetsov-Hathaway.