John Carlson scored the game-winner in overtime on Monday in the Caps 3-2 win over Arizona, but really Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie were the real heroes of the night.
As time ticked away in the overtime, Eller took the puck on his stick in the offensive zone with 1:30 remaining. He weaved his way through the ice for 22 seconds before he finally dropped the puck off for Evgeny Kuznetsov.
That prolonged possession accomplished two things: one, it prevented the Coyotes from changing lines and two, it allowed the Caps to change theirs. When Washington re-entered the offensive zone, they did so with fresh legs against tired Arizona players.
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One of those players, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, finally corralled the puck in his own zone after a shot from Kuznetsov and tried to break it out of the zone. Oshie, however, was not going to let that happen.
Just before he hit the blue line, Oshie managed to muscle Ekman-Larsson off the puck and it trickled right to Carlson. Six seconds later, the game was over.
The last shift for the three Coyotes’ players was 1:25 for Ekman-Larsson and 1:19 for both Brandon Perlini and Christian Dvorak. Playing over a minute of three on three hockey with virtually no possession after already playing a full regulation is tough for any NHL player and Arizona just plain ran out of gas.
“I thought Lars Eller wore that unit out for about a minute and then we were able to get a real smart change,” Barry Trotz said. “And then they were trying to exit the zone, I thought a real huge play by T.J. Oshie to keep that puck alive and they were able to transition and it ends up in the back of the net.”
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After winning five straight at home a confident Capitals team was dealt a tough blow in a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. Lars Eller scored 62 seconds into the game, but the Flames scored the next four straight goals for the win.
Here's why the Caps lost.
Calgary's quick response to the first goal
The Capitals took the lead just 1:02 into the game, but it lasted only 3:47. The Caps are a team that seems to thrive off early energy. They looked lethargic in the first period in both Nashville and Colorado and they lost because of it. The quick response by the Flames did not allow Washington to take advantage of the energy, the momentum or the crowd after taking the early lead.
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A bad defensive lapse in the first period
Covering only half of the ice is an inadvisable defensive strategy. In the first period, John Carlson and Brooks Orpik were both caught on the right side of the ice leaving nothing but open ice for Johnny Gaudreau to work with.
From the replay, it did not appear the Caps’ defensemen were caught on a bad line change, it was just a bad defensive lapse. Unfortunately for Washington, Gaudreau is the wrong player to leave wide open and he was able to score Calgary’s first goal.
The second period
The Caps were outshot 13-6 in the middle frame and three of Washington’s six shots came in the final three minutes of the period. Calgary completely dictated the play in the second and took the 2-1 lead on a power play goal by Sean Monahan.
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Calgary had the worst penalty kill in the NHL coming into Monday’s game with a kill rate of just 70.6-percent. Advantage Washington, right? Not so much. Washington had three power play opportunities and did not score on any of them. The Caps were also called for five minor penalties of their own. Of Calgary’s four goals, two of them came on the power play and another came one second after a penalty had expired. What should have been an advantage for Washington turned into a disadvantage as the Flames outscored the Caps 2-0 on special teams.
A miscue and penalty prone Caps’ team failed to extend their streak on home ice Monday night, falling to Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames, 4-1.
The defeat halted Washington’s five-game winning streak at Capital One Arena, two nights after the Caps had seemingly steadied themselves with a sound victory over the Wild on F Street.
Monday’s loss also marked the Caps’ second to the surging Flames in a span of three weeks.
Tarik’s three stars of the game:
1 - Johnny Gaudreau, Flames
Johnny Hockey capitalized on an apparent miscommunication in the first period to knot the score 1-1. With Brooks Orpik and John Carlson on the same side of the ice, Gaudreau raced into the Washington zone and snapped a shot past Braden Holtby’s glove. The goal was Gaudreau’s eighth in the past 10 games. He also notched a primary assist, giving him 19 points during this torrid stretch.
2 - Mike Smith, Flames
The 35-year-old netminder allowed a goal on the first shot he faced—a snipe from point blank range off the stick of Lars Eller just 62 seconds into the contest. After that Smith outstanding, particularly in the early moments of the third period as the Flames clung to a 2-1 lead. Smith turned away shots from Alex Chiasson (two), Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, Dmitry Orlov and Tom Wilson in the opening 2:45 of the final frame to keep the Caps at bay.
3 - Jakub Vrana, Capitals
Vrana started the game on the third line and finished on the first line. In between, he recorded a beautiful primary assist, drew a penalty and notched two shots on net. The assist was Vrana’s first helper since Oct. 7, the Caps’ second game of the season. The 21-year-old was scratched two games ago in Colorado. Seems he heard Barry Trotz’s message loud and clear.
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