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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Golden Knights

4 reasons the Caps lost to the Golden Knights

The Caps' first trip to Vegas did not go the way they planned. Washington trailed 3-0 after the first period and that score would stand through the rest of the game. Here's how the Caps lost their first game against the Golden Knights.

The first period

This game was decided in the opening 20 minutes as Vegas jumped all over Washington to take a 3-0 lead. Just moments after Braden Holtby stopped an early breakaway from Brendan Leipsic, Christian Djoos took the puck off a defensive-zone draw and tried a pass right up the middle. Alex Tuch got a stick in front of it to generate a turnover and a mini-break for the Golden Knights which led to Tuch tucking in a rebound to give Vegas an early 1-0 lead. Oscar Lindberg finished off a four-on-two break just five minutes later. The backbreaker came when William Karlsson scored what was virtually an empty-netter as Reilly Smith hit him with the nice pass on the back door.

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Vegas’ forecheck

With no superstars on their team, the Golden Knights know every line has to give 100-percent effort every time they are on the ice in order to be successful. In no aspect of Vegas’ game was that mentality more evident than on the forecheck. They were relentless and the Caps really struggled against it, especially early on. They eventually adjusted to it somewhat, but the forecheck gave them fits all night.

The Caps’ power play

If Washington had any chance to get back into this game, it came in the second period when Vegas took two penalties in the first five minutes. But a scuffling power play continued to struggle as the Caps failed to score on either chance. One goal there would have put them back in the game. Instead, they failed to score and went back to the locker room down by three with only 20 minutes remaining. Washington finished the night with no power play goals on four opportunities. The Caps now have only one power play goal in its last eight games.

Marc-Andre Fleuy’s third period

Fleury was not tested much in the first 40 minutes of the game. Washington's best opportunities came in the third period when they fired 10 shots on goal on the former Penguins' netminder. Fleury looked like his old Pittsburgh self as he made a number of key saves to snuff out any possibility of a late-game comeback.

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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