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Brenden Dillon's debut and Ovechkin's 699 overshadowed by Capitals OT loss

Brenden Dillon's debut and Ovechkin's 699 overshadowed by Capitals OT loss

The hope was that the addition of Brenden Dillon would solve a lot of the Capitals' problems on defense, but that did not happen on Thursday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

Defense is still a work in progress even with Dillon

Dillon made his Caps debut on Thursday. One aspect in which he was supposed to help the team's defense improve was controlling the net-front. The Canadiens, however, marched right in front of Braden Holtby and refused to budge. Montreal's first two goals were the direct result of traffic in front of the net. Brendan Gallagher provided the screen for a Shea Weber slap shot goal and then scored himself as he again parked himself in front of the Caps net and was able to win the loose puck off a failed deflection, turn and shoot with three Caps staring at him.

Controlling the front of the net has been an issue for Washington, but Thursday was disturbing considering they added a player in part to address this particular weakness and he and John Carlson were on the ice for all three of Montreal's regulation goals.

Yes, It's Dillon's first game for Washington and some time to adjust is expected, but the Caps need to start clicking on defense. Their wiggle room in the standings is now completely gone and this team needs to string some wins together.

Speaking of a work-in-progress, Michal Kempny was bumped by Dillon to the third pair for this game where he played with Radko Gudas. That experiment should be over. That pair looked awful together. They gave up two breakaways in the first six minutes of the game, the second of which earned Gudas a 10-minute benching. One game is a small sample size, but I don't know that we need to see much more from that combo to know that it just doesn't fit.

An inexcusable mistake

In the midst of a two-month slump and after losing control of the division, you can't have the leader of the defense attempt a bank pass to himself in traffic behind his own goal line. That's exactly what Carlson did in the third period as he tried to bank a pass to himself past Tomas Tatar. Tatar got in front of the puck and the resulting turnover led to Ben Chiarot's goal, giving Montreal its first lead 30 seconds into the third period.

Those are the kind of mistakes you just can't make at this point in the season.

The good news

The news wasn't all bad. It was mostly bad, but there were some bright spots. First, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost in regulation on Thursday so Washington pulled into a tie for first place with its point. Pittsburgh has a game in hand though.

Holtby was fantastic again. He looks like he has completely turned his game around and he was the only thing keeping Washington in it early on and through the entire second period. The thrid line also was pretty good.

At this point in the season, however, with the team in a battle for the division, if the two positives you can take from a game was the goalie played well and the third line was pretty good, that's just not enough.

There was one other bright spot....

One goal away

Alex Ovechkin broke his season-long goal drought and now sits just one goal shy of 700. When the game went into overtime, it seemed like the stars were aligning for another special Ovechkin moment (though the life of every beat reporter flashed before their eyes. Getting 700 in overtime would have been...challenging), but it was not meant to be.

Will 700 continue to hang over his head and drag into another drought or will getting 699 open up the flood gates for Ovechkin again?

Turning point

With the game tied 2-2 at the start of the third period, Carlson tried to bank the puck to himself through Tatar behind his own goal line. It didn't work. Washington was completely out of position defensively as everyone thought Carlson was going to launch the breakout. All five Caps players collapsed deep into the zone and Tatar kicked the puck out to Ben Chiarot who had about a year and a half to aim and shoot. That goal gave Montreal its first lead of the game just 30 seconds into the third. From there, the Caps played catch up only managing to earn a point thanks to a Tom Wilson goal with 20.1 seconds remaining.

Play of the game

Lars Eller is the tiger, but on this play he looked like a Detroit Tiger.

It wasn't just batting the puck out of the air that made this play impressive, however. Eller shrugged off a hit from Nick Suzuki, skated past Jeff Petry and then batted the puck after Brett Kulak tipped it up. Heck of a play.

The goal fulfilled the legal mandate that states Eller must score whenever he plays Montreal. 

Stat of the game

The Caps are the best team in the league with the goalie pulled. Their eight goals with the extra attacker are the most in the NHL.

Quote of the game

Shockingly, Dillon did not step into the lineup and just fix the defense in his debut. Todd Reirden stressed after the game that it's not on Dillon, but on the entire team to improve as a five-man unit.

"He’s not going to solve all of our problems at the front of the net. So, that’s a group effort and whether that’s a low forward in that situation, whether that’s both of our D, whatever it is, we’re going to have to find people that can clear that area out and those will be the people that are playing in those situations. That’s an area we need to improve on, there’s no doubt about that. That’s winning hockey in this league over the long term in the regular season and certainly in the playoffs.”

Fan predictions

Well, he was on the ice for three of Montreal's goals, but that's probably not what you meant.

Um...maybe eventually. For this game, however, you could not have been more wrong.

Hey! That's a win, right?

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Watch T.J. Oshie teach his daughter Lyla how to ride a bike

Watch T.J. Oshie teach his daughter Lyla how to ride a bike

Despite the circumstances, the past few weeks have been an exciting time for the Oshie family.

Just over two weeks ago, Capitals forward T.J. Oshie and his wife, Lauren, welcomed their third child into the world, Campbell.

But on Sunday, it was the couple's oldest child, Lyla, that stole the show.

Lyla, who just turned six last month, accomplished something that she will remember for years to come: learning how to ride a bike.  

How adorable is that?

As Lyla bikes up the driveway, T.J. is a step behind her, making sure she doesn't fall. The Caps winger had an ear-to-ear grin on his face, such a proud dad.

With the NHL season on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, hopefully more Papa Oshie content comes as a result.


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Braden Holtby sets franchise record for shutouts in blowout simulation win over Panthers

Braden Holtby sets franchise record for shutouts in blowout simulation win over Panthers

The Capitals got plenty of offense in the latest NHL 20 simulation, but they didn't need it as Braden Holtby turned aside 36 shots to become the team's all-time shutout leader in a  5-0 blowout of the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Result: Caps 5, Panthers 0

1st period

1-0 Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson

2nd period

2-0 Caps goal: Nicklas Backstrom from Nick Jensen and T.J. Oshie

3-0 Caps goal (power play): Jakub Vrana from T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom               

3rd period

4-0 Caps goal: Brenden Dillon from Evgeny Kuznetsov

5-0 Caps goal: Tom Wilson from Alex Ovechkin and Brenden Dillon

How the Caps won

1. Fast start

What kind of a game was this going to be? We found in just 61 seconds as Kuznetsov wasted no time to get the Caps the lead. Washington would lead the rest of the way.

Carlson charged the blue line to keep a loose puck from getting out of the zone. He passed it up to Ovechkin who made a quick backhand pass to Kuznetsov in the slot to score the goal.

2. Possession

Florida somehow recorded 36 shots on goal, but did they ever really have possession of the puck in this game? It didn't feel like it. The Panthers had trouble defending against the Caps' offense as they struggled to keep the puck out of the defensive zone and struggled to get it out once it got there.

Florida also had no answer for Washington's physicality. The Caps threw their bodies around all game long to separate the Panthers from the puck and Florida just took it.


3. A long-awaited shutout

It's been a long time coming. Holtby had not recorded a shutout all season long and finally got one in the final game of the regular season with 36 saves. The shutout is the 36th of Holtby's career, which gives Holtby the most in franchise history, moving him one ahead of Olie Kolzig. Or it would have of course if it was not a simulation.

In the few opportunities in which Florida did manage to keep the puck long enough to set up its offense, Holtby was there and gave the Panthers no daylight with which to shoot on. 

Next game

This was the final game of the regular season. Check back with NBC Sports Washington for a simulated playoff.

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