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Five reasons the Capitals lost in their return to Vegas

Five reasons the Capitals lost in their return to Vegas

The Capitals' return to Vegas was not quite as triumphant as their last visit to Sin City. Washington ultimately fell 5-3 in a very physical affair Tuesday thanks to a late power play tally from former Cap Nate Schmidt.

Here are five reasons the Caps lost.

Early penalties

Just over a minute into the game, Brett Connolly was called for goalie interference on Marc-Andre Fleury. It looked like he was pushed into the Vegas netminder, but the call was made and it proved costly as Ryan Reaves scored on the resulting power play.

That call? Debatable, but the Caps took two more penalties in the opening frame. Washington was fortunate to escape that period with a 1-1 draw taking three minor penalties. It’s hard to gain much momentum when you’re constantly in the box. Starts were a problem for the Caps even during their seven-game win streak and the fact is they could have taken control of that game early had they stayed out of the penalty box.

Losing Tom Wilson

Reaves and Wilson went after each other in the first period, but things took a turn in the second period when Reaves caught Wilson with a late, blindside hit. Wilson’s head hit the ice hard as he fell and he had to be helped off. He did not return. That was the end of the night for Reaves as well as he was issued a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct.

Since his return from suspension, Wilson has provided a major spark to the Caps and entered Tuesday’s game as the team’s hottest player. Wilson had scored seven goals in the past six games and the team clearly missed him after he was forced to leave the game.

A missed opportunity on the major

Washington held a 2-1 lead when Reaves was issued a major penalty. With five minutes of power play time to work with the Caps got…nothing.

Not only were the Caps not able to convert on the major power play, but the resulting momentum from the kill Vegas received resulted in a two-goal swing. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare tied the game less than two minutes after the penalty expired and Cody Eakin scored just 17 seconds later to give Vegas the 3-2 lead.

Powerless on the power play

The major power play was not the only instance in which the Caps came up short. Of the four power play opportunities Washington had on the night, they were unable to convert in any of them including two minor penalties in the third period.

It was not a case of running into a hot goalie or dangerous setups coming up just barely short, the power play just never looked in-sync. Despite getting 11 minutes of power play time to work with, the Caps’ power play walked away empty-handed for the night.

A late double-minor

With the score tied at 3 in the third period, Nic Dowd battled Brayden McNabb on the forecheck in a race for the puck. As both players neared the end boards, Dowd attempted to lift the stick of McNabb, but he missed and instead caught McNabb right in the face. With the blood gushing, Dowd was booked for four minutes with just 5:14 remaining in regulation.

Washington managed to kill off 3:50 of the double minor but former Cap Nate Schmidt fired a wrister from the high slot that somehow managed to beat the glove of Braden Holtby to give Vegas the lead with 1:24 remaining. Schmidt would add an empty-netter for his second goal of the night to finish off the game.

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How Holtby’s return could help Capitals escape mid-season doldrums

How Holtby’s return could help Capitals escape mid-season doldrums

The Capitals look to rebound from an ugly loss with a road game against the Nashville Predators (8 p.m. NBC Sports Washington). Washington has lost two games in a row and five of eight. The Predators beat the Capitals 6-3 on Dec. 31 at Capital One Arena and has won five in a row over against them.

Here is what to watch for in tonight’s game:  

1. Back to Holtby

After sustaining an eye injury in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Braden Holtby is expected to play against the Predators. The Capitals did not hold a morning skate on Tuesday after traveling following a 4-1 loss at home Monday to the St. Louis Blues. Holtby started last season’s game in Nashville, a 6-3 loss on Nov. 14, 2017 where he allowed four goals in the second period and was pulled from the game. But Holtby still leads the NHL in even-strength save percentage (.939) since Nov. 4 among goalies who have started at least 13 games and it could be time to get him more consistent work – even with backup Pheonix Copley playing well behind him. Holtby has had his rest. If he’s healthy, it might be time to let him carry the weight for a while. 

2. Another Chance for Burakovsky?

There’s constant talk now about the future of Andre Burakovsky, who returned to the lineup Monday after a two-game absence. Caps coach Todd Reirdan was clear about what Burakovsky had to do to stay in the lineup. We’ll see tonight if that happens. Playing on the third line with Brett Connolly and Lars Eller, Burakovsky played just 10:46 against the Blues and was on the ice for a goal against. But he did have three shots on goal and seemed engaged. Burakovsky has been a healthy scratch in six of the past 16 games. 

3. No. 700 for Oshie

One night after defenseman Brooks Orpik played in his 1000th career game, forward T.J. Oshie will reach a milestone of his own with game No. 700. Oshie has been kept off the score sheet the past two games, but had two goals in a Jan. 8 game against the Philadelphia Flyers. 

4. Powering Up

Alex Ovechkin’s power-play goal in the loss to St. Louis on Monday might mean the Capitals are coming around in that area. A struggle for weeks, they at least now have two goals on the man advantage in the past four games. But they have slipped all the way to 14thin the NHL (21.2 percent) so there is work left to be done.

Monday’s game featured much better puck movement by the top unit.   

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How Holtby’s return could help Capitals escape mid-season doldrums

How Holtby’s return could help Capitals escape mid-season doldrums

The Capitals look to rebound from an ugly loss with a road game against the Nashville Predators (8 p.m. NBC Sports Washington). Washington has lost two games in a row and five of eight. The Predators beat the Capitals 6-3 on Dec. 31 at Capital One Arena and has won five in a row over against them. Here is what to watch for in tonight’s game:   

1. Back to Holtby

After sustaining an eye injury in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Braden Holtby is expected to play against the Predators. The Capitals did not hold a morning skate on Tuesday after traveling following a 4-1 loss at home Monday to the St. Louis Blues. Holtby started last season’s game in Nashville, a 6-3 loss on Nov. 14, 2017 where he allowed four goals in the second period and was pulled from the game. But Holtby still leads the NHL in even-strength save percentage (.939) since Nov. 4 among goalies who have started at least 13 games and it could be time to get him more consistent work – even with backup Pheonix Copley playing well behind him. Holtby has had his rest. If he’s healthy, it might be time to let him carry the weight for a while.  2.Another Chance for Burakovsky?There’s constant talk now about the future of Andre Burakovsky, who returned to the lineup Monday after a two-game absence. Caps coach Todd Reirdan was clear about what Burakovsky had to do to stay in the lineup. We’ll see tonight if that happens. Playing on the third line with Brett Connolly and Lars Eller, Burakovsky played just 10:46 against the Blues and was on the ice for a goal against. But he did have three shots on goal and seemed engaged. Burakovsky has been a healthy scratch in six of the past 16 games.  3. No. 700 for OshieOne night after defenseman Brooks Orpik played in his 1000th career game, forward T.J. Oshie will reach a milestone of his own with game No. 700. Oshie has been kept off the score sheet the past two games, but had two goals in a Jan. 8 game against the Philadelphia Flyers.  4. Powering UpAlex Ovechkin’s power-play goal in the loss to St. Louis on Monday might mean the Capitals are coming around in that area. A struggle for weeks, they at least now have two goals on the man advantage in the past four games. But they have slipped all the way to 14thin the NHL (21.2 percent) so there is work left to be done. Monday’s game featured much better puck movement by the top unit.    

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