WASHINGTON — The Capitals had their chances. Despite generating three power plays, orchestrating several breakaways and facing a third-string goaltender for 23 minutes, they couldn’t finish enough plays to prevent the San Jose Sharks from picking up a 4-1 win Sunday.
Coming off an impressive win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday, the Capitals couldn’t carry over their success against a Sharks team led by defenseman Erik Karlsson. The 32-year-old has enjoyed a renaissance season in which he’s rediscovered the offensive success of his younger years. Karlsson tallied three points including a third-period goal that iced the game for San Jose.
The Sharks jumped ahead early on a goal by right wing Evgeny Svechnikov and the score held through the first 30 minutes of play. Washington’s possession metrics indicated an unlucky first period of play for the home team, but San Jose stepped up in the second by holding the Capitals without a shot on goal for the first 20 minutes.
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette then decided to abandon his forward lines, pairing up Alex Ovechkin with Evgeny Kuznetsov and cycling through different right wings alongside them. The Sharks dominated puck possession for most of the period until Kuznetsov provided the Capitals with the spark they were looking for.
With just over three minutes left before intermission, he broke into the Sharks’ defensive zone with speed and found enough of an edge to score a wrister up front.
Kuznetsov ran into San Jose goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen on the play, forcing a visit from the trainers. Kahkonen tried to stay in the game but skated off eight seconds into the following shift. The Sharks then turned to Aaron Dell, who they recalled Sunday morning because starter James Reimer was dealing with an illness.
Dell stopped all eight shots he faced from there, picking up the win in just his third appearance of the 2022-23 season. Charlie Lindgren was tabbed with the loss for the Capitals. He made 29 of 32 saves with two goals allowed at even strength before center Tomas Hertl put the game away with an empty netter.
With the loss, the Capitals fell to 28-21-6 but remained one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington will take the day off Monday before hosting the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday as an appetizer for Saturday’s Stadium Series game at NC State.