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Wild tame the Caps as Washington fails to add to their division lead

Wild tame the Caps as Washington fails to add to their division lead

WASHINGTON – After the Caps and Tampa Bay Lightning treated fans to one of the best games of the season, the Minnesota Wild came to Washington and did just enough to walk away with a 2-1 win on Friday.

The Caps were able to fire 58 shots on goal against the Lightning, but managed only 22 against Minnesota, easy pickings for Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. With the loss, Washington was unable to add to its three-point lead atop the Metropolitan Division.

Here are four reasons the Caps lost.

An emotional letdown

Wednesday’s game between the Caps and Tampa Bay Lightning was one of the best, most intense, well-played game of the regular season in the NHL. Friday’s game was…not.

One reason the playoffs are such a grind is because of how much each game takes out of the players emotionally. Washington looked like a team that was still trying to recover from Wednesday’s playoff preview and the emotional letdown led to some pretty rough hockey. Passes were hard to connect, shots were not on target, the puck management was poor, nothing seemed to come easy for the Caps at all.

Perhaps the epitome of the type of night it was for Washington came early in the third period. With the game tied at 1, Tom Wilson came out of the penalty box and was fed an alley-oop breakaway pass by Nicklas Backstrom. The puck, however, never settled for Wilson and when he tried to move to the backhand it simply rolled off his stick. Wilson had a golden opportunity to give Washington the lead, but walked away without so much as a shot on goal.

The power play

The first three power plays of the game all were awarded to Washington, but the Caps failed to convert on any of them. Getting the puck into the zone was a struggle and even when they did get it in, it usually was taken right back after one bad pass and sent in the other direction. The threat of Alex Ovechkin is usually enough to open space on the power play, but that was not the case on Friday. The pass just was not there all night and still Washington tried to force the puck to him at times rather than take advantage of the room that opened up on the right side of the ice.

The Caps managed just as man shots on goal (one) in those three power plays as the Wild’s penalty kill.

Getting caught in the neutral zone

With the puck loose in the neutral zone, Brooks Orpik stepped up to try to get possession. Jordan Greenway swept the puck away from him and then just kept his feet moving to turn the corner around a trailing Tom Wilson. Braden Holtby went down to the butterfly, but Greenway deked around him and buried it into the net. He had plenty of room because Orpik was trailing the play after losing it in the neutral zone and Luke Kunin boxed out Nick Jensen.

Getting caught in the trap

Washington managed to battle back and tie the game at 1 in the second period, but the Wild retook the lead in the third period thanks to a neutral zone trap.

Matt Niskanen had control of the puck and was looking for the breakout. He thought he had Ovechkin open, but Zach Parise stepped up and swept his stick into the passing lane at the last second. Ryan Donato fed it back to Parise and Washington’s breakout was suddenly a 2-on-1 in the other direction.

Neutral zone turnovers are so dangerous because you instantly have gone from offense to defense with no time to get into position. Sure enough, the Wild caught the Caps completely out of position with one defenseman challenging Parise and three red jerseys trailing him meaning there were four Caps players on the right side of the ice and none covering Kunin. Parise found him with the pass and Kunin buried the puck into the top corner for the game-winning goal.

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Trade acquisition Brenden Dillon ‘couldn’t be happier’ to be joining Capitals

Trade acquisition Brenden Dillon ‘couldn’t be happier’ to be joining Capitals

The Capitals made their first significant trade of the season on Tuesday, acquiring defenseman Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2021 third.

Dillon, who’s spent the last six seasons with the Sharks, was emotional Monday night when asked for his thoughts on potentially playing his last game with San Jose. He choked up during his answer and had to walk away from the media scrum to collect himself.

The mood was a bit different Tuesday when Dillon found out he’d be heading to D.C. to play with the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals.

“I’m really excited,” Dillon said. “I can’t wait to get out there. I mean obviously the opportunity, the team, the group, what an opportunity.”

The Capitals have been widely rumored to be seeking a defenseman to bolster their blue line and Dillon was an attractive piece as Washington didn’t have to part with a first-round pick in order to get him. After losing six of their last nine games, the Capitals are looking for a spark—and Dillon can’t wait to help get them back on track.

“It’s been crazy, it really has,” Dillon said. “I think just mentally, guys can say, ‘You don’t read this or don’t read that.’ But it wears on you for sure and I’ve just kinda tried to bring the lunch pail to work every day and do my job. But definitely couldn’t be happier to get going.”

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Looking back at an incredible scrap between Garnet Hathaway and Brenden Dillon, now Capitals teammates

Looking back at an incredible scrap between Garnet Hathaway and Brenden Dillon, now Capitals teammates

It might be a little awkward for Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway when Brenden Dillon walks into the building for the first time.

Back in March of 2018, when Hathaway played for the Calgary Flames and Dillon was a member of the San Jose Sharks, the two engaged in a very even tilt that lasted close to a minute long.

Now, they are teammates.

NBC Sports Washington's Craig Laughlin tweeted out a video of the 2018 fight between the then-Calgary and Sharks players upon hearing the news of Washington's newest addition.

The two were both given five-minute penalties for the fight. The Sharks won that game, 5-1. 

Washington traded for Dillon on Tuesday, hoping to bolster their blue line by adding the physical defenseman. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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