Point Taken – Whether the Caps “deserved” the standings point they got in Sunday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Capital One Arena is debatable. After a fairly even first frame, the Capitals turned in one of their worst periods in recent memory in the second, and almost certainly their worst period of the 165 they’ve played now in the 2017-18 season.
Washington’s second-period performance left it looking up at a 4-1 deficit heading into the third period, but the Caps atoned for their middle period debacle with a three-goal outburst in the third, culminating with Nicklas Backstrom’s clutch tying goal, a six-on-four power-play goal with just 16.7 seconds remaining in regulation.
Tomas Tatar won it for the Wings in the extra session with his second goal of the game, but Backstrom’s goal helped secure a point for the Caps, and they might have gotten another as well – they had the puck more than Detroit did in the nearly three minutes of three-on-three overtime hockey the two teams played.
The Capitals’ fourth line of Jay Beagle between Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly (Connolly was placed on that unit at the start of the third period) spearheaded Washington’s third-period comeback on Sunday. Beagle set up Connolly’s 14
th goal of the season at 2:28 of the third to make it a 4-2 game, and Smith-Pelly and Beagle combined to set up Dmitry Orlov’s eighth of the season at 14:02.
“I don’t know what happened in the second period, to tell you the truth,” says Beagle. “They came at us hard though, and played a hard game the whole game. They played real well. The second period, we didn’t really match their push maybe, I’m not sure. But we definitely came out in the third and were playing angry, and we kind of played our game there. That’s what we want to see all 60.
“The third period is how we’ve got to play. We came back and got a point, but we can’t leave our goalie out to dry, and it’s been happening a lot lately. They’ve been holding us in it and getting us wins, but it’s starting to show now where we just have to tighten down more in our [defensive] zone and watch the odd-man rushes and stuff. It’s something that we’ve been looking at, and the third period is how we’ve got to play, and we’ve got to build on that.”
Powering Up – Backstrom’s power-play goal was Washington’s second extra-man strike of the afternoon; Alex Ovechkin started the scoring with a one-time blast to the short side from his left dot office at 4:20 of the first frame.
The Caps were 2-for-3 on the power play for the afternoon, and they’re firing at a torrid 10-for-28 clip (35.7%) in their last nine games, with seven different players scoring on the power play during that stretch. Washington has moved into the league's top 10 in power play efficiency on the season, currently ranking eighth with a 21.6% conversion rate.
Three Or More – The Caps netted three or more goals for the seventh consecutive contest, the team’s longest such streak of the season. During that span, 14 of the 19 skaters who have dressed in that stretch have found the back of the net. Backstrom and Ovechkin lead the way with four goals each during that stretch, while Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson have each contributed a trio of goals to the cause in the last seven games.
Seven Up – Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov collected an assist on Ovechkin’s power-play goal, marking his seventh straight game with a helper. Kuznetsov carries Washington’s longest assist streak of the season into Tuesday’s game against the Jets in Winnipeg, and he also owns a seven-game scoring streak (two goals, eight assists, which is also the longest scoring run by a Caps player this season.
Thriving In The Third – Connolly’s third-period goal on Sunday was his seventh goal in the final frame of a game this season, third most on the team. Connolly has 14 goals this season, also third on the team behind only Ovechkin (33) and Kuznetsov (15). Connolly is one goal shy of matching his single-season career best of 15 established in 2016-17.
Offense From The Defense – Orlov’s goal matches his single-season career best; he had eight goals in 28 fewer games in 2015-16. Washington’s blueline corps now has contributed a goal in eight of the team’s last 10 games, and it has totaled 25 goals and 94 assists for 119 points in 55 games this season, for an average of 2.16 points per game. That’s the second best rate of blueline scoring contributions for the Caps in the last eight seasons, exceeded only by the 2014-15 Washington defensemen, who averaged 2.22 points per game.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears earned a 3-2 overtime win over the visiting Rochester Americans on Sunday afternoon at Giant Center.
Riley Barber staked the Bears to a 1-0 lead in the first when he netted his 17
th goal of the season on a Hershey power play with help from newcomer Joe Whitney and Travis Boyd.
With the game still tied at 1-1 heading into the late stages of the third period, Rochester took a 2-1 lead on an Eric Cornel goal with just 2:37 remaining in regulation. But Hershey’s Wayne Simpson responded with his 10
th goal of the season with just 2.8 seconds remaining, sending the game into overtime. Barber and Whitney assisted on Simpson’s clutch strike.
At the 1:32 mark of the extra session, Whitney won it for Hershey when he scored his first goal as a member of the Bears, getting help from Barber and Aaron Ness. Hershey netminder Vitek Vanecek stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced to improve to 8-7-1 on the season.
The Bears are now idle until Friday when they travel to Laval to take on the Rocket. At 19-25-3-4 on the season, Hershey remains in last place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division standings.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays dropped a 2-1 overtime decision on the road on Sunday, falling to the Monarchs in Manchester. Taylor Cammarata scored the Stingrays’ lone goal of the game midway through the third, knotting the score at 1-1 and ultimately securing a point for South Carolina.
The Monarchs prevailed in the extra session, leaving Stingrays goalie Jeff Jakaitis (26 saves) at 13-5-2-0 on the season.
The 31-11-5-1 Stingrays are now idle until Friday when they host the Jacksonville Icemen at North Charleston Coliseum. South Carolina occupies second place in the ECHL’s South Division standings, five points behind Florida.
By The Numbers – Carlson led the Caps with 24:02 in ice time … T.J. Oshie led the Capitals with four shots on goal while Ovechkin led the way with 10 shot attempts … Devante Smith-Pelly had five hits to lead Washington … Lars Eller led the Caps with four blocked shots.