Mistake-prone Capitals drop their second straight, falling to Stars in OT.
It was a deflating yet fitting way for Saturday’s Washington-Dallas game to end. Capitals defenseman John Carlson stood behind Washington’s net and passed the puck up the ice. Forward Jakub Vrana stumbled trying to get to it. And then it was picked off by Stars center Jason Dickinson, who spun toward goaltender Braden Holtby and fired for the overtime winner. Another turnover had burned Washington.
Though the Capitals have proved to be resilient this season and never quite out of a game even when they have dug themselves into a hole, the same puck management mistakes continue to hurt them. In the 4-3 loss to Dallas, Washington allowed four goals off turnovers, and while the team played better in the game’s later stages, it still couldn’t overcome its own blunders.
The Capitals (5-4-3) have been wildly inconsistent to start the season, unable to string together consecutive wins. Until Saturday night, they had only lost two straight once. Their games have similarly been a roller coaster, and Washington overcame a two-goal deficit for a second straight game against the Stars (8-5-0). Dallas defenseman Roman Polak was called for interference 6:39 into the third period, giving the Capitals’ top-ranked power-play unit an opportunity to equalize.
Center Evgeny Kuznetsov sneaked a shot over goaltender Ben Bishop’s shoulder, beating him high short side for his sixth power-play goal of the season. He flapped his arms to imitate a bird, a trademark celebration for him. That ensured the game went to overtime, where star Dallas center Tyler Seguin got a penalty shot less than a minute in. Holtby saved it, deflecting the puck away with the tip of his glove. Dickinson decided it with 1:43 left in the extra fame.
After the Capitals’ loss in Montreal on Thursday night, Coach Todd Reirden lamented how Washington hasn’t been able to string together a “60-minute game” to this point in the season. “We’re learning some lessons the hard way right now,” he said that night.
A poor start to Saturday’s game indicated some lessons still ha- been mastered.
The Capitals’ defense has been part of the reason for the slow start. Washington entered allowing 3.82 goals per game, tied for the third most in the league. The same mistakes haunted the team in the first period, when it fell into a 2-0 hole.
After the Capitals’ top line had an extended shift in the Stars’ zone and applied pressure on Bishop, a turnover by defenseman Matt Niskanen resulted in a Jason Spezza breakaway for the game’s first goal. Ten seconds later, Holtby played the puck behind the net and his attempt at ringing it around the glass to a teammate got picked off by Tyler Pitlick, who scored on a wraparound with Holtby scrambling to get back in position.
By the end of the first period, Washington had 11 giveaways to Dallas’s two, and while shots on goal were even, the Capitals had missed the net eight times. On a power play in the last four minutes of the frame, Kuznetsov had a breakaway, but after his shot went wide, he slammed his stick against the boards in frustration.
A perfectly placed shot just 38 seconds into the second period cut the Stars’ lead in half. Nicklas Backstrom unfurled a fluttering puck to beat Bishop high short side. But the Capitals’ puck mismanagement burned them again. Vrana had a turnover behind Washington’s net, and Dallas capiven’t talized with a tic-tac-toe passing play that resulted in a Jamie Benn goal to make it a 3-1 game.
As the Capitals have been bleeding high-danger scoring chances, Holtby’s struggles have mirrored that of his team. He came into Saturday’s game with a 3.60 goals against average and an .887 save percentage, and while he made some impressive stops in a 38-save performance against Montreal on Thursday night, he also allowed the game-winning goal in regrettable fashion with the puck glancing off his glove.
He has historically had trouble against Dallas — in seven career appearances before Saturday, he was 2-4-0 with a 4.06 goals against average and an .865 save percentstraight. age — and after his blunder in the first period, he again ran into some trouble playing the puck behind his net in the second period. In a rush to get back to his net after the Stars nearly pressured him into another turnover, he clipped Blake Comeau with a high stick, putting his team on the penalty kill.
But Washington was able to eventually get into a rhythm. With some impressive hand-eye coordination, forward Brett Connolly tipped a high puck into the net, extending a point streak to three games. He leads the team with eight five-on-five points.
That sparked a rally that netted the Capitals a standings point.
Center Jason Dickinson scored unassisted with 1:43 left in overtime to lift the Stars past the Capitals. Washington has lost consecutive games for the second time this season.