Mis­take-prone Cap­i­tals drop their sec­ond straight, fall­ing to Stars in OT.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY IS­ABELLE KHURSHUDYAN is­abelle.khurshudyan@wash­post.com

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.

JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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.

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