Costly penalty, early deficit doom Cap­i­tals

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NBA NHL - By Saman­tha Pell

TV: Ra­dio: |

BUF­FALO, N.Y. — The penalty kill has been a con­stant topic of con­ver­sa­tion for the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals this sea­son, an area they can’t seem to avoid.

The team had pos­i­tively ad­dressed it in the re­cent days with its trade ad­di­tions of veteran for­ward Carl Hagelin and de­fense­man Nick Jensen, both con­sid­ered skilled in that sit­u­a­tion. Wash­ing­ton had also found suc­cess in Fe­bru­ary, en­ter­ing Satur­day’s bout against Buf­falo hav­ing killed 26 of 30 penal­ties, which ranked sec­ond in the NHL dur­ing the month.

But once cen­ter Nic Dowd skated to the penalty box for trip­ping late in the sec­ond pe­riod of a 5-2 loss to the Sabres at KeyBank Cen­ter, the penalty kill was again in the spot­light for the wrong rea­son.

With 30.4 sec­onds left in the sec­ond pe­riod and Dowd in the box, Buf­falo de­fense­man Ras­mus Dahlin found the back of the net on the power play to give the Sabres a 3-1 cush­ion. Con­clud­ing its six-game road trip, Wash­ing­ton will head home to face the New York Rangers in a mati­nee game Sun­day at Cap­i­tal One Arena. Wash­ing­ton fin­ished with a 3-3 record on its long­est road trip in more than 15 years.

The Cap­i­tals fell into a 2-0 hole early in Satur­day’s mati­nee with the Sabres open­ing the scor­ing with a wide-open goal by for­ward Ja­son Pom­inville af­ter he re­ceived a no-look pass from for­ward Ja­son Skin­ner. Buf­falo tacked on its sec­ond goal at 12:51 from for­ward Sam Rein­hart, who slipped be­hind the de­fense off a bro­ken play at cen­ter ice to zip one past Cap­i­tals goal­tender Braden Holtby.

Wash­ing­ton’s strug­gles in the first pe­riod tem­po­rar­ily ap­peared to di­min­ish in the sec­ond, with Alex Ovechkin net­ting his NHL-best 44th goal off a speedy break­away 2:28 into the pe­riod. The Cap­i­tals cap­tain ex­tended his goal-scor­ing streak to five games, with six goals in that span. It marked the 13th time in his ca­reer that Ovechkin has recorded a five-game goal streak, the most by any player since his de­but sea­son in 2005-06. He has 30 even-strength goals on the sea­son, a stark con­trast to the 16 he tal­lied two sea­sons ago.

Soon af­ter Ovechkin’s goal, Buf­falo was forced to play with­out Skin­ner, the team’s lead­ing scorer, for the re­main­der of the sec­ond pe­riod af­ter the Cap­i­tals’ newly ac­quired veteran Carl Hagelin was called for trip­ping at the 4:42 mark. Skin­ner ap­peared to badly hurt his left leg and was un­able to walk down the team tun­nel un­der his own power, but reen­tered the game in the third pe­riod.

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