Caps Winless Drought Extends to Seven Games Entering Break

The Washington Capitals were expected by many experts to have a Stanley Cup hangover of some sorts after winning the Cup and enduring the shortest, quickest offseason for the entire roster. Things were kind of 50/50 at the start of the season, then the team got hot to close out the 2018 calendar year. When that calendar flipped to 2019, that hangover talk resurfaced. The team is having a hard time moving on from the past. 

It’s one thing to struggle moving on from failure- like early playoff exits after a regular season full of promise. But it’s a whole different game when it comes to having to move on from the one greatest success you’ve ever known. Jan. 10 was the last time the Caps have won a game, which was a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins. Since then, things have sputtered out of control. It started with an overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, continued by a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues and a 7-2 thrashing by the Nashville Predators.

Things went from bad to worse. The Caps were shutout by their former coach Barry Trotz, one of the key pieces to their championship run, and the New York Islanders 2-0 in Trotz’s return to D.C. Then came an 8-5 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago. With two games left before John Carlson and Braden Holtby represent the Caps at the All-Star break, the Capitals tried desperately to snap this slide. First up was a home match against the always tough San Jose Sharks and boy were they close. The Caps won the meetings last season but in the past 15 games against San Jose, they’d gone 2-11-2.

If there was any example of a game that was drunk, Tuesday night at Capital One Arena was the place. The Sharks struck first 12 seconds in from Joe Pavelski.

Then the Capitals offense, who struggled for quite a bit during this tough stretch, flipped a switch. At 10:28, Tim Heed was sent to the box for hooking and Alex Ovechkin struck on the power play to even the score 13 seconds later.

Andre Burakovsky has been the subject of potential trade rumors for the last few weeks. With injuries and inconsistent play the last few seasons, many think a fresh start somewhere would be good for Burakovsky.

In front of some scouts up in the press box, Burakovsky scored his sixth goal of the season to put the Caps in front 2-1. Burakovsky’s goal ended a 14-game goal-less drought, his first since Dec. 6 at Arizona.

The Sharks got their first power play opportunity of the night when T.J. Oshie was called for tripping and struck to tie the game thanks to Tomas Hertl. Oshie redeemed himself when he came out of the sin bin though to put the Caps back in front 3-2 with his 15th goal of the season.

The 3-2 lead would be taken into the first intermission. After the breather more craziness ensued. Evaner Kane tied the game for the Sharks 52 seconds into the second period. While Burakovsky had endured a scoring slump, so has Evgeny Kuznetsov after his torrid start to the season. By torrid, I of course mean the hot start he carried over from a successful postseason. Kuznetsov began the season with 13 points in his first eight games
(5 goals, 8 assists) but entering Tuesday’s game had just one goal in 22 games. The goal was his ninth of the season.

Ovechkin added his second goal of the game off  a behind-the-back pass from Nicklas Backstrom with a rifle of a shot. The goal gave the Caps a 5-3 lead.

A celebrity sighting at the game! Bradley Beal was in attendance. The Wizards play the Warriors tonight.

The Sharks pulled within one with a goal by Logan Couture and the second period ended with the score 5-4 Capitals. The third period started out lit with Ovi completing the hatty. He continues to lead the NHL in goals has he got his 34th, 35th and 36th goals of the season.

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Our Twitter King, Chris Cleveland, made the ultimate sacrifice and tossed his 2015 Winter Classic beanie onto the ice…. RIP

D.C. was lit with their team taking a 6-4 lead. It looked like the Caps were on their way to a rare win over the Sharks, though riding a new two-game win streak against them.

The Sharks though jawed back. Midway through the third John Carlson was called for holding, putting San Jose on the man advantage. They struck with a power play goal from Hurtl, his second PPG of the game to make it a one-goal game.

Clinging onto a one-goal lead, the Sharks kept jawing and chomping at the bit. The Caps just couldn’t get that block or clear in time. Evander Kane stunned the red clad faithful at Capital One Arena with a goal with a second left in the game. The Caps were just one second away from a win and breaking the streak. Instead we would go to overtime.

1:48 into the extra second Hertl completed the hat trick to win in overtime. It extended the Caps losing streak to six games, although they did get a point which was the first time they had gotten a point since the overtime loss to the Blue Jackets that began the streak.

Being oh so close to winning, the Caps had one more chance to get a win before the All-Star break as they completed the backend of a back-to-back on a nationally televised Wednesday Night Hockey in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.

The last time the Caps were in Toronto was a special night for Alex Ovechkin, who scored a hat trick and dedicated it to Alex Luey, one of Ovi’s biggest fans who was battling cancer. Read more about that great story here.

Things didn’t start out too well for the captain as he had a collision near center ice with teammate T.J. Oshie. Ovechkin headed to the dressing room for concussion protocol.

There would be no hard feelings between the teammates though.

The Caps got a good chance late in the first period when Patrick Marleau was called for hooking. They struck on the power play with Nicklas Backstrom’s 13th goal of the season at 18:47.

That early 1-0 would be short lived. Less than a minute later Nazem Kadri tied it.

The game would be tied at one after the first period but there was good news for Caps fans. Ovechkin cleared and came back into the game in the second period. He scored 3:51 in to give the Caps a 2-1 lead and he made history on the goal tying Sergei Fedorov for most career points by a Russian-born player with 1,179.

Fedorov and Ovechkin were teammates at one point and Fedorov will always live in Caps fans memories forever with his Game 7 goal that defeated the Rangers, competing a comeback that saw the Caps overcome a 3-1 series deficit.

Then the Maple Leafs took over with four unanswered gals. First from Nikita Zaitsev, then Auston Matthews on the power play. Kadri then completed the hat trick so for two days in a row, we’ve seen hat tricks by three different players.

The Caps got one back with Matt Niskanen’s seventh goal of the season to make it a two-goal deficit and a 5-3 game.

The Caps pulled their goalie Braden Holtby, who started both nights and is joining John Carlson in San Jose this weekend for the All-Star Game, for an empty net. Mitch Marner scored to put it away. The Caps would fall 6-3. Holtby stopped 36-of-43 shots (.837 save percentage) against San Jose, and 31-of-36 shots against Toronto.

Carlson and Holtby head to Cali while the rest of the team will go into a long break. Ovechkin isn’t going to participate in the All-Star Game so by laws from the league, he has to be suspended for one game. He played in Toronto and will serve his suspension next Friday when the Caps return to ice hosting the Calgary Flames.

 

 

 

 

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