January 23, 2020

Washington Capitals Game 46 Recap: Penalties turn the tide as Caps fall to Oilers

Less than two minutes into the game, the Washington Capitals’ two-game skid was already a distant memory. By the game’s end, it was the only thing on everyone’s mind.

Alex Ovechkin scored twice in the opening frame. including one in the first two minutes, but the Caps gave up three separate two-goal leads to the Edmonton Oilers before falling 5-4 in a shootout.

The Oilers’ struggles this season have been well documented and it became clear early these two teams were just on different levels. Ovechkin drew an early penalty then retreated to the blue line and rifled home a slap shot into the top shelf on the delayed call, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead just 1:48 into the game.

Ovechkin struck again about 12 minutes later on the power play, earning his second goal of the night before Edmonton could even register their second shot on goal.

As dominant as the Caps looked early, however, penalties turned the tide of the game. A power play goal with just four seconds remaining in the second period brought Edmonton within one and the Caps’ six penalties kept them from finishing off the Oilers early.

Despite the fact that Washington killed five of Edmonton’s six penalties, the frequent penalties derailed the Caps’ offense and fueled the Oilers’ momentum.

“When you control a game 3-1 and you take a lot of penalties, which is kind of a common theme for us these days; we just didn’t manage the game well,” said Brooks Orpik. “Certain times of the game, certain times of the period you just have to be a little smarter.”

As the ice began to tilt in favor of Edmonton, the Caps saw their two-goal lead in the third period fade away as the Oilers tied it with their goalie pulled and just over a minute remaining in regulation on a bad angle shot that slipped through goalie BradenHoltby.

Notes:

  • People like to circle games against teams like Pittsburgh and the Rangers and label them ‘big’ games, but in reality, the games against bad teams are more important. At the end of the season, teams who miss the playoffs are always left counting the points they left on the table in games they should have won. Good teams are able to get points against the teams they are supposed to beat. That is a sentiment Barry Trotz echoed after the game. “Maybe we don’t make the playoffs. I said to the guys, ‘Maybe we don’t make the playoffs.’ There are some good teams, and maybe we don’t make the playoffs. There’s a point we gave away.”
  • Caps fans may feel like Holtby was an all-star snub, but his exclusion from the festivities this weekend is a blessing in disguise. Holtby has played in 40 games this season, second only to New Jersey’s Cory Schneider. Trotz simply cannot continue playing him at this pace or he won’t have anything left for the playoffs. Even tonight there were a few goals I one could characterize as soft that Holtby should have saved. He has earned a break and a few days to relax will be very beneficial given how much he has been leaned on in recent weeks.
  • Ovechkin scored his 26th and 27th goals of the season, pulling him just one goal behind the league leading 28 goals scored by Tyler Seguin and Rick Nash.
  • Ovechkin broke the goal cam with his second goal. That’s always fun to watch.
  • Penalties continue to be an issue for the Caps. Edmonton may have only managed one power play goal, but the six opportunities the Caps gave the Oilers kept them in the game. The Caps were clearly the better team five on five. If they stay out of the box, they would have cruised to the easy win.
  • This was the Caps’ last game before the All-Star break. Their next game is on Tuesday Jan. 27 at Columbus.
About J.J. Regan

J.J. Regan is a contributor to District Sports Page. He also is a college football and NHL blogger for CSNwashington.com and CSNbaltimore.com and has a master's degree in interactive journalism from American University. Regan follows all DC sports but focuses mainly on the the Caps and college football. You can view his online portfolio at regansports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

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