‘Tired of losing,’ Capitals come up short again against the Avalanche

‘Tired of losing,’ Capitals come up short again against the Avalanche

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

The Washington Capitals believe they’re close.

Over their past four games, including Tuesday night’s matchup with the Colorado Avalanche, they played four of the best teams in the NHL, and they left each game feeling as though they were right in the mix most of the way. But after losing to the Avalanche, 6-3, at Capital One Arena, they managed just one win in that daunting stretch. In all, they’ve lost eight of their past nine games (1-6-2).

Believing they’re close, with just 30 games left in the season, may not be enough.

“I think I speak for everyone here: We’re tired of losing hockey games,” said goaltender Charlie Lindgren, who stopped 31 of 35 shots before Colorado found the empty net twice. “I think we have a team in here that’s certainly capable of winning hockey games. We know what our blueprint is, and we’ve been playing some pretty darn good hockey here, especially the last three games. We played to our identity. For us to win, that’s what we’ve got to do. …

“Certainly, we need to start stringing together wins. We’ve really got zero choice. It’s win now or we make our own bed.”

Tuesday’s start was nightmarish for the Capitals (23-21-8). Colorado (33-17-4) entered on a four-game skid, but it jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes.

“I could tell from the start — and this has been a bit of an issue for us all year long. … Us coming off of where we didn’t skate the previous day, I find our puck touches are just — it’s a real struggle,” said Capitals Coach Spencer Carbery, whose team had played Saturday and Sunday. “You saw a lot of situations that we get into where you think something’s going to happen — a two-on-one, three-on-two, here we go — and it’s just not polished.”

Arena spats escalate between Bowser and Leonsis, Youngkin and Va. Dems

On Colorado’s first goal, Ross Colton beat winger Aliaksei Protas up the ice to receive a pass from Miles Wood and skate in alone on Lindgren before firing a shot that sailed past his glove at 2:46. And just over two minutes later, defenseman Devon Toews’s seeing-eye shot from just inside the blue line flew into the net through multiple screens in front of Lindgren.

A week earlier, a nightmarish start against Montreal doomed the Capitals to an ugly loss; they couldn’t rebound from trailing 3-0 early to do much the rest of the way in a 5-2 defeat. Starting poorly against the Avalanche, a much stronger team than the Canadiens, looked to be a one-way ticket to the same fate.

But by scoring two goals 44 seconds apart midway through the period, the Capitals were right back in the game. Winger Beck Malenstyn ended a 15-game goalless drought by finishing a rebound of defenseman Martin Fehervary’s shot at 9:16. That halved Washington’s deficit and set an early tone for Malenstyn and linemates Nic Dowd and Tom Wilson, who were matched up with Colorado’s top line led by Nathan MacKinnon throughout.

Center Connor McMichael ended his own 15-game drought less than a minute later: His attempted centering pass took a fortuitous bounce off a Colorado player in front of the net and got past goalie Alexandar Georgiev (24 saves). After not scoring since Jan. 3 — and after committing the turnover that saddled Washington with an overtime loss to NHL-leading Vancouver on Sunday — McMichael wasn’t overly concerned with the way the puck went into the net.

“It felt good to finally find the back of the net after a little drought there,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean much at the end of the day since we couldn’t come out with the win.”

The Capitals’ quandary: Balancing Alex Ovechkin’s chase with roster realities

The Capitals finished the opening period even with the Avalanche on the scoreboard and slightly ahead in scoring chances. But that was about where the positives ran out. While the Dowd line largely kept MacKinnon’s trio quiet, silencing Colorado’s top players wasn’t enough to quiet the Avalanche.

Artturi Lehkonen, who had the secondary assist on Colton’s first-period tally, put Colorado back in the lead at 8:50 of the second period with a tap-in on a feed from Colton as he crashed toward the back post unmarked. Before the goal, defenseman Ethan Bear collided with linesman Tommy Hughes and then got lost in coverage as he sorted himself out; Hughes left the game for what the NHL called “precautionary reasons.”

Lehkonen proceeded to pick up his third point with a highlight-reel assist to Mikko Rantanen on the power play. At the net front, Lehkonen received the puck from MacKinnon and tapped a no-look backhand pass between his legs to Rantanen, who fired a one-timer past Lindgren to double Colorado’s lead at 17:03.

The Capitals pushed back in the third period. Captain Alex Ovechkin extended his goal streak to six games with a power-play tally at the nine-minute mark to cut the deficit to one, giving him 14 on the season and 836 for his career. But as has become a theme for Washington, the surge came too late to flip the outcome.

Colorado scored twice into the empty net in the final minute — one goal by Lehkonen to complete a four-point game and another by Wood — to cement its victory.

“We’ve been playing some pretty good hockey teams lately, and I think the effort has been there,” McMichael said. “At the end of the day, we’re not winning, and we’re not good enough. The compete’s there, the effort’s there, but we’ve got to start capitalizing on our chances and tighten up on our mistakes.”

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