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Overturned goal proves painful as Capitals’ skid reaches four games

Overturned goal proves painful as Capitals’ skid reaches four games

طوبیٰ Tooba 55 years ago 0 0

The Washington Capitals have spent most of this season playing with a fine margin for error.

Heading into Saturday night’s game at Capital One Arena, Washington had been to overtime or a shootout 11 times in 33 games — and had played 16 games decided by a single goal. It was fitting, then, that not only did the Capitals go to a shootout against the Nashville Predators in a 3-2 loss but that their would-be game-winner late in regulation was wiped away by the finest of margins.

After mustering just two goals in their previous two games while allowing 10, the Capitals entered their final game of 2023 desperate for a bounce-back. Though they gave up the first two goals to the Predators, digging a hole similar to the one they found themselves in Friday on Long Island, Washington responded to tie the score by the end of the second period.

And with just under a minute left in regulation, captain Alex Ovechkin fired a wrist shot that would have been his second goal of the game and could have been the deciding tally. Officially, the puck was ruled to have crossed the goal line at 59.5 seconds, meaning any challenge had to be initiated by the NHL’s situation room in Toronto.

The goal was reviewed for goaltender interference by center Nic Dowd, and it was judged that Dowd had made contact with Nashville goaltender Yaroslav Askarov before the goal.

“Would’ve liked that to have counted,” Capitals Coach Spencer Carbery said. “My opinion on it, I would’ve — from going through tons of reviews, doing a study on it, a project, my personal take is there’s not enough there to overturn. Especially to overturn because that’s where it gets tricky. When it’s called a goal on the ice, it needs to be very, very evident to overturn it. That’s the way that it’s been described to us from the league. In that situation, given that, is there enough there? It’s tight.”

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When the Capitals looked at the goal, their clock showed that the puck crossed the line with just a few milliseconds more than a minute remaining in the game — meaning that a challenge would have been up to the Predators if the clock had stopped then. The goal came on a delayed penalty against Nashville, so if Predators Coach Andrew Brunette had chosen to challenge the goal and been wrong, Nashville would have faced a five-on-three penalty kill in the final minute.

“It goes in at 1:00.8 or something,” Carbery said. “So if it stops, technically, when the puck goes in the net, if the scorer — then they can’t review it in Toronto unless it gets challenged.”

If the Capitals hadn’t dug themselves a two-goal hole in the first seven minutes, though, the fine margin at the bitter end may not have been the deciding factor.

The first period began the way the previous game ended — with the Capitals’ opponent in control. Luke Evangelista took advantage of a rebound in the slot less than three minutes in, scoring from his knees to give Nashville an early lead. The Predators (20-16-1) doubled their advantage just over four minutes later with a power-play goal by defenseman Roman Josi, and Washington seemed to be reeling. At that point, 6:55 in, Nashville had 10 shots on goal to the Capitals’ three.

But winger Beck Malenstyn’s goal at 10:25 gave Washington (17-11-6) a lifeline. Coming down the slot, Dowd fired a shot that Askarov (27 saves) kicked out — directly to Malenstyn at the back door for a tap-in finish into a wide-open net.

“I thought probably the start was not good,” Carbery said. “We get behind the eight ball. And then that middle portion, I really liked a lot of the things that we did sort of once we got down 2-0.”

The Capitals came out for the second period in step with Nashville rather than trailing as they had for much of the first. Washington went on the power play at 12:56 of the second when Evangelista was boxed for holding, but the power play gave more momentum to the Predators’ penalty kill than it did to Washington.

As the power play’s final seconds ticked down, center Connor McMichael entered the offensive zone with speed for one last try. He dished the puck to forward Aliaksei Protas, who found center Dylan Strome at the top of the right circle. Strome spotted Ovechkin in the left circle for a trademark one-timer — and this time, Ovechkin stepped into a full-strength blast that beat Askarov. Ovechkin’s shot tied the score with 5:01 left in the second and made Askarov the 171st goalie he has scored on in NHL his career.

Nashville pushed back after Ovechkin scored, and the Capitals needed a few near-miracle saves by Hunter Shepard (34 saves) to keep the score level heading into the second intermission. With 3:16 left in the period, Shepard robbed Tommy Novak from point-blank range, leaving the Predators stunned.

With both teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back, their fatigue was evident in the third period. The pace slowed, but Askarov and Shepard held strong to make the necessary saves and keep the score at 2-2.

After Ovechkin’s goal was waved off, the Capitals went on the power play for the final minute of regulation and the beginning of overtime but couldn’t capitalize. The Predators pushed the puck — and Shepard — into the net with 1:02 left, but the goal was immediately waved off.

In the shootout, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ovechkin were stopped, but Gustav Nyquist and Ryan O’Reilly scored for Nashville to end it, sending the Capitals into 2024 on a four-game skid.

“It’s obviously frustrating,” Malenstyn said. “You want those to go in. You’re celebrating, you feel like you’ve got it, and it gets swiped away from you. But their job is to make those decisions, and you don’t always have to agree with them. I thought it was a pretty good effort from the group overall.”

Note: Shepard made his third start of the season after being called up from Washington’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, on Saturday afternoon. To clear the roster spot needed to call up Shepard in the wake of goaltender Charlie Lindgren suffering an upper-body injury Friday, the Capitals assigned forward Ivan Miroshnichenko to Hershey. Carbery had said Friday that Lindgren would be out “for the foreseeable future,” but before Saturday’s game he said Washington had gotten positive news, indicating that Lindgren’s injury may not be as severe as feared.

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