The Capitals’ losing streak reaches five after losing 3-1 to Red Wings


Washington Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper raised his arms in disbelief after the Detroit Red Wings scored the first goal Tuesday night. It was barely halfway through the first third, but Kümper knew how ominous the moment was. It was defender Trevor van Riemsdyk who fell on top of Kuemper as the puck ripped through him, but he was still facing in the direction of an umpire. No call came. On the bench, a few Washington players bowed their heads. Their trainer, Peter Laviolette, paced behind them.

It had happened again. For the fifth straight game, the Capitals had given up the first goal and were forced to watch the game. And for the fifth straight season, Washington lost, this time 3-1 at Capital One Arena to give another conference opponent a head start in the playoff chase as the Capitals fell further behind.

“We’re moving down here in the season in terms of games left,” Laviolette said, “and we have to find a way to win those games, not lose them.”

Washington, who have lost five straight games for the first time since January 2014, entered the night at a crossroads: After four straight losses, the Capitals had seen teams overtake them in the Eastern Conference wildcard chase. A crucial phase began Tuesday that could determine the direction in which the franchise goes as the March 3 trading deadline nears. Would the team still have enough footing to be a buyer in the postseason? Or would further setbacks make it want to sell?

A game against Detroit, which started the day just two points behind Washington in conference standings, gave the Capitals an opportunity to pull back despite playing a fourth straight contest without their captain Alex Ovechkin, who is absent from the team after his father’s death. It felt like a game to win, and Laviolette tinkered with his strategy in search of a spark. moving players on his forward linesrearranges his defending pairs and shuffles his powerplay units.

Nevertheless, Washington could not avoid giving up the first goal. When van Riemsdyk and Red Wings striker David Perron pushed in the goal area, defender Robert Hagg shot through Kümper to make it 10:16.

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Blood dripped from TJ Oshie’s chin after he counter-checked to the face from Detroit captain Dylan Larkin later in the period. Oshie landed on the ice and the crowd booed. A coach ran out with a white towel and Larkin was ejected.

Oshie eventually got up and took his place on Ovechkin’s normal spot on the power play, but the five-minute man advantage started disastrously. The Capitals gave up two shorthanded rushes in the first 99 seconds, including one that led to a wrister from Pius Suter, who ran up a defender’s bat and crushed Kuemper in a top-flight fashion to give the Red Wings a 2-0 lead, with 5:38 left .

Washington later scored on the power play when Tom Wilson deflected a shot from the point into the net to make it 2-1 at 4:03, but finding offense was a grind for the rest of the evening.

Oshie pulled a trip call early in the second half, but Washington’s power play couldn’t find the equalizer. There were good chances generated by the fourth row, centered on which was Nic Dowd, who returned after missing 12 games with a lower body injury. But Washington still played hesitantly early, missing a number of looks at the net and producing just 12 shots on target early in the third period before finishing on 27. It didn’t help that Detroit blocked 28 shots.

“We push, push, push then you hate to see it don’t you? They make a mistake or someone makes a mistake or they get a jump, and it’s in the back of your net,” Dowd said. “Sometimes it’s a bit sobering because I think we pushed pretty hard tonight.”

Players up and down the lineup try to break out of dips. Lars Eller, who switched back to the wing with Dowd, has not scored in 21 games. Conor Sheary has netted just once in 22 games. Sonny Milano has scored just one goal in 17 games. Anthony Mantha has gone 15 games without a goal but his night was abandoned; He left the second third with an upper body injury and was evaluated after the game.

“There’s a couple of guys when they come back on the bench when they’re making their shot or making their game [and] it’s not happening, you can see their frustration,” Laviolette said.

While Washington’s offensive problems continued, capitals in their own zone also burned. Defenseman Nick Jensen attempted to clear a puck in mid-ice to center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who attempted to pass the puck before receiving the pass. It bounced off his racquet and slid into the slot to Suter, who beat Kümper for a second time to make it 3-1 at 6:24 of the third period.

Laviolette’s team wore the same special white uniforms they donned in an embarrassing 4-1 loss to Carolina in an outdoor Stadium Series game three nights earlier. “Anything would have been better than the previous game. It wasn’t good,” said Laviolette, who could at least take comfort on Tuesday that his team played with “the right intentions”. But for the fifth time in 10 days the result was the same.

“We fell behind and couldn’t get that lead,” he said. “It’s frustrating for everyone.”

Here’s what else you should know about losing the capitals:

Dowd completed his first full practice in six weeks just a day earlier but was able to center the fourth line and shift Eller to the wing. Laviolette also brought Milano down the left wing in the top row to play alongside Kuznetsov and Wilson.

To make room for Dowd, Washington traded forward Aliaksei Protas to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears.

Jakub Vrana, a member of the 2018 Washington Stanley Cup champion team, was back in the district with the Red Wings and received a first-half ovation after a tribute video. He submitted two shots on goal in 11:31.

It was Vrana’s first NHL appearance since he was accepted into the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program in October. After his return to hockey in December, Vrana played with Detroit’s AHL affiliate. Tuesday’s game was the first time he played in Washington since he was traded to Detroit in April 2021 with Richard Panik and two draft picks for Mantha. The Capitals’ losing streak reaches five after losing 3-1 to Red Wings


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