Caps give away game to Senators, lose in OT 3-4

The Capitals’ five-game win streak was snapped tonight at home by the Ottawa Senators. Owing to an inconsistent attacking game and even worse overall puck management, the Capitals were clearly not the better team this night. Darcy Kuemper’s performance kept them in the game but repeated turnovers at crucial times doomed them to the loss. A botched play in the overtime session eventually sealed the loss.

The opening period saw the home team fall behind in shots as the Senators quickly established a strong forechecking game. The Capitals were not helping their own cause as they had all kinds of problems exiting their own zone. Fortunately they escaped the period with no goals for or against depite being terribly outshot 16-4.

The second period saw five goals scored by both teams. Alex Ovechkin opened the game’s scoring with a goal at 1:15 from its start. After a botched line change by the Senators, Erik Gustafsson found him alone at the Ottawa blue line. He wired a stretch pass from his own zone. Ovechkin skated in and snapped in a shot above Cam Talbot’s stick side for the goal. Just over two minutes later at 3:37, Dylan Strome fired his seventh goal into the short side top shelf area. He was fed by a pass from Conor Sheary who had skated in at the right faceoff circle.

Ottawa defenseman Jake Sanderson scored at 8:30 after firing a point shot that deflected off Gustafsson’s knee. Evgeny Kuznetsov answered for the Capitals at 15:56 with his sixth of the season. After Nick Jensen forced a turnover at the red line, Kuznetsov carried the puck into the Senators’ zone with Ovechkin on his wing. Ovechkin went so far as to raise his stick as if to accept the pass and shoot the eventual one-timer–except that Kuznetsov held onto the puck. Kuznetsov actually carried the puck into the right faceoff circle then the slot and fired the wrister between Talbot’s legs.

The final goal of the second period was touched with controversy. Tim Stützle scored on a backhand shot after the puck was recovered by Claude Giroux on a turnover by Trevor van Riemsdyk. Seconds before however, Giroux had appeared to trip Kuemper while skating through the goal crease, but no penalty was called on the play. The goal was scored sixteen seconds before the end of the period.

The Capitals continued to have trouble forcing the attack in the third period which would eventually cost them. Only six shots on net were recorded by DC’s hockey team for the entire period. Alex DeBrincat would eventually score from another costly turnover. Kuznetsov attempted a toe drag move that was picked off by Drake Batherson. DeBrincat recovered the puck and rushed it toward the other end. A quick give-and-go play was set up with Shane Pinto and DeBrincat as they gained the zone. Nick Jensen was the only defender back to cover but was unable to block the pass. Pinto was able to flip the puck back to DeBrincat who put in the snapper at 14:26 to tie the game.

DeBrincat would benefit from another turnover in the overtime period. Kuznetsov bumped into Dimitry Orlov at the Senators’ blue line. The resulting turnover led to a two-on-none breakaway with Giroux carrying the puck. He tossed it over to DeBrincat who flipped the puck past Kuemper’s right pad to end the game at 1:31 into overtime. The Capitals had not fired a shot on net in the extra session. However, they did come close with a shot by Gustafsson that missed the net.

NOTES—Per the NHL’s official stat sheet, the Capitals finished the game with 15 total giveaways. They also managed 23 shots on goal, their third-worst output of the season. The Capitals’ final game of the calendar year will be at CapitalOne Arena with a 4 PM start time on New Year’s Eve.

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