Despite furious effort, Caps fall to Devils 1-5

DC’s hockey team began their six-game road trip with a visit to Newark New Jersey’s Prudential Center. The Capitals had come off back-to-back wins but their opponents were winners of 14 of their last 15 games. Still, the Capitals came into the game with a measure of newfound confidence that powered them to dominate the game in spurts. Numerous scoring chances came their way but they failed to make good on the majority of them. Jack Hughes scored his first career hat trick, a natural one, propelling the Devils to victory. Former Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek made 37 saves in the nets for the Devils.

The scoring began after a penalty was given to Alex Ovechkin for slashing seven and a half minutes into the first period. Nico Hischier collected a rebound from a Dougie Hamilton point shot and smacked it into the net for the lead goal at 9:04. No further goals were scored in the first period.

At 5:59 of the second period, Lars Eller turned the puck over to Jack Hughes who promptly skated toward the net and banked a shot off Charlie Lindgren’s right pad for the first of his three goals. Hughes’ second goal came on an absurdly sharp angle wrist shot that managed to find th top corner of the net at 9:19.

Hughes completed the hat trick in the third period after an Erik Gustafsson point shot was blocked by Erik Haula who then led a 2-on-1 rush with Hughes. The hats came raining down after Hughes roofed the shot past Lindgren to make it 4-1 at 9:51. Fabian Zetterlund would add yet another goal for the Devils at 14:47. John Carlson would score the Capitals lone goal with a well placed slap shot from the power play point position that hit the top corner of the net at 11:38 of the final period. The goal is his sixth of the season and was the only one of four power play chances the Capitals converted.

Despite the results on the scoreboard, it could be argued that the Capitals were the better team in terms of dictating the play. They did finish the game with 38 total shots on goal with 26 more being blocked by the Devils. They controlled the volume of chances for long stretches in the game, especially in the final two periods. However, as the Capitals had failed to score first they once again found themselves chasing the game–a recipe for disaster for this team all season. The volume of shots seemed impressive on paper, but in reality, the Capitals made Vanecek’s job much easier. For the most part, they placed shots within easy reach. He was also well aided by his defense by the aforementioned 26 blocks. They also admittedly did not take full advantage of their scoring chances by relying mainly on long-distance perimeter shots.

Play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati was heard to say that Vanecek “had a rabbit’s foot in his pocket” meaning he definitely had more than a bit of puck luck on his side. To his credit, Vanecek was also forced to make several acrobatic saves during numerous high-danger scoring chances.

NOTES–Defenseman Dimitry Orlov remains on the injured list. Reports indicate that he may join the team at some point n the road trip, but details are not available at this time. The Capitals continue their road trip Tuesday the 29th crossing the border to Vancouver to face the Canucks. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 10 PM ET.

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