By Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press on February 6, 2024.
WASHINGTON (AP) – After falling into a deficit they couldn’t climb out of once again, the Washington Capitals are in danger of digging too deep a hole to preserve their playoff hopes.
Charlie Lindgren allowed three goals on nine shots before getting pulled, and the Capitals lost a fifth consecutive game, 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night. The skid continued despite Alex Ovechkin scoring his 10th goal of the season and 832nd of his NHL career, moving 62 back of Wayne Gretzky’s record.
“We don’t have start like we want,” Ovechkin said. “We make mistakes, and it cost us.”
Nick Suzuki and Juraj Slafkovsky each scored twice and Samuel Montembeault stopped 36 of 38 shots to give the Canadiens a victory in each team’s first game out of the NHL All-Star break.
“It was nothing from perfect,” Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said. “I don’t believe you play a perfect game in this league, but you find a way.”
By the time Ovechkin scored six minutes into the second period, the Capitals were already down three goals. They tilted the ice toward Montembeault for long stretches of time but couldn’t snap out of this rut.
“Could never really battle back,” said Dylan Strome, who had two assists. “You can’t just play one period, in this league, especially.”
Suzuki’s two goals in 57 seconds came early in the game, and when Michael Pezzetta scored 13:07 in, it marked the end of Lindgren’s night despite it not being on him. The first goal resulted from a turnover, the second a bounce off the right post and the third after a teammate lost an edge and fell down in the corner.
“The chances that we give up, it’s the same old story,” coach Spencer Carbery said. “We just make some massive mistakes there that, unfortunately for us, are just happening to different guys each night.”
It didn’t help that the Capitals had three shots on net by the time the Canadiens had three goals. Ovechkin’s goal brought Washington to life, leading to a 16-5 shot advantage in the second period but not another quick goal that would have put the pressure on Montreal.
Instead, Slafkovsky, the Canadiens’ selection with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft, scored twice in the third period, sandwiched around Capitals defenceman Rasmus Sandin’s second goal of the season.
Kuemper allowed the goals to Slafkovsky and made 15 saves in a poorly timed loss for the Capitals, whose upcoming week is a murderer’s row. Their next four opponents – Florida and Boston on the road and Vancouver and Colorado at home – are the top four teams in the league.
“Not a great time to lose five in a row,” Strome said. “We’ve got to get some wins. We’ve got to string some wins together.”
On their longest losing streak of the season, they go into this stretch missing a key player. Evgeny Kuznetsov entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program Monday. He will be away from the team indefinitely while he’s receiving care and can only return when cleared by program administrators.
Canadiens: Host the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
Capitals: Visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday.
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