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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Coyotes 3, Caps 1

Caps suffer first regulation loss to Pacific foe in nearly a year, Ovechkin dry spell continues despite spate of chances, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Spinning Wheels - When the Caps defeated the Canadiens in Montreal on Jan. 27 in their first game following their midseason break, it gave them a four-game winning streak, their fourth streak of four or more straight wins this season. But in the three weeks since then, the Caps have been unable to find any traction.

With a 3-1 loss to the Coyotes in Arizona on Sunday, Washington is now 4-5-0 since that midseason respite, and the Caps have been unable to string together even two straight wins since then. The Capitals are 10-9-0 in their last 19 games, dating back to late December.

For just the second time in their last 10 games, the Caps held the opposition off the scoreboard in the first period. But Washington didn't generate any offense in the first either, and for the fifth straight game, the Caps yielded the game's first goal, a Christian Dvorak tally at 7:06 of the second.

Carl Hagelin got that one back for the Caps just before the second intermission, but Phil Kessel's power-play goal - with just three seconds remaining on Michal Kempny's tripping minor - restored the Arizona lead early in the third, and Washington wasn't able to rally for another of its patented late rallies.

Caps goalie Braden Holtby had a second straight strong start, stopping 27 of 29 shots, and he deserved a better fate. The Caps have been better in their own end on this trip, but Holtby still had to make three or four excellent saves from in tight to cover up some loose play with the puck from his teammates.

"It's something that just doesn't come overnight," says Holtby. "It's one of those things you've got to just keeping work at, and trying to be on the same page - all of us - and if we're going to be able to do that, then usually offense comes from that."

Video: Reirden Postgame | February 15

Dry In The Desert - Just over 14 years ago, Ovechkin scored "The Goal" against the Coyotes in Glendale. That tally was his second of that Jan. 16, 2006 game, the first he ever played in this building. But since then, this has been a tough town for Ovechkin.

The Caps captain went through his next seven games in Arizona without finding the back of the net, a streak that finally ended last season when Ovechkin notched an empty-netter in the waning seconds of Washington's 4-2 win here on Dec. 6, 2018. That empty-netter is his only goal in this building in nine games here since scoring "The Goal."

Ovechkin pulled the trigger on 16 shot attempts in Saturday's game, getting eight of them on net. Arizona blocked five of his shots, and three others missed the net, including one that rang the goalpost.

"Sometimes it just goes in," says Ovechkin. "Sometimes it hits the post or you miss a wide open net or pretty good chances. You just have to stick with it. Obviously, I would be pissed if I didn't have any chances, but it's okay. It's gonna come."

Still two goals shy of becoming the eighth player in NHL history to reach the 700-goal plateau, Ovechkin is now without a goal in four straight games for the first time this season.

"He's getting himself into some good spots and that's really the least of my concerns," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "He hits posts, he has a couple plays that are just bouncing off guys on the way in. Like I said, he's getting himself into some scoring areas which is the key for him. For me, it's more about our team just being able to help him out and try to be able to produce a little bit more through our four lines."

Fallow At Fives - The Caps managed 37 shots in Saturday's game, but didn't generate much in the way of dangerous scoring chances or second chance opportunities. The one goal they did manage to score came on one of those rare second chances; Hagelin put back the rebound of a Travis Boyd shot with 2:50 left in the second period, tying the game at 1-1 at that juncture.

"[Coyotes goalie Antti] Raanta was pretty good," says Hagelin. "I think overall it was a lot of one and done. We got some good looks but we didn't have enough sustained pressure in the offensive zone. We're a team that when we're at our best we're getting the pucks deep, creating a lot of looks from in-zone play and we didn't do that tonight."

Washington is averaging 3.5 goals per game this season, fourth most in the NHL, and not far behind league-leading Colorado (3.56). The Caps have scored 133 goals at 5-on-5 this season - sixth in the league - but they've managed only five goals at 5-on-5 in their last four games.

Video: Postgame | February 15

Light Of The Pacific - Saturday's loss to Arizona was Washington's first regulation loss to a Pacific Division opponent in almost exactly a year, since the Caps lost to the Ducks in Anaheim on Feb. 17, 2019. The Caps went 11-0-3 against Pacific foes in between those two regulation losses nearly a year apart.

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears dropped a 4-2 home ice decision to the Binghamton Devils on Saturday night at Giant Center, losing the second half of a home-and-home set after also falling to the Devils a night earlier in Binghamton.

Matt Moulson staked the Bears to an early 1-0 lead with his 19th goal of the season on a Hershey power play at 1:44 of the first. Christian Djoos and Philippe Maillet assisted on what would be the only goal of the first period.

Binghamton struck twice in the first seven minutes of the second to take a 2-1 lead, and Maillet tied it up with his 13th goal of the season at 11:31 of the second. Moulson picked up the solo helper on Hershey's second goal of the night.

In the third period, the Devils took a 3-2 lead with 5:30 remaining, and they salted awy theur second win over the Bears in as many nights with a late empty-netter.

Vitek Vanecek made 34 saves in a losing effort in the Hershey nets, falling to 14-10-1 on the season.

The 31-16-3-3 Bears conclude a busy weekend of three games in as many days on Sunday afternoon when they host the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Giant Center.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays won a 4-3 overtime decision on Saturday night, prevailing over the visiting Greenville Swamp Rabbits at North Charleston Coliseum. Two days after he was reassigned to South Carolina from Hershey, defenseman Ed Wittchow won it in overtime for the Stingrays.

Cole Ully, Andrew Cherniwchan and Tom Parisi, respectively, scored South Carolina's first three goals. Parker Milner stopped 24 shots in the South Carolina nets to improve to 17-3-2-1 on the season.

The 37-10-3-1 Stingrays are back in action on Sunday when they travel to Jacksonville to face the Icemen.

By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 25:45 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with eight shots on net and 16 shot attempts … Tom Wilson led the Capitals with seven hits … Jonas Siegenthaler led Washington with three blocked shots.

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