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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Habs 5, Caps 2

Caps' point streak stopped at 13 in loss to Canadiens, team plays with rare 7/11 alignment, Lewington sees time on wing, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Streak Stopped - Washington carried an impressive 13-game point streak (11-0-2) into Friday night's home game against the Montreal Canadiens, the front end of a set of back-to-back games. But the Caps will wake up Saturday in Boston looking to start a new streak against the Bruins, because the Habs halted their streak at 13 with a 5-2 victory.

 

Friday's loss is the first regulation setback the Caps have suffered in more than a month, since a 6-3 loss to Colorado on Oct. 14. It's also the first regulation loss Washington has taken at the hands of an Eastern Conference opponent this season (7-1-1).

The Caps extended their point streak to 12 on Monday in a 4-3 shootout loss to Arizona, a game in which they dug out of a 3-0 second-period hole to force overtime. They bumped the streak to 13 on Wednesday in Philadelphia, when they eked out a 2-1 shootout win over the Flyers, despite being outplayed for much of the game's final 45 minutes.

Washington skirted its way through the first frame of Friday's game even at 0-0, but came unraveled in the second. Montreal struck for four goals in a span of 8 minutes and 20 seconds to win going away, though the never-say-die Caps came back with a pair of third-period strikes to make it interesting.

Montreal played a strong road game, but the Caps didn't help themselves much, either. Their decision-making was lacking at times, as point shots were often put into the shin pads of Canadiens' defenders, and repeated attempts to stickhandle their way into Montreal ice resulted in turnovers.

"That's obviously not where we want to be," says Washington winger Garnet Hathaway. "We're disappointed in how we came out tonight, But obviously there haven't been a lot of games like that. We had some structure breakdowns, we gave up a lot of Grade A [chances] tonight, which isn't really our style of play, and you don't normally see that from us.

"We'll watch a lot of video on this, but we've got a quick turnaround, so we've got to learn quick and be ready for [Saturday against Boston]."

Video: Postgame Locker Room | November 15

The Habs teed up 74 shot attempts on the night, getting 40 of them on net, matching the second-highest shot total against Washington this season. The Chicago Blackhawks put 44 shots on Braden Holtby in an Oct. 20 game in the Windy City, a 5-3 Washington victory.

"We knew they were going to be a shot-oriented team," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of the Canadiens. "The first time you see these teams in the year, you get a little feel for what they're doing to have success. Obviously their team has been doing well this year, and a lot of pucks came at the net, so we knew it was coming. We let people get behind us, and our awareness of the game was not where it needed to be."

Winging It - Recalled from AHL Hershey earlier in the day, Caps defenseman Tyler Lewington saw his first NHL action in nearly a month, since Oct. 16. With forwards Nic Dowd and Carl Hagelin unavailable for action because of upper body injuries, the Caps summoned Lewington from Hershey just four days after they sent him to their AHL affiliate.

With Dowd and Hagelin out, the Caps had only 11 healthy forwards. In a perfect world, they would have recalled a forward, but they didn't have enough salary cap space with which to do so. At $675,000, Lewington carries the lowest annual salary cap dent of any player in the Washington organization, so he got the call and the Caps went to work against the Habs with seven defensemen and 11 forwards on their lineup sheet.

Lewington logged 8:24 over 10 shifts on the night. He was occasionally mixed into the blueline rotation, but he also took a few shifts on the wing as well, playing forward for the first time since youth hockey.

"I used to be a center man," says Lewington. "I switched to [defense] when I was 10."

Lewington was credited with three hits and a couple of blocked shots in Friday night's game.

"It can be a struggle at times," admits Lewington. "But I can't complain. Anytime I'm playing a game with the Capitals, I'm happy. I just do whatever they ask me to do."

"We have no worries about him," says Hathaway of Lewington. "He is a hard-nosed guy who will do anything for a team. He was ready to go tonight. He was great at forward."

Seven/Eleven - Playing with seven defensemen and 11 forwards on short notice is never an optimal situation, and for Washington, it's a fairly rare one. The last time we could recall it taking place was in a 2017 Stanley Cup playoff game against Pittsburgh.

"Obviously that's the situation that we have to deal with," says Reirden, "and the parameters for which we could put together a lineup for tonight. That's the [salary] cap world we live in with our team."

Washington's fourth line was missing its center, so Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic played shifts with the other pivots - mostly Evgeny Kuznetsov - and occasionally with Lewington or Chandler Stephenson.

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | November 15

"We can't blame [the loss] on that," says Reirden. "That's extra opportunity for some guys. We did some different looks; it wasn't always Kuzy in that situation. It was in the first, and then we just kind of veered away from it. We wanted to make sure that we were able to use Lewington for a few shifts up front - I thought he did a good job - and then some shifts on the back end, so now our [ice time] numbers are down for [Saturday] going into the back-to-back, and I expect us to be as fresh as we can be going into a three [games] in four [nights]."

"It's just different," says Hathaway. "It's not any more difficult, but it's just a different way to prepare for each shift. We had to be ready, because we mixed and matched a lot of lines tonight. But we still had the right amount of guys dressed for the game, so we can't make any excuses."

Down On The Farm - Two nights after suffering a 1-0 shootout loss to the Baby Penguins in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the AHL Hershey Bears were blanked again on Friday night, this time at home against the Charlotte Checkers. Charlotte handed the Bears a 3-0 loss at Giant Center.

Pheonix Copley had a 29-save shutout in Wednesday's game, and with Vitek Vanecek headed for Washington to make the trip to Boston, Copley was in goal again on Friday against the Checkers. He made 33 saves in taking the loss.

The 7-6-2-2 Bears are back in action on Saturday night when they host the Checkers once again at Giant Center.

By The Numbers - Dmitry Orlov led Washington with 23:32 in ice time, the first time in 21 games this season that John Carlson was not the Caps' ice time leader … Alex Ovechkin and Lars Eller had six shots on net each to lead the Caps, and Ovechkin led the way with nine shot attempts … Tom Wilson led the Caps with five hits … Carlson and Jonas Siegenthaler each blocked three shots to pace the Caps … Nicklas Backstrom won 10 of 16 face-offs (63 percent).

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