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Caps let late lead slip, Kuznetsov scores in his return, more

by MIke Vogel @VogsCaps /

Déjà Vu - The Caps dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to Dallas on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena, and if the feeling was familiar, it shouldn't be surprising. Washington entered the third period of Tuesday's game with a 2-1 lead, but couldn't hold it, and the Caps needed a last-minute Nicklas Backstrom goal to force overtime and secure a single standings point.

A similar scenario unfolded three nights earlier in Washington's home opener. In that one, the Caps let a 2-0 third-period lead slip through their fingers in a 3-2 overtime loss to Metro Division rival Carolina.

And finally, the last time the Dallas Stars visited the District - in early November of last season - the Caps lost a 4-3 overtime decision in which all four Dallas goals came via gift-wrapped turnovers. The mistakes weren't as egregious in Tuesday's loss, but there were still some similarities.

All four of Washington's games this season have been decided by a single goal, and three of them have gone to overtime. In letting a couple of late leads slip, and ultimately losing both games in overtime, the Caps left a couple of points on the table in their first homestand of the season.

"Certainly when you're not able to get those extra points, they come back to hurt you by the end of the year," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "It's early in the season and you are deciding on your personnel that work well in those situations, and we'll just continue to give different players an opportunity. Until we find a formula that works for us, there will be competition for who is out there at the end of the game."

Washington turned in a terrific first period, but managed to forge a lead of just 1-0 after that initial frame, and the Stars pulled even on a Caps turnover in the second minute of the second period. Tyler Seguin capitalized on another Washington turnover to score the game-winner in overtime.

On the plus side, the Caps have earned at least a point in four straight games (2-0-2) at the outset of the season, doing so for the first time since 2016-17 (3-0-1).

Back In The Saddle Again - After serving a three-game NHL suspension, Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov drew back into the Washington lineup for Tuesday's game, making his 2019-20 season debut in the middle of a line with Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik.

"It felt pretty nice," says Kuznetsov of being back on the ice with his teammates. "I'm just sad we did not get the results two games in a row in overtime. That's the thing we have to grow in. We did not execute some power plays, and that's on us. I think that after the first period, we kind of lost momentum and it never came back."

Kuznetsov wasted little time in making his presence felt, scoring the game's first goal on his second shift of the night. After taking a somewhat broken pass - it was intended for Panik -- from Jonas Siegenthaler, Kuznetsov heeled a backhander to the top shelf to give the Caps a 1-0 lead at 4:49 of the first.

"You know I never care about goals," says Kuznetsov. "I would rather have a win and be happy tomorrow than that goal. But that's kind of nice. I'm not going to lie. It's nice to score right away, especially for me. I never focus on that, and I have to respond right away."

Although the Caps went 0-for-5 with the extra man, Kuznetsov's return to the power play unit was a positive development, and Washington had better looks and chances and more time in the offensive zone in his first game back in action.

First Glimmer - The Stars came into town as a fairly banged up group, with six players missing from their lineup. Forwards Jason Dickinson and Blake Comeau were both lost in the Stars' season opener against Boston last week, necessitating the recall of a pair of 2016 Dallas draftees, Nicholas Caamano and Rhett Gardner. Those two and 29-year-old journeyman forward Justin Dowling comprised the Stars' fourth line for Tuesday's game, and all three players went into the contest seeking their first NHL goals.

Just past the midpoint of the third period, Caamano netted his first NHL goal on a pretty play that gave the Stars a 3-2 lead. After the puck rattled around the gloves of Caps defenseman John Carlson and forward Carl Hagelin near the Washington line - some Caps believed the play should have been whistled dead for a hand pass - Tyler Seguin bumped it to Andrew Cogliano, who in turn sprang Caamano into the Washington zone. He went wide around Carlson, took the puck to the cooker and tucked it between Holtby's pads at 12:03 of the third.

Naturally, Caamano was pleased to have scored his first goal in the league, and the Stars were thrilled with the timing of the tally. A regulation loss on Tuesday would have left them staring at their worst start since 1988-89.

"Definitely a surreal moment," says Caamano. "You could see by my celebration. I was really happy, and I'm even more happy that we got the win there. It's nice to get out of the rut there and get one like that, a nice character win. So it was good."

"He's just a relentless hockey player," says Dallas coach Jim Montgomery of Caamano, who scored his first goal in his third game in the league. "He uses his speed, he plays to his strengths. Speed, physical, and he attacks the net, and he is very responsible in his own end. He is a good young hockey player for us."

By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 25:56 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on net and 11 shot attempts … Playing his first NHL game since Dec. 29 of last year, Tyler Lewington led the Capitals with four hits … Carlson led the Caps with four blocked shots … Lars Eller won 11 of 15 face-offs (73 percent).

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