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Six The Hard Way

Caps squander late lead as losing slide stretches to six straight in a 7-6 overtime loss to the Sharks on Tuesday

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

The Caps' losing streak stretched to six straight in excruciating fashion on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena when they lost a 7-6 overtime game to the San Jose Sharks. Twice the Caps led this game by two goals, but ultimately, they couldn't get out of their own way.

Alex Ovechkin's 23rd career hat trick goes into the books as a curio; the only Ovechkin hat trick to occur in a Washington loss. Tomas Hertl had a hat trick of his own for the Sharks, scoring the game-winner in overtime to send the Sharks home with two points.

"Yeah, that was a wild one," says Sharks coach Pete DeBoer. "It was like the All-Star Game five days early - the East Coast version of the All-Star Game. I don't know what even to say. We'll take it; we needed it, and I'm sure they're saying the same thing."

Among other things, yes.

Hertl's hat trick is the third the Caps have allowed in their last four games, and Washington has now been dented for 30 goals against during the life of its current six-game slide (0-4-2).

"That was not Washington Capital hockey," says Caps coach Todd Reirden, clearly beyond miffed at his team's recent performance. "Going chance for chance against a team that has that kind of firepower, that's not going to win in the long run, and we learned a hard lesson on that again tonight, because that's not acceptable and that's not going to work in the long run, no way."

When Ovechkin scored at 5:52 of the third period, the Caps owned a 6-4 lead against a team that played the night before and that entered the game with a three-game slide of its own. From there, the Caps should have been able to nail it down, but they could not.

Washington leads the NHL with minor penalties, and the Caps were guilty of six more of those on Tuesday. When John Carlson went off for holding at 8:49 of the third, the Sharks took advantage, as Hertl netted his second power-play goal of the game to make it a 6-5 contest with 9:58 remaining.

The Caps nursed that lead down to the last few minutes of regulation, failing to finish on a few prime scoring chances that could have padded that cushion in the meantime. In the final half minute, Ovechkin came into possession of the puck in neutral ice, and put a hurried shot toward the general area of the vacated San Jose net. But Sharks defender Brett Burns blocked that bid, and he sent the Sharks into Washington ice for one last bid at a tying goal.

With a second or less on the clock, Evander Kane scored the game-tying goal as the Caps were outnumbered down low, and the Sharks winger had an easy tap in from the paint that beat the buzzer, tying the game at 6-6 and sending it to overtime.

"Not a lot of time left," recounts Kane. "I just wanted to forecheck the puck hard and try to get it to the front of the net somehow. I got in there, [Pavelski] was able to pick it up, and I threw it at the net - just a desperate attempt - and it found its way to the back door."

"With a second left, we got outnumbered four to two in front of our net," says Holtby. "Pucks go in that way. You've got to play right through, right to the buzzer, and it burnt us today. It's a lesson learned."

At the time of Kane's goal, Ovechkin had been on the ice for just over two minutes and Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie had both been out for more than a minute and a half.

In overtime, the Caps had a slew of early chances but weren't able to finish them, or the game. San Jose went all in during the extra session, going with three forwards, and the gambit paid off when Hertl completed his hat trick and ended the game at 1:48.

Tuesday's game got off to an inauspicious start for the Caps. Just seven seconds after opening puck drop, the Caps were guilty of icing. San Jose won the ensuing draw in Washington's end, and Joe Pavelski tipped Burns' point shot past Braden Holtby to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead just a dozen seconds into the contest.

Just after the midpoint of the first, the Caps got even. On a Washington power play, Backstrom won a face-off in San Jose ice, and Ovechkin put back a pinballing rebound of an Oshie shot just 13 seconds into the man advantage.

Ninety seconds later, the Caps had their first lead in over a week. Chandler Stephenson collected the puck in neutral ice, then re-entered the San Jose zone with speed. He dropped it for Andre Burakovsky, who expertly used Sharks defender Justin Braun for a screen and ripped a wrist shot from the left dot to the top far corner at 12:11.

The Sharks got that one back on a power play just over two minutes later. From the inside of the left circle, Hertl finished a tic-tac-toe passing sequence, beating Holtby off a crisp feed from Pavelski from the goal line to make it a 2-2 game at 14:27.

It was the Caps' turn to respond, and they did so less than a minute later, retaking the lead at 3-2 when Oshie took a pass from Ovechkin and scored on a two-on-one rush at 15:19.

Washington killed off the remainder of a carryover power play at the outset of the second, but San Jose tied it seconds after the expiration of that extra-man chance. The Caps couldn't lasso a loose puck, and Kane got to it and scored to make it a 3-3 game just 52 seconds into the middle period.

A little over two minutes later, the Caps regained the lead on a three-on-two rush. From the right wing wall, Tom Wilson fed Jakub Vrana in the slot. Sharks goalie Martin Jones made the stop, but the rebound came to Evgeny Kuznetsov down low on the left side of the cage. From virtually no angle, he scored to put Washington up 4-3 at 2:53.

Ovechkin's second goal of the game - a wrister from the top of the left circle - gave the Caps a two-goal lead at 5:41.

On a power play late in the second, the Caps were pushing for more but a turnover at the blueline resulted in a three-on-none jailbreak for San Jose, with the third guy being the one coming out of the box at the end of the penalty. Logan Couture scored on the breakaway to make it a 5-4 game with 5:41 left in the second.

Carrying a lead into the third for the first time in nearly two weeks, the Caps couldn't close the deal.

"For whatever reason, we continue to make mistakes, and it ends up in the back of our net," laments Reirden. "And there is no more clear example than what we just saw right there."

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