Nothing lasts forever, as we were all reminded on Monday night when the Dallas Stars came into Verizon Center and put the skids on the Capitals' impressive 15-game home ice winning streak.
The Stars jumped out to an early 3-0 lead then held on for a 4-2 victory over the Caps, with the last tally going into a vacated Washington net.
Video: WSH Recap: Backstrom, Oshie score in 4-2 loss
For Dallas, Monday's win was their sixth straight over the Capitals in Washington. The Caps haven't defeated the Stars in the District since Nov. 30, 2006, and Washington hasn't been able to keep the Stars from scoring three or more goals here in over 17 years, since the two teams skated to a 2-2 tie on Nov. 17, 1999.
Washington poured at least dozen shots on Dallas goaltender Kari Lehonten in each period, and the Caps finished with 44 shots on net. But they couldn't defeat their longtime nemesis, who improved to 18-6-3 lifetime against the Capitals.
"These last couple of games, we haven't been scoring on a lot of our chances," says T.J. Oshie, who scored his 25th of the season to bring the Caps within a goal in the third. "It goes that way sometimes. For a little bit there, we were scoring on everything."
Video: Caps players talk after a 4-2 loss against Dallas
Things went awry early for the Caps on Monday. Seconds after Caps goalie Braden Holtby made a toe save with the full extension of his left leg at the right post, the Stars scored anyway on the other side of the net, and there was nothing Holtby could do about it.
Brooks Orpik checked Stars forward Devin Shore into the crease, but once there, Shore put down roots and began building a house while Patrick Sharp retrieved the puck and pulled it around to the other side. With Shore firmly planted in the crease, Holtby could not slide across to the left post, and Sharp tapped it to the front where Shore jammed it in at 1:48 of the first period.
The Caps quickly issued a coach's challenge alleging goaltender interference, but the officials ruled that the goal would count because "the attacking Player was pushed, shoved or fouled by a defending Player causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper." (Italicized portion taken directly from email from NHL Situation Room.)
After some uncharacteristically sloppy moments in their own end of the ice in the immediate aftermath of the Shore goal, the Caps straightened up a bit and earned a pair of first-period power play opportunities against the league's weakest power play unit, statistically speaking. Although the Capitals pounded five shots on goal during the four minutes they spent on the man advantage in the first, they weren't able to get one behind Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen.
The Stars struck twice early in the second. First, a rare Nicklas Backstrom turnover in front resulted in an unassisted Radek Faksa goal at 4:04. Then, less than two minutes later, Jason Spezza hopped over the boards and blasted a one-timer past Holtby to make it a 3-0 game. At that point, Caps coach Barry Trotz pulled Holtby in favor of Philipp Grubauer. Holtby's 21-game streak without a regulation loss also ended on Monday; it was the second longest streak of its kind in his career and the third longest in team history.
Video: Coach Trotz after 4-2 loss to the Stars
"We really came out hard, and forechecked hard," says Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We got on top of them for a while."
Although he permitted three goals on 11 shots and failed to earn his first career win over the Stars, Holtby deserved a much better fate.
"I think the biggest disappointment is Holts getting pulled there," rues Oshie. "For how many times he has saved us this year and how many wins he has gotten, it's a bad feeling when he has to leave the net."
Grubauer was spotless the rest of the way, stopping all 10 shots sent in his direction.
Video: DAL@WSH: Grubauer kicks out pad to deny Klingberg
The Caps then set about climbing back into the contest, and they finally solved Lethonen late in the second period on a set play following an offensive zone face-off win.
Backstrom won the draw, and Alex Ovechkin pushed the puck to Orpik at the left point. Orpik went across to defense partner Kevin Shattenkirk at the right point, and Shattenkirk put the puck right at Backstrom's tape. The Caps center deftly deflected the puck over Lehtonen's right should to cut the Dallas advantage to 3-1 at 15:52 of the second.
Video: DAL@WSH: Backstrom goes top shelf with nice redirect
The Caps got another crack on the power play early in the third period, but they went down swinging for the fourth time on the night. Despite pounding 14 shots on Lehtonen during the 7 minutes and 34 seconds while the Stars were down a man, the Caps couldn't get one behind him.
Washington had plenty of good looks and chances in the third, and Lehtonen left more than his fair share of rebounds in front, too. But the Caps weren't able to take advantage of that bit or largesse, either.
Oshie scored a beautiful backhand goal at 12:26 of the third, finishing off a dominant offensive zone shift with an impressive punctuation mark, and leaving the Caps plenty of time with which to manufacture the equalizer.
Video: DAL@WSH: Oshie dangles in front and roofs backhand
Trotz pulled Grubauer for an extra attacker at 18:05, but before the Caps could put some sustained heat on the Stars in their end, Sharp's clearing attempt went right into the Caps' net with 1:18 left, accounting for the 4-2 final.
With Monday's win in Washington, Dallas swept its dads' trip. The Stars defeated the Panthers in Florida on Saturday. Ironically enough, the Caps' last loss at home on Dec. 29 was a 2-1 shootout loss to New Jersey, and the Devils' dads were in attendance at that contest.
"The first thing we're going to do is to outlaw dads from coming into [Verizon Center]," quips Trotz. "That's what we're going to do. The last time we lost [here] was the dads' trip, right, to New Jersey?
"A little bit of a slow start; I didn't like our start today. They were faster on pucks and they were a little more determined than we were early. We started ramping up our game, and then had a couple of costly turnovers. We had some pressure on them and made a couple of costly turnovers, and they took advantage of it.
"We couldn't find the back of the net enough. We put enough pucks towards the net and we had enough chances, but that's what happens when you run into a couple saves here and there."