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Capitals @ Avalanche Recap: Avs Stave Off Caps Comeback, Win 3-2

Ovechkin scores number 811, but the Avalanche capitalize on more opportunities to grab the two points.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals made their annual trip to the Mile High City tonight to face the Colorado Avalanche, wrapping up this season’s series with the Avs and playing in their 50th (!) game of the season. When these two teams met in October, Alexandar Georgiev posted a 4-0 shutout win over Washington. The Capitals are coming off a forgettable loss in Las Vegas on Saturday night and Colorado has won its last five games, including two in a row at home. This is also the first time both Darcy Kuemper and Nicolas Aube-Kubel have returned to Colorado since winning the Stanley Cup with the Avs in June.

Buckle up for tonight’s lines, because they were a bit unusual:

T.J. Oshie flew back to Washington yesterday to be with his wife Lauren for the birth of their fourth child (congrats, Oshies!), and Nicklas Backstrom was a late scratch due to a non-COVID illness. Aliaksei Protas drew back into the lineup tonight for the first time since January 5 to center the third line; Protas has been playing on the wing for the Caps this season, but he is a natural center. Alex Ovechkin also returned to the lineup tonight after missing Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury, which meant the Caps could roll 12 forwards.

Darcy Kuemper got the start in net against his former team again, hoping for a better result than earlier this season. Alexandar Georgiev probably sees Alex Ovechkin in his nightmares – Ovi has eight goals in seven games against Georgiev. Would he make it nine in eight? Let’s find out.

Here’s Tuesday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Tonight was a solid rebound for the Capitals after their “burn the tape” outing in Vegas last weekend. They were consistently the better team on the ice at 5v5, despite not coming away with the win.

Minus: Tom Wilson was smarting after blocking a shot midway through the second period, and he did not stay on the bench. He did not return for the start of the third, and just under five minutes into the period the Caps announced that he had sustained a lower-body injury and would not return. This was just Wilson’s eighth game after returning from offseason ACL surgery on his left knee; the blocked shot went off his right leg.

And now, whatever this delightful content is:

A few more thoughts on tonight’s game:

1. The Avalanche got on the board first with a goal from Artturi Lehkonen 8:57 into the game. Dmitry Orlov made a great defensive move on Nathan MacKinnon coming down the left side with a hit to pretty much stop him in his tracks, but MacKinnon was able to flip a pass to a rushing Lehkonen anyway. This is the sixth-straight game where Colorado has scored first.

2. Washington got the game’s first power play opportunity halfway through the first period with a Kurtis MacDermid interference penalty on Sonny Milano. Colorado’s penalty kill, which has really been clicking lately, stifled any semblance of effort from the Caps. The Capitals’ power play is now on a 1-for-18 stretch, woof.

3. The Caps went back on the power play with 1:56 to go in the first, this time for a Jacob MacDonald tripping penalty on Martin Fehervary. The Capitals looked better this go around, getting a good cycle going and putting pressure on Georgiev early on. Unfortunately, they still could not convert and remained down 1-0 to start the second. The Caps have a 5-9-3 record when trailing after the first period this season.

4. Andrew Cogliano doubled Colorado’s lead just two minutes into the second with a redirection of a MacDermid wrister from just below the blue line. The Capitals won a defensive-zone draw but could not exit the zone, and the Avs made them pay. The Caps have played well overall to start this game, but unfortunately find themselves down by two.

5. After two near-misses during the first period, Conor Sheary managed to find the back of the net at 4:48 of the second with a redirection of a Martin Fehervary point shot. Anthony Mantha made a great play to get things going and get the puck up to Fehervary, and Sheary’s redirection just trickled past Georgiev.

That’s Sheary’s 12th goal of the season, and his first since December 27 against the Rangers.

6. Alex Newhook restored Colorado’s two-goal lead with a beautiful goal on an end-to-end rush at 15:39 of the middle frame. Newhook made a high-speed move around Nick Jensen before firing off a quick shot at the right circle to beat Kuemper.

Once again, the Caps have been the better team this period but the Avs have stayed opportunistic. 3-1 Colorado.

7. At 9:44 of the third, Alex Ovechkin scored his 31st goal of the season on a one-timer from where else but his office. Dylan Strome won the offensive-zone faceoff and held onto the puck before finding Ovechkin with a clean cross-ice pass. This is the 811th goal of Ovechkin’s NHL career.

So the answer to our earlier question was yes, Ovechkin did make it nine goals in eight games against Georgiev. Additionally, Strome is now riding a four-game point streak with an assist on the goal. One goal game, folks.

8. Coach Laviolette pulled Darcy Kuemper for the extra attacker with 2:14 left, and then called his timeout when play stopped 22 seconds later. The Caps kept the pressure on Georgiev and the Avs, but they could not buy a goal. Georgiev was standing on his head in these last few minutes, and Colorado wins it 3-2.

Up next for the Caps: returning home to face the Penguins this Thursday at 7pm ET.