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Capitals' home streak halted at 15 games after comeback falls short against Stars

Capitals' home streak halted at 15 games after comeback falls short against Stars

Final score: Washington Capitals 2, Dallas Stars 4

How it happened: A controversial goal by Devin Shore was upheld after a coach's challenge, putting Dallas on the board less than two minutes into the game. The Stars added two goals in the second period in a span of just 1:54 to extend the lead to 3-0. That ended Braden Holtby's night who was pulled for Philipp Grubauer. Nicklas Backstrom started the comeback with a goal at the end of the second period that swung momentum in the Caps' favor. T.J. Oshie added another goal in the third, but an empty netter ended the comeback.

What it means: For the first time in 2017, the Caps lost at home, snapping a streak of 15-straight wins at Verizon Center. Yet again, it came at the hands of the Stars who the Caps have not beaten in D.C. since Nov. 30, 2006.

Goals

Stars goal: Devin Shore from Stephen Johns and Patrick Sharp at 1:48 in the 1st period. A long-range shot forced what may be the save of the season from Holtby as he had to reach out the toe to block the deflection. As Sharp took the puck for a wraparound, however, Holtby could not get over to make the save because Shore was in the crease blocking his path. He was pushed in by Brooks Orpik, but did not appear to attempt to get out of the crease and eventually shot in the loose puck for the goal. It was reviewed for goalie interference, but the call stood. Good goal. Caps 0, Stars 1

Stars goal: Radek Faksa, unassisted at 4:04 in the 2nd period. Backstrom tried to clear a puck out of danger, but instead flicked right into Faksa who was quick to make Backstrom pay for the bad turnover. Caps 0, Stars 2

Stars goal: Jason Spezza from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin at 5:58 in the 2nd period. A Stars’ dump-in around the boards eluded a waiting Dmitry Orlov and went right to Seguin. Seguin fed Benn who shot the puck wide, but collected it and fed it back to Spezza who beat Holtby with the slap shot. Caps 0, Stars 3

Caps goal: Nicklas Backstrom from Kevin Shattenkirk and Brooks Orpik. Shattenkirk found Backstrom in the slot with a beautiful pass and Backstrom redirected it into the net. Caps 1, Stars 3

Caps goal: T.J. Oshie from Nicklas Backstrom and Karl Alzner as 12:26 in the 3rd period. After a long stretch in the offensive zone, the Caps finally found paydirt as Oshie took a pass from Alzner, took it to the slot and fired a backhand past Lehtonen. Caps 2, Stars 3

Dallas goal: Patrick Sharp (empty netter), unassisted at 18:42 in the 3rd period. Caps 2, Stars 4

3 Stars

1. Kari Lehtonen: Dallas' goaltending situation may be the worst in the NHL. There are some nights, however, where Lehtonen can remind you why the Stars had so much faith in him. The Caps peppered Lehtonen with 44 shots on the night, 28 through the first two periods, but he turned aside 42 of them and is now 18-6-3 in his career against Washington.

2. Patrick Sharp: Sharp's heads up play in the first led to Dallas' opening goal. He also iced the game away with an empty netter in the third period.

3. Nicklas Backstrom: Backstrom had a horrific turnover in the second that led to Faksa's goal, but made up for it with a goal, an assist and seven shots on goal.

Look ahead: Time for the Caps to pack their bags. They will practice at Kettler on Tuesday and then head out west for the dreaded, three-game California road trip. Washington will be in San Jose on Thursday and then play Los Angeles and Anaheim in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday.

Tell us what you think: The Capitals were burned by what looked like goalie interference on Shore’s goal in the first period, but after a review the call stood. Did the refs make the right call? Is it time to change the rules on goalie interference?

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Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36

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Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36

The Capitals have made another significant round of cuts, reassigning 16 players to AHL Hershey and releasing another.

Among the players headed to the Bears are: forwards John Albert, Mathias Bau, Chris Bourque, Dustin Gazley, Hampus Gustafsson, Tim McGauley, Garrett Mitchell, Mason Mitchell and Wayne Simpson; defensemen Kristofers Bindulis, Connor Hobbs, Tommy Hughes, Lucas Johansen, Hubert Labrie; and goalies Adam Carlson and Vitek Vanecek.

The club also released forward Stephen Collins.

The highest profile cuts were Johansen, the team's first round pick in 2016, and Hobbs. The Caps have high hopes for the young blue liners, but it’s obvious both will benefit from some seasoning in the minor leagues as they make the leap from junior to the pro ranks.

Hershey’s training opens on Monday.

After taking Sunday off, the Caps will return to practice on Monday with a roster of 36 players—and three preseason games left to sort out the position battles.  

Forwards Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Liam O’Brien, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana and Nathan Walker are left battling for the three available jobs up front.

Meanwhile, defensemen Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Jyrki Jokipakka, Tyler Lewington, Aaron Ness, Jonas Siegenthaler and Colby Williams are competing for the two open spots on the backend.

Although some players, such as Chiasson and Walker, have already begun to separate themselves from the others, you can expect the competition to intensify over the next week. The Caps host the Devils on Wednesday, then play at the Hurricanes on Friday and at the Blues on Sunday.

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Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?

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Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?

Barry Trotz likes to play his cards close to the vest. With roster battles and lineup holes surrounding the team, there are plenty of questions for the Caps that need answering this preseason. If you look at how Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes ended, however, he may have given us at least one answer.

At the start of the game, Jay Beagle centered a line with Devante Smith-Pelly and Wayne Simpson on his wings. By the end of the game, Nathan Walker was playing on the left with Beagle at center and Smith-Pelly on the right.

"Walker was giving us some energy, he was giving us some speed and I just made that flip," Trotz told reporters after the game. "I just thought Walks was starting to make things happen. His speed was noticeable, his will on the puck if you will was really good. I thought that'd be a good fit. I just moved him over there and I thought he had an effect on the game."

Could that have been a preview of the team's fourth line?

RELATED: CHIASSON, WALKER MAKE THEIR CASE TO MAKE THE TEAM

Walker turned in another tremendous performance showing great energy, speed and grit. Despite being 5-foot-8, he still remains a feisty player who could be found at the center of every scrum. He exchanged hits and jabs with the 6-foot-3 Klas Dahlbeck multiple times throughout the game and even drew a penalty on the Carolina defenseman as he drove the net after managing to slip away from a hit along the boards.

"He's one of those hard guys to play against because ... they're on you all the time," Trotz said. "When you can affect the opposition and take them out of their game because the way you play, then you're pretty effective."

That brings us back to the lines. The Caps have not one, but two openings on the fourth line to play alongside Beagle. The fact that Trotz put Walker and Smith-Pelly on that line, two players fighting for a spot in the lineup, could be a preview of what the fourth line may ultimately look like to start the season.

That would be just fine with Beagle.

"It's fun to play with a guy who brings that much energy," Beagle said of Walker. "He's always had that energy and he's always been a little guy who grinds it out and isn't afraid to get in there and get in the corners and wins a lot of battles. He's awesome to play with. He's a lot of fun."

At this point, given how he has played in his two preseason games, it is hard to see how Walker does not make the roster. His energy and style are a perfect fit for what the Caps need on their fourth line. He would be an excellent compliment to Beagle and that has not escaped Trotz's notice.

"I think they might enjoy playing together, but they're effective together," Trotz said. "They get on the puck, they work you over and they tire you out. I'll tell you that."

With other players such as Alex Chiasson, Riley Barber and Anthony Peluso still vying to make the team, it is still too early to tell if this is definitively what the fourth line will look like, but the trio certainly made their case.

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