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Special teams look anything but for Caps in loss to Sharks

Special teams look anything but for Caps in loss to Sharks

Final Score: Washington Capitals 2, San Jose Sharks 4

How it happened: The Caps and Sharks traded goals into the second period, but with the score tied at two, Logan Couture took over. Couture scored twice, both on the power play, to separate the Sharks and give them the 4-2 win. You don't have to look too hard to figure out what the difference was in this one. Washington failed to score on five power play opportunities while San Jose scored three times with the extra man.

What it means: Thursday’s loss marks the first time the Caps have lost consecutive games since returning from the bye week. It is also just the third time Washington has lost consecutive games in regulation all season. The Caps have not beaten the Sharks in regulation since 2009 and have not won in San Jose in regulation since 1993.

Goals

Caps goal: Daniel Winnik from Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle at 5:26 in the first period. Beagle and Wilson battled for the puck along the boards down low and Beagle found Daniel Winnik with the backhand pass away from the crowd. Winnik had an open lane and scored on the backhand shot. Caps 1, Sharks 0

Sharks goal: Joe Thornton from Jannik Hansen and Paul Martin at 8:43 in the first period. Ovechkin lost the puck on a sweep check as he tried to exit the defensive zone and Martin sent the puck behind the net. Hansen took it and found a streaking Thornton for the goal. Caps 1, Sharks 1

Sharks goal: Joe Pavelski (power play) from Brent Burns and Joe Thornton at 2:32 in the second period. Just as a double-minor penalty to Brooks Orpik was about to expire, Brent Burns fired a long-range shot that was redirected by Pavelski to beat Holtby. Caps 1, Sharks 2

Caps goal: Brett Connolly from Kevin Shattenkirk at 14:40 in the second period. Connolly and Shattenkirk went back and forth on the rush with Shattenkirk feeding Connolly right in front for the tip-in. Caps 2, Sharks 2

Sharks goal: Logan Couture (power play) from Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns at 18:04 in the second period. Holtby stopped a shot form Burns with the glove, but couldn't hang on to the shot allowing Couture the chance to fire in the rebound. Caps 2, Sharks 3

Sharks goal: Logan Couture (power play) from Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns at 8:05 in the third period. A shot from Burns was headed wide of the net, but Couture was there to redirect it into the back of the net. Caps 2, Sharks 4

3 stars

1. Logan Couture:  Couture entered Thursday's game leading San Jose in power play goals with eight. He added two more to that tally on Thursday, taking what was a tie game and putting the Sharks in complete control.

2. Joe Thornton: On a night in which the Sharks honored Thornton for earning his 1,000th assist, Thornton scored the Sharks' first goal of the game a little over three minutes after Winnik gave Washington the early lead. Thornton was very active on the forecheck and was a presence for the Sharks all night.

3. Kevin Shattenkirk: Shattenkirk was very active Thursday. Not only did he record an assist on Connolly's goal, he also hit the post on a shot of his own, laid out Hansen with a monster hip check and recorded a game-high five shots on goal.

Look ahead: The Caps continue the California trip on Saturday in Los Angeles. They then wrap things up on Sunday in Anaheim and return home for a Tuesday game against Bruce Boudreau’s Minnesota.

Tell us what you think: The Caps entered Thursday's game ranked 6th on the power play and 4th on the penalty kill. Yet, the Caps could not score on five opportunities with the extra man. Washington also yielded three power play goals to a struggling Sharks power play. Are you concerned with the Caps' special teams or was this just a blip on the radar?

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Capitals' playoff opponent watch: Toronto jumps into wild card

Capitals' playoff opponent watch: Toronto jumps into wild card

In the final stretch of the season, it’s time to start projecting possible first round matchups for the Caps.

Washington still finds itself in a tight race for the top of the Metropolitan Division, but the Caps look like their are back on track after a recent slump and still hold first place.

As of right now the Caps would be playing: The Toronto Maple Leafs (81 points)

Caps’ record vs. Islanders this season: 1-1-0 (1 game remaining on April 4)

It’s hard to know what to expect from a young team like the Leafs when they reach the postseason. Toronto is way ahead of schedule with its rebuild and were not expected to reach the playoffs this year. Plus, with Mike Babcock behind the bench, this is a dangerous team. But considering the youth that makes up the roster, you have to expect them to hit the wall at some point. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Nikita Zaitsev, the young rookies that make up the core of his team have never played in an 82-game season before and there is no more physically grueling hockey league than the NHL. Sure, should the Leafs make the playoffs, they will be playing with house money and should be very loose, but how much will they really have left in the tank for a seven-game series?

RELATED: Shattenkirk still looking for first goal as a Cap after scoring change

Other possible playoff opponents

Pittsburgh Penguins (101 points)

Caps record vs. Penguins this season: 2-0-2

If you hated the NHL’s current playoff format before, just wait if we see a Washington-Pittsburgh series in the first round. We are headed for a photo finish in the Metropolitan Division between the Caps, Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. The two teams that lose that race will get to face one another in the first round. While the Caps have earned at least a point in each game against the Penguins this season, you can go ahead and throw the record out when it comes to these two teams. As difficult as it is to comprehend just how these two teams could open the playoffs against one another, this perhaps would not be the worst thing in the world. The Penguins are not a healthy team right now as they are dealing with several injuries to key players. For my money, however, I think the Caps would be better off watching Pittsburgh get further beaten up in a series with Columbus and then face the winner.

Columbus Blue Jackets (100 points)

Caps record vs. Blue Jackets this season: 1-1-1 (2 games remaining on March 23 and April 2)

If the Penguins do win the Metropolitan Division, Washington will face a John Tortorella-led Blue Jackets team. Columbus is not as good as they looked when they won 16 straight games earlier in the season, a win streak that was broken by the Caps in a 5-0 blowout, but to their credit they have kept pace with Washington and Pittsburgh to stay within striking distance of the top spot in the Metro. The biggest concern is goalie Sergei Bobrovsky who is making a case for the Vezina or the Hart with this play. He has a .931 save percentage and 2.04 GAA and is more than capable of leading the Blue Jackets deep into the playoffs.

Boston Bruins (82 points)

Caps’ record vs. Bruins this season: 2-0-0 (1 game remaining on April 8)

Boston is still clinging to third place in the Atlantic for now, but Toronto is hot on its heels and could well overtake the Bruins. Boston has lost three straight including a loss to the Leafs who could push the Bruins down into the wild card. This is not a wild card team to sleep on, however, as they boast one of the top offensive players and agitators in the NHL in Brad Marchand and a top netminder in Tuukka Rask.

New York Islanders (78 points)

Caps’ record vs. Islanders this season: 2-3-0

The Islanders have finally lost their grip on the wild card spot. They have lost four of their last five and it looks like the honeymoon period between the team and interim coach Doug Weight is now over. Does a team that looked like one of the worst in the Eastern Conference for much of the season have enough steam to battle back into the wild card?

Tampa Bay Lightning (77 points)

Caps’ record vs. Lighting this season: 2-0-1

At last week’s update, the Lightning had 77 points. This week: 77 points. Not good. With three straight losses including a home loss to the woeful Arizona Coyotes, it appears the injuries have finally caught up to Tampa. They now trail Toronto by four points and the Leafs hold a game in hand so this matchup now seems unlikely.

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin will wear custom painted skates Thursday

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Scoring change leaves Shattenkirk looking for first goal as a Capital—again

Scoring change leaves Shattenkirk looking for first goal as a Capital—again

After further review, Nicklas Backstrom did indeed score the Caps’ third goal in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Calgary.

The goal was originally credited to Kevin Shattenkirk, who took the shot. But upon closer examination, the NHL has concluded that Backstrom got just a smidge of the puck as it crossed the goal line behind Flames’ netminder Brian Elliott.

The power play tally now reads Backstrom from Shattenkirk and T.J. Oshie. It was originally scored as Shattenkirk from Alex Ovechkin and Backstrom.

Oshie earned an assist, apparently, because the puck glanced off his skate in the slot before going to Shattenkirk for the shot.

So Backstrom now has 22 goals, but since he lost an assist on the play he’s now one behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for the league lead.

As for Shattenkirk? Well, he’s now looking for his first goal as a Capital—once again.

RELATED: Ovechkin will wear custom painted skates Thursday