Week 16 Recap: Injured Caps Lose Division Lead

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Posted May 2, 2021

Daniel Sprong has played extremely well in place of Alex Ovechkin.

Without Alex Ovechkin, and two games without John Carlson, the Capitals saw their reign in first place in the East division come to an end this past week.

But first, they completed a three-game sweep of the Islanders on Tuesday. Ovechkin’s replacement, Daniel Sprong, started the scoring, his third in just his second game back in the lineup. Despite getting multiple chances on Islanders rookie goalie Ilya Sorokin, the score was still the same late in the third period. Two bad penalties from Washington gave New York a glorious five-on-three powerplay opportunity but Vitek Vanecek held down the fort and solidified the 1-0 victory for the Caps.

The Caps then hosted the rival Penguins in a crucial matchup on Thursday. With a point each, both teams could officially clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. T.J. Oshie kicked off the scoring with a powerplay goal early in the opening frame. The Penguins took advantage later in the period following a takeaway and conversion by speedy winger Kasperi Kapanen. The Pens took the lead just before the halfway mark but Dmitry Orlov tied it just a minute later. With under five minutes to go in the period, it was Sprong with the go-ahead tuck but Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese came right back down to even the score at three. At the midway point of the final period, Kapanen scored his second of the game to give the Pens a one-goal advantage. As the game dwindled down to the final moments, Tom Wilson tied the game with only 15 seconds remaining. With the game headed to overtime, both teams stamped their place in the playoffs. Pittsburgh got the extra point though as Jake Guentzel scored the overtime winner.

The two teams met again on Saturday in a game in which the winner would jump into first place in the division. From the onset, it was clear that it was not the Capitals’ night. Just 2:56 into the game, Bryan Rust scored a dazzling goal for Pittsburgh. The Caps never got any real sustained offensive pressure in this one and Ovechkin’s fourth consecutive absence played a part. Despite Ilya Samsonov holding the fort for the rest of the first period, it was Rust again who doubled the advantage under 30 seconds into the second period. For the Penguins, Tristan Jarry was very solid and stopped all of the Capital’s 24 shots. A dagger by Pens deadline acquisition Jeff Carter all but iced the game and secured the 3-0 defeat and propelled the Penguins to the top of the East Division.

The Caps will have a fantastic opportunity to gain background on the Penguins this upcoming week as they face both the struggling Rangers and Flyers twice.