Washington sits 1-2-0 on the season, having been outscored 10-3 at even strength so far.
The Caps weren’t without chances, but a disallowed goal and four shots that rang off goal posts are consolation prizes when self-inflicted turnovers often kept the Capitals trapped in their zone and prevented them from creating sustained pressure against the Stars and goaltender Kari Lehtonen (25 saves).
“We didn’t do a good enough job exiting our zone, making that next pass and getting it behind them,” Oates said. “We turned it over in the neutral zone with almost-plays, guys knock it down or [it was] a bad pass. One of the things we talk about every day is support and getting it to the next spot. We didn’t do a good enough job of that.”
The Capitals took a 1-0 lead with 4 minutes 26 seconds gone in the first period when Alex Ovechkin converted on a power play with his patented one-timer from the left circle. It marked Ovechkin’s fourth goal of the year and third on the power play in as many games. Oates’s concern about leaning too heavily on the power play is certainly justified, but through three games so is the Capitals’ confidence in the unit. Their power play is an intimidating 6 for 12 on the season.
But Dallas, coming off a 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers in its season opener, wanted to find more of the composed game that new Coach Lindy Ruff is seeking and wasn’t about to let the Capitals’ talent run wild. Asked Saturday morning how the Stars intended to combat Washington’s daunting man-advantage, Ruff answered plainly that he wanted his squad to stay out of the penalty box as much as possible. They obliged and took only two more minor penalties the rest of the game.
The Stars evened the score less than four minutes after Ovechkin’s goal when Erik Cole was left completely unguarded in the slot for a one-timer off a feed from Tyler Seguin.
Even at that early stage, Washington’s trouble at even strength was apparent. The Capitals gave up the puck on routine plays, sent passes that were just off the mark and seemed generally out of sync. Braden Holtby came through with a steadying effort, though, to neutralize his teammates’ inconsistencies.
Holtby, making his third consecutive start, stopped Ryan Garbutt on a partial breakaway and later made another stellar save on Ray Whitney from point-blank range. He finished with 19 saves and had the type of bounce-back performance he sought after being pulled in the first period against Calgary on Thursday.