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With Alex Ovechkin sidelined, ‘disinterested’ Caps get rocked in Las Vegas

Golden Knights 6, Capitals 2

Bodies go flying in front of the Capitals' net Saturday as Byron Froese beats Darcy Kuemper in the second period to propel the Golden Knights to a commanding 4-0 lead. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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LAS VEGAS – With Alex Ovechkin sidelined with a lower-body injury, the Washington Capitals suffered their worst loss of the season Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena, losing 6-2 to the Vegas Golden Knights in a lackluster performance by the visitors.

Saturday was the first game Ovechkin missed this season, and the 37-year-old is officially listed as “day-to-day.” Ovechkin did not participate in Saturday’s morning skate after the team said the captain was taking a “maintenance day.”

While the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in Vegas in 2018, Washington (25-18-6) has yet to record a regular season win against the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena (0-4-1). T.J. Oshie said Saturday the Capitals were “not mentally sharp at all.”

“Tonight that was probably the worst we’ve played, I don’t know, I can’t remember [the last time] ... how disinterested we looked like we were tonight," Oshie said. "Bury it and away we go.”

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Saturday, Washington found itself in a 2-0 hole after the first period. That deficit had doubled by the 12:04 mark of the second after Byron Froese scored his first goal of the season for Vegas to put the home team up 4-0.

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who had 27 saves in Washington’s 4-0 blowout win over Arizona on Thursday, was pulled after Froese’s goal. Kuemper allowed four goals on 18 shots. Backup goaltender Charlie Lindgren replaced Kuemper and surrendered Vegas’s fifth goal of the night from Paul Cotter on the first shot on goal he faced.

Oshie got Washington on the board with a redirect from the slot with 1:40 left in the second. It was Oshie’s second goal in his past four games. Vegas goaltender Logan Thompson finished with 20 saves.

Cotter scored his second goal of the game only four minutes into the third to push Vegas’s lead to 6-1 before Marcus Johansson scored a redirect goal with 9:19 left in the game for the game’s final score. Lindgren finished with seven saves on nine shots.

The Capitals fell into a 2-0 hole only seven minutes in. Washington shot itself in the foot with self-inflicted errors and gave up numerous odd-man rushes against a speedy, disciplined Vegas team.

“They felt faster than us and they were quicker to battles and won more pucks and in their own end too, they had a step on us pretty much the whole first period and it is a tough uphill battle from there,” Johansson said.

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Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez scored his first goal of the season only 2:17 into the first period on a rebound. Vegas forward Nicolas Roy gave the home team a two-goal lead after he cashed in on an odd-man rush with Jonathan Marchessault at 7:36.

Vegas forward Michael Amadio put the Golden Knights up 3-0 early in the second period after he was left all alone in front of the net. The Capitals struggled to stay defensively sound — a trait Washington has long credited itself for this season.

Washington will cap its three-game road trip out West on Tuesday in Colorado.

“Hopefully we can bury this one real deep," Oshie said. "We’re not exactly in a super comfortable position (in the standings) where we can have games like this right now, especially with [Ovechkin] not playing.”

Here’s what else to know about Saturday’s loss:

Russian machine breaks

Saturday marked only the 48th time in Ovechkin’s 18-year career that he missed a game because of injury, illness, suspension, coronavirus protocols or personal reasons. He has now only missed 28 games because of injury. Ovechkin watched Saturday’s game from the T-Mobile Arena press box with Washington’s other scratches: Matt Irwin and Aliaksei Protas.

Ovechkin has 30 goals this season and is only 84 away from tying Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record (894). He has three assists in his past three games, but no goals.

“There is always things that are going on with players,” Laviolette said when asked whether Ovechkin has been dealing with a lingering ailment. “Alex is usually really durable, but this is something that he wasn’t able to skate this morning and it took him out of the lineup tonight.”

Mantha’s chance

Anthony Mantha took Ovechkin’s place in the lineup after Mantha was a healthy scratch in four of Washington’s previous six games. Mantha played on a line with Dylan Strome and Nicolas Aube-Kubel against Vegas and recorded 15:06 of ice time and had two shots on goal.

Mantha also took an offensive zone tripping penalty midway through the first period.

Power play lost

Without Ovechkin, Washington’s power play went 0 for 3 on the night and struggled on both of its opportunities in the first period. Its second chance of the night came late in the opening frame, trailing by 2. However, Washington couldn’t capitalize.

Defenseman Erik Gustafsson said he blamed himself for the power play’s lack of production.

“I got to be better with the puck and decision-making and stuff like that," Gustafsson said. “I got to move the puck quicker and got to shoot it more. I think that is one thing we have to do better on the power play. I think we move it pretty well sometimes, but got to get the puck to the net too. Tonight we needed the power play to go our way but I need to do a better job on the blue line.”