The outcome overshadowed the return of Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who scored in the first period of his season debut after being suspended for three games because of inappropriate conduct.
“Certainly when you are unable to get those extra points, they come back to hurt you by the end of the year,” Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said. “It is early in the season and you are deciding your personnel that work well in those situations, and you know, we’ll just continue to get different players the opportunity. Until we find a formula that works for us, that will be a competition.”
After losing, 3-2 in overtime, to Carolina in its home opener Saturday, Washington again was left struggling to find its footing during three-on-three. Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and John Carlson were on the ice for Seguin’s winning goal, with Carlson splaying out to try to block Radulov’s pass, to no avail.
“We have to be better with the puck, smarter with the puck,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Yeah, we can’t leave Holts out to dry, and those two goals on three-on-three, yeah, we have to be better.”
In a back-and-forth game in which neither team led by more than one, Backstrom tied it with the extra attacker on and 30.7 seconds left in regulation. The Capitals had let the Stars tie the score twice — at 1-1 and 2-2 — before Nick Caamano’s goal with 7:57 left in the third period put Dallas ahead. The Capitals got a standings point thanks to Backstrom’s goal but fell to 2-0-2 while Dallas picked up its first win.
“We need to start banking some points, and I think there are areas of the game that are pretty clear that I talk about that we can be a lot better at, and we will work on them,” Carlson said.
Coming off an 0-for-6 power-play performance in their loss to Carolina, the Capitals again failed to convert, going 0 for 5. With 5:33 left, the Capitals had a four-on-three advantage for 54 seconds and were set to have a five-on-three for 1:06.
But they struggled even with Kuznetsov back on the first unit, and the Russian center took a costly penalty with 3:53 to go that put the Stars on the power play.
Kuznetsov’s slick backhander from the slot zipped past Stars goaltender Ben Bishop at 4:49 of the first period and gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead. A roar from the home crowd greeted the goal as Kuznetsov, in his belated start to the season, had bounced back.
But as the game went on, the Capitals as a group did not.
“It’s nice to get back, but I would rather have the win and smile more, and now I have to get back home and thinking about the overtime goal,” Kuznetsov said. “It’s overtime. It’s our bread and butter. We have to be better than that.”
Despite center Lars Eller calling the first period the “best period all season,” the Capitals started turning the puck over, lost battles in the corners and, as Eller described it, “got a little sloppy.”
“After the first period we let them back in the game with how we managed the puck,” Reirden said.
The Capitals struggled mightily in the third, failing to put a shot on goal until past the midway point after holding a 27-11 shot advantage entering the period. Radulov broke through to make it 2-2 at 7:53 when he slipped the puck past Holtby.
“I think we did a lot of good things tonight, too. It’s just a crap feeling right now,” Carlson said. “But it’s self-inflicted, and it’s better that way to go back and look at it and work on it and get better.”
After Kuznetsov’s early goal, the Stars tied it at 1 on Roope Hintz’s laser from the left circle early in the second period. Eller, who earned praise from Reirden for his play through three games, made an ill-advised cross-ice pass at the blue line that was picked off by the Stars and led to Hintz’s goal.
After failing to covert multiple chances at the front of the net, the Capitals relied on Holtby to keep the score tied late in the second period, and he made a sharp save on Mattias Janmark’s high-danger opportunity. Sliding to his right, Holtby splayed out to deny Janmark — and Washington grabbed the lead just moments later.
Carlson slipped the puck past Bishop at 15:55 to put the Capitals up 2-1, with his shot from above the right circle going off Bishop’s left arm and into the net on the short side.
Carlson has a goal and four assists through four games, but that wasn’t enough Tuesday night.