T.J. Oshie faked out the Capital One Arena crowd twice.
First was his game-tying goal in the dying moments of the third period. Fans thought Evgeny Kuznetsov was responsible for tapping it in, which would have been the Russian’s third goal of the game. Hats were tossed onto the ice in premature celebration.
Then came overtime, when Oshie appeared to land the game-winner after a slick move to beat his defender. Washington Capitals fans celebrated again. The officials had other ideas, having noticed that Oshie may have entered the zone offsides.
They were right — he did. The goal was wiped.
The Capitals moved to 13-2-4 and still lead the NHL with 30 points. They are 10-0-2 in their last 12 games.
Oshie and Kuznetsov couldn’t convert on their shootout attempts — fitting, as Arizona goalie Antti Raanta outplayed Ilya Samsonov throughout the night. Nick Schmaltz and Conor Garland scored on Samsonov to end the shootout early.
Halfway through overtime, Lars Eller carried the puck into the offensive zone, but stumbled to the ice before he completed the move. Oshie was skating with him at the time and his momentum carried him over the blue line first. The ensuing goal, in which Oshie deked Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson to create space to shoot, came off the books.
“That was unfortunate, because it was a great move and it’s a goal,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “T.J. is pretty on top of things. So he had a strong feeling it was going to be offside … we still gave ourselves a chance and get to a shootout and continue to grow and get better.”
Some bad turnovers and unlucky bounces combined to put the Capitals in a 3-0 hole early in the second period. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice to lead a comeback and Oshie’s tying goal secured Washington one standings point. Samsonov made 32 saves, but picked up the loss after winning his first five career starts.
“I don’t know what happened in the first 40 minutes, but it is the perfect time to improve and we cannot we perfect every time so sometimes we have to go through these types of games, you know?” Kuznetsov said. “But I liked the way we responded in the third.”
Washington actually came out of the gates hot, but Raanta stood in the way of several shot attempts and odd-man rushes in the opening minutes. Eventually, the Coyotes posted their first goal when Samsonov moved to break up a pass in the crease and Clayton Keller poked the puck in.
Things tilted from bad to worse to start the second when Michal Kempny turned the puck over after the opening faceoff. Arizona broke the other way and a pass jumped off Christian Fischer’s skate and toward Samsonov’s net. He appeared to make a pad save — but only after it had cleared the goal line, the officials determined after a review.
The 22-year-old barely had time to recover when Oshie’s neutral-zone pass was intercepted by Michael Grabner, who took a solo breakaway and scored it through Samsonov’s five-hole. Arizona posted two goals in 45 seconds to jump out to a 3-0 lead, the first time the Capitals had trailed by that much in almost a month.
“The first two periods were not at all how we want to play,” Reirden said. “Credit the guys for staying with it and turning it around in the third, but we didn’t have to do that to ourself.”
Kuznetsov got Washington on the board before the end of the frame, but it started with a heroic play by defenseman Nick Jensen on the other end of the ice. Jensen dove to save and clear a puck that had leaked past Samsonov. The play quickly reached Kuznetsov, who split two Coyotes and scored.
His third-period goal had a much higher degree of difficulty. A Kempny shot missed and bounced his way, and from Raanta’s left side Kuznetsov batted it in with a backhand shot to the far post.
With 1:16 left in regulation, the Capitals went to 6-on-5 and converted the tying goal. Alex Ovechkin fired in a long shot, it was saved and Oshie knocked in the rebound — not Kuznetsov, who was standing next to him and reached for the puck at the same time.
“I don’t know if you could tell my reaction, but right after I put it in I was kind of regretting that (Kuznetsov) didn’t grab it first,” Oshie said. “But you can’t pass those ones up, especially when you’re down a goal … But no, I wish it would have bounced a little closer to him so he could have got the hat trick.”
The Capitals visit Philadelphia Wednesday for a nationally-televised game, then return home for a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.
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