The Washington Capitals 2022-2023 season lasted five minutes and 34 seconds longer than anticipated. After losing a 3-goal lead in their 82nd game, the Capitals lost 5-4 to the New Jersey Devils in overtime Thursday night. Both Tom Wilson and Dylan Strome continued their respective point streaks. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin also appeared on the scoresheet together at the end of a season in which that was unusually rare.
The Capitals claimed a 2-0 lead in the first six minutes of play and extended it to 3-0 just past the halfway mark of the first period. Joe Snively rushed up the right wing and shot the puck from the circle to beat Mackenzie Blackwood on the Capitals’ second shot of the game with 15:24 to go in the period. Rasmus Sandin took the Capitals’ next shot as he cut through the slot, beating Blackwood for the 2-0 advantage. Backstrom dished the puck from the right wing after Ovechkin had dumped it deep. Both Ovechkin and Backstrom had last had points in the same game on April 6 in Montreal, but this was the first time they shared credit on the same goal since March 17.
Backstrom’s forecheck also helped lead to the Capitals’ third goal, though no assists were credited for it. He followed defender Dougie Hamilton deep into the Devils’ zone, forcing him to pass across the ice to Jack Hughes. Hughes collected the puck and made a quick pass to the center of the ice, which was occupied by Craig Smith instead of a New Jersey player. Smith quickly put the puck behind Blackwood for his 200th career NHL goal.
With three minutes left in the first period, the Devils broke through center ice to Erik Haula. Haula picked up the puck at the blue line and unleashed a slapshot at the top of the left circle before any Capitals defenders could get into position. The goal meant the Devils managed to go the entire season without being shut out once.
Early in the second period, Wilson got the Capitals’ three-goal lead back and extended his personal goal streak to four consecutive games. Dylan Strome and Nick Jensen worked a rotation to bring the puck from the blue line to the bottom of the right circle, then Jensen dished to the front of the net where Wilson cashed in on his second rebound. Strome’s secondary assist gave him a point in every game during April (5G, 3A–8P), a career-high six-game streak. Blackwood exited the game after Wilson’s strike. Akira Schmid finished the game; the Devils had opted to rest Vitek Vanecek entirely by scratching him.
The Devils cut into the lead again with another late-period goal. Miles Wood scored late in the Devils’ first power play of the game. New Jersey’s man advantage moved the puck from wing to wing quickly for a shot by Tomas Tatar that Wood tipped in front of Darcy Kuemper.
The Capitals did not end up scoring again. They gave up two goals in the second period–a breakaway by Haula that would have drawn a penalty if he hadn’t scored, and a one-time shot by Hamilton nine minutes later. Both teams had opportunities during the fast-paced overtime. Both teams also took penalties in the final two minutes: first a hook by Sandin, then a trip by Hamilton that returned the session to 3-on-3.
In the last minute of overtime, defenseman Luke Hughes carried the puck through the neutral zone in only his second NHL game. he pulled it diagonally through the defense to Kuemper’s blocker side. The rebound bounced downwards, where Hughes collected it and swung behind the net to score his first NHL goal on a wraparound for the overtime game-winner.
The Capitals’ next endeavor as an organization will be to begin considering contracts for its free agents. Two forwards and one defenseman will be unrestricted and able to consider offers from any team. And additional two defenders–Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary–will be restricted free agents as their entry-level contracts end. General Manager Brian MacLellan will also be thinking about the Draft. The Capitals will pick no higher than eighth overall, with a slim chance of winning the first overall pick. The Draft Lottery happens on May 8th.