Capitals lose to the Coyotes 5-2, a potentially decisive defeat days before the NHL trade deadline

Sun, Mar 3, 2024
NHL News (AP)

Capitals lose to the Coyotes 5-2, a potentially decisive defeat days before the NHL trade deadline

WASHINGTON (AP) - Potential trade candidate Jason Zucker scored, Dylan Guenther had a goal and two assists and the Arizona Coyotes dealt the Washington Capitals a significant defeat in the playoff race, 5-2 Sunday.

The Capitals experienced a noticeable letdown from an important victory Friday night against Metropolitan Division-rival Philadelphia. They fell behind 2-0, gave up a goal 43 seconds after cutting that deficit in half, had two veterans penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and lost to an opponent that had just one win in the past 5 1/2 weeks.

After wasting a valuable opportunity against one of the NHL's bottom five teams, Washington sits six points back of the Flyers for third place and seven behind Tampa Bay and Detroit for one of the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots. The trade deadline is Friday, and general manager Brian MacLellan said Saturday the team's future is going to be the priority.

"I see the math that it's unlikely, but you could get some help from other teams, too," MacLellan said. "We have a week left to make some decisions."

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This disappointing performance did nothing to dispel the popular notion that the Capitals will be sellers, and some of their players most likely to be on the move were squarely in the spotlight - some good, some bad.

One of Charlie Lindgren's four goals allowed on 27 shots was a soft one he should have stopped. Logan Cooley scoring on a breakaway was not on Lindgren, but defensemen Nick Jensen and Joel Edmundson were the players beaten down the ice on the play.

Anthony Mantha, on the other hand, scored his 20th goal of the season to boost his trade value late in a resurgent season for the 29-year-old pending free agent winger.

Similarly, Zucker made the most of what could be one of his final games with Arizona, scoring on the power play for his ninth goal of the season. Zucker and defenseman Matt Dumba are among the Coyotes players on expiring contracts.

"I think they know where they're at," general manager Bill Armstrong said of his team's pending UFAs. "I think there's been some transparency and some openness all the way through not only with the players but also with their agents."

Michael Kesselring also scored and Karel Vejmelka made 24 saves for the Coyotes, who have won two in a row since ending a 14-game losing streak. They've rebounded despite still being without injured All-Star Clayton Keller, who Armstrong said is not out long term and could be back sometime over the next few games.

While this game was ongoing, longtime Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov cleared waivers and was assigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League. The Capitals decided to waive Kuznetsov rather than welcome him back after being cleared to practice by administrators of the player assistance program.

UP NEXT

Coyotes: Return home to face Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

Capitals: Visit the archrival Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night on the eve of the NHL trade deadline.

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STEPHEN WHYNO DC-based hockey writer covering NHL, Capitals and Commanders twitter mailto "
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