The Washington Capitals struck first against the reigning, defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, but were unable to build off of it, falling 3-2 in what could be a Stanley Cup preview.
Washington took a 1-0 lead 6:13 into the contest on a power play goal scored by Marcus Johansson, his 15th of the season. However, Washington was only able to enjoy the lead for 31 second as Patrick Kane knotted the game at 1-1 with his 36th goal of the season.
Neither team was able to light the lamp in the second period until Jonathan Toews scored a power play goal with 1:45 left to play in the period to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead. In the third period, Chicago added an insurance goal, that would ultimately wind up as the game-winner off the stick off Dennis Rasmussen.
The Caps would not go down without a fight.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, the leading scorer for the Capitals this season, scored his 19th goal of the season, a power play goal, to bring his team within one with 3:21 left to play in regulation. This goal was on a 5-on-3 power play that was essentially a 6-on-3 as the Caps brought goalie Braden Holtby to the bench. Unfortunately for Washington, the remainder of the power play did not result in a goal.
Holtby stopped 20 shots for the Caps while Corey Crawford turned away 28 Washington shots. The Caps were 2/5 on the power play and the Blackhawks were 1/4. The Caps dropped to 45-12-4 while Chicago improved to 39-20-5.
While February didn’t end how the Capitals would have liked, they went 10-4-0 in the month. Washington will start the month of March with three straight home games against the Pittsburgh Penguins (3/1), Toronto Maple Leafs (3/2) and New York Rangers (3/4). The Rangers and Penguins are 2nd and 4th respectively, looking up to the Caps in the Metropolitan Division.
After the three home games, Washington will be away from the Verizon Center for the next four, including a trip to Boston (3/5), before heading out west for three games. The west coast trip will include game against the Anaheim Ducks (3/7), Los Angeles Kings (3/9) and San Jose Sharks (3-12).
Washington still leads the Eastern Conference with 94 points, with the next closest team being the Florida Panthers with 78 points.