Vernon Fiddler, Keith Yandle

Capitals drop third in a row, lose to Coyotes 3-2; Phoenix takes Pacific lead

A tale of two teams for sure in the desert as the Coyotes took out the Capitals 3-2 in a tough, defensive affair. For Phoenix, the win is their fifth straight and it moves them into sole possession first place in the Pacific Division. With the Dallas Stars reeling and everyone else in the division catching up with them, it was only a matter of time that someone took the lead and Phoenix took advantage of things.

The Coyotes got goals from Martin Hanzal, Ray Whitney, and the game-winner from Vernon Fiddler in the third all while Ilya Bryzgalov held strong in goal stopping 29 shots. While the Caps outshot the Coyotes by a wide margin (30-18), Phoenix was able to take better advantage of their opportunities.

Washington dealing with another frustrating loss, their third in a row, is getting to be a tired topic of discussion in the nation’s capital. Yet again, we saw a lot of Alex Ovechkin, often taking extremely long shifts in order to try and spark the offense that just can’t wake up. This time around we saw odd match-up choices, including on the game’s final play.

With the Caps down by a goal and trying to kill a late penalty, they had a faceoff in the Phoenix end with 1.9 seconds to play. With most of the Caps attackers fanned out wide of the circle ready to jump on a rebound from the point, the player the Caps were trying to win the faceoff back to to score wasn’t Alex Semin or Ovechkin but rather Jason Chimera. Chimera fanned on the shot and time ticked away on their defeat.

Once again, the Caps biggest offensive stars were no-shows. Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, and Alex Ovechkin combined for one assist on the game (Semin assisted on Marcus Johansson’s goal in the second period). Getting goals from Johansson and Matt Bradley are nice production to get from your depth players, but when they’re your only consistent contributors you’ve got some big problems to take care of.

The fans aren’t happy and the team is playing without any intensity. Being able to get up for games against the likes of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is easy for the Caps, for anyone else it seems to be an issue. Something’s got to give in D.C. and soon because if the team continues to go on like this, their stay in the playoffs will be a very short one.

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”