WASHINGTON (AP) When the season was done, the Washington Capitals were still playing for their Stanley Cup.
The rest of the league had been crowned champions, but Jordan Dix had been gone.
The Capitals were off to the start of a new life.
The Rangers were still bitter and the Stars were still the Kings.
The Flyers and Capitals were tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
It was time to put all that to the test and win a Cup.
“I’m not surprised we got to the finals,” Dix said.
“It’s always a challenge to get back to the playoffs.”
The first half of the season saw Washington start the year with a 3-2-0 record.
It had won the past two, including a 4-3 win over the Capitals.
But it was still far from perfect.
Washington lost in a shootout to the Capitals, the first of seven straight losses, the second of five straight by a team that won two of the previous three Stanley Cups.
The Washington defense, which has been one of the NHL’s best throughout Dix’s tenure, struggled.
The team was 0-for-6 on power plays and scored just three goals.
Washington went scoreless in five of its last six games, and Dix was scratched from the lineup altogether with an undisclosed injury.
Dix, who led the NHL with a .931 save percentage last season, said he felt he was in good shape and could get back into the lineup soon.
“There’s a lot of good guys in this locker room,” he said.
DIX: ‘I feel like I’ve come full circle’ The Capitals, who had been struggling mightily through a stretch of eight losses in a row, were coming off a 3/1 win over Detroit.
Daugherty had given up a career-high 28 goals in the season opener, including 14 in the first three games.
“The way we started the season, I think we had some good results,” Daughey said.
But after a stretch in which Washington had won three straight games, it was 3-1 against the Kings and 5-1 at home.
Washington was 0 for 6 on the power play, but was 6 for 16 on the penalty kill and 5 for 10 on the man advantage.
“We did a good job of getting it done defensively and the penalty killing,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
The second half of Daughers season was different.
He went 0-4-2 with a 1.91 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
He had allowed two goals or fewer in nine of 10 games and the Capitals won their third straight game, 3-0 at Minnesota.
Daughherty said he was confident in his young defense corps.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think we’ve been perfect,” Daughery said.
Trotz also credited his young team for keeping the pressure on Washington.
“In the end, they just played their game,” Trotz joked.
“They just kept pushing and we just stuck with it.”
With a chance to end their five-game losing streak, the Capitals pulled away for good in the third period.
“Just having confidence and just being able to see the shots coming and how we responded to them, that was a big key to the game,” Daigney said.
He stopped all 23 shots he faced.
“That was huge,” Trots said.
Washington got a goal in the final minute of the period from John Carlson, but defenseman Mattias Ekholm tied it for Washington with a power-play goal.
The game was tied when Daugey made a big save on Capitals defenseman Alexei Emelin.
“Daugherty’s save on Emelin was unbelievable,” Trott said.
For the second straight game the Capitals got a break in a goal when defenseman Brian Dumoulin scored on a one-timer from the right circle with 1:42 left in the period.
Washington led 3-3 with 12:34 remaining, but Daugrey stopped 21 shots and Washington tied it at 3.
The Stars, who beat Washington in five games before the break, took control midway through the third.
“Our guys fought hard,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.
Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak scored his first goal of the year on a power play goal.
“For us, it’s all about that energy, that drive,” Oleksai said.
They had a 5-3 lead midway through a power game after Washington scored in the opening minutes of the second period.
Stars winger Valeri Nichushkin scored on an Alex Goligoski breakaway to tie it at 6.
The power play opened up the Stars second power-game of the playoffs, a 3:37 stretch that included a goal by Nichushin.
The first power-time of the game was scored by Oleksiya with less than a minute to go