Capitals’ Second Stanza Meltdown Puts Metropolitan Division Lead in Jeopardy

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Capitals’ game against the St. Louis Blues on Monday night started off well after a tough loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. Everyone at Capital One Arena, including the night’s “Mite of the Night”, was excited for some hockey after a relaxing day of playing in the snow on Sunday. The Blues, however, seem to have figured out the Caps in 2018-19, sweeping the season series between the two teams for the first time in four years.

The loss also puts the Capitals in a tough situation as their Metropolitan Division lead begins to shorten in length.

Alex Ovechkin started off the night on a positive note, opening the scoring roughly halfway into the first period, putting the Capitals up early and tying him with Dave Andreychuk for 14th all-time on the goals scored list. After the first period, however, it was pretty much all downhill for the Capitals.

In the course of what seemed like five minutes, but was closer to 15 in the second period, the Capitals found themselves in a deep 3-1 hole. St. Louis’ goals came as a result of blown defensive coverage by the Capitals to simply lucky bounces, but everything seemed to be going the Blues’ way. It was up the Capitals to re-establish puck control and limit the Blues’ chances, but they couldn’t seem to stop the bleeding.

After the first period, it seemed as though the Capitals lost their way and couldn’t find their groove. They also struggled to score on multiple breakaways by Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly, who had grade-A scoring chances one-on-one but, couldn’t execute. Head Coach Todd Reirden noted after the game, “That wasn’t good enough tonight from an execution standpoint. You know, they were better. They deserved the game and rightfully so they ended up with the game.”

Backup goaltender Pheonix Copley, who to be fair, has had a pretty good season so far, had a rough night in goal. Coming into tonight’s game against his former club, Copley had a record of 10-2-3, with a .916 save percentage, but Monday was simply not his night, as he allowed four goals on 41 shots from St. Louis.

Another glaring issue during tonight’s game was the lack of the ability to get secondary scoring, which forward Devante Smith-Pelly addressed after the game, “When they are keying in on our top-six it’s up to us bottom-six guys to help them out and chip in there and we weren’t able to do that.”

Andre Burakovsky, who was added back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the last few games, was notably absent from the score sheet. He registered a minus-1 rating for being on the ice when the Blues scored, and also logged the fewest minutes of all the Capitals’ skaters. The loss comes at a bad time for the Capitals as they fight to hold onto a slim Metropolitan Division lead and will need to be better to keep it. However, Reirden added, “The one positive to a back-to-back is that we have a chance to respond tomorrow against a very good team… and that’s our approach.”

By Charlie Dipasquale

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