The Washington Capitals concluded their five-game homestand on a decent note. The Caps earned seven out of 10 potential standings points and did a lot of things right during the home stretch.
However, earning a point in their 4-3 overtime loss against the Florida Panthers does not take away the agony of Wednesday’s defeat. The Caps had leads of 1-0 and 3-2, but once again coughed them up once they gained them. Furthermore, the mistakes in the defensive zone ended up in the back of the Capitals’ net.
“We made some egregious mistakes with the puck [and] against a team like them you just can’t make… Especially against their best people who are all feeling it tonight and buzzing around. We just made some really, really mind-boggling plays with the puck, decisions with the puck, positional stuff for the second and third period,” Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said after Wednesday’s loss. “We had a few looks but not near to our standard and what we’re capable of.”
Despite a strong finish in the third period, Panthers forward Sam Reinhart brought the curtain down 15 seconds into overtime giving the Panthers the extra point.
Here is what stood out.
Third Line Supremacy
The Capitals third line composed of Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas and Anthony Mantha was flying all night long.
“I think the biggest thing for us is we’re all on the same page. We’re all making the right reads we’re communicating out there,” McMichael said. “I think that just makes the game a lot easier. And I think obviously the other two guys had a great game as well.”
McMichael tallied his third goal of the season on a short-handed, odd-man rush. Protas did a great job of using his speed to separate himself from Aleksander Barkov, who was backchecking, and McMichael sprinted past Matthew Tkachuk and finished the play in dazzling fashion.
The 22-year-old led the Caps with six shots on goal.
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Protas especially was excellent. The towering 6-foot-6 winger had two assists on the night and was the main catalyst of the trio. He broke up plays on the PK and used his lengthy and powerful skating stride to create odd-man rushes.
“We just took care of our chances. It kind of came off the rush and everything we just took care of it,” Protas said. “Got a little lucky on the first one but took care of the next couple so just probably execution.”
Mantha was the player that was in the right place at the right time. Though he had some puck luck on the opening tally, Mantha put himself in prime scoring position on his second goal of the game.
McMichael fed a perfect saucer pass to a streaking Mantha and he went blocker side of the Panthers netminder.
Unfortunately, he took a puck to his ear in the third period and went to the locker room for repairs. He did not return for the rest of the game.
Alex Alexeyev Mistakes Lead To Goals
Alex Alexeyev had a very rough game. He was easily Washington’s worst player on the ice. The Russian defenseman was a minus-2 and was the one responsible for Barkov’s goal in the first period and then Evan Rodrigues’s tying strike in the third period.
The Caps were solid for the first half of the first period. They were executing on their breakouts and getting chances on Bobrovsky. But after the first TV timeout, things started to go sideways. On Barkov’s goal, Alexeyev chased down the puck in the far corner to retrieve it and make a play.
Rather than rimming it hard around the boards or carrying it behind the net to find another option, Alexeyev sent a blind pass right to Reinhart and he centered it to Barkov. Though the first shot attempt was blocked, the two forwards ran the same play again and this time they converted. His reaction after the goal says it all.
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Rodrigues’s goal was what was bad. Though it was a very impressive pass from the point, off the stick of Gustaf Forsling, Alexeyev did not make any sort of effort to tie up Rodrigues’s stick or box him out in front of the net. He was too soft and it led to an easy layup.
After that goal, Alexeyev did not touch the ice for the rest of the game.
“It’s hockey, right like in sports like there’s going to be mistakes throughout the game and mismanaged pucks and all that sort of stuff. You just can’t make egregious mistakes,” Carbery said. “You just can’t lose the guy on the backside and give up a backdoor tap in and you can’t ice the puck when we’re already tired and there’s options.”
Odd-Man Rushes Created
Washington has not created a lot of odd-man rushes through the first 10 games of the season. However, Wednesday was much different. The Caps had two quick ones right out of the gate but did not capitalize. The first was with Alex Ovechkin and Dylan Strome, but they failed to get a shot on Bobrovsky.
A minute later, the Caps executed a perfect breakout and it led to McMichael and Protas on a two-on-one back the other way. McMichael got a shot on Bobrovsky, but he stood tall.
The last two goals the Caps scored were because of odd-man rushes and catching the Panthers on the long-change.
Notable Numbers and Observations
- Matthew Phillips’s time in D.C. might soon be coming to an end. Phillips had just 5:42 of ice time and had a bad turnover that led to a Florida breakaway. He has not been as effective as of late.
- The Caps power play was 0-for-2.
- Washington ended the game with 16 giveaways to Florida’s 10.
- Nick Jensen struggled after having a solid outing against Columbus.
- The top players for the Caps can’t seem to score. The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Dylan Strome and Tom Wilson had looks but couldn’t convert. Ovechkin at times is being a little too unselfish by passing the puck rather than using his incredible shot.
- The PK unit is now 13-for-13 in the last five games.
- None of the goals were on Darcy Kuemper. He was the reason why the Caps got to overtime.
- The Panthers had 15 shot blocks compared to Washington’s 13
The Capitals will travel to Newark for a front-end of a back-to-back against the New Jersey Devils.
By Jacob Cheris