Takeaways: Capitals Rally, But Bad Habits Costly In Loss To Panthers
The Capitals failed to generate much and underwhelmed in a critical matchup against the Florida Panthers, where they fell 6-3. Here are the takeaways.
WASHINGTON — It felt like the same old story for the Washington Capitals to start Thursday, as the Florida Panthers capitalized on the team's faults and tilted the ice for a relatively easy victory in a high-stakes game. However, T.J. Oshie gave the team life with a couple of punches, which ignited a rally. But it wasn't enough.
While Washington pulled within one late, an overall lackluster start, misreads and all-too-familiar bad habits led to a 6-3 loss to the Panthers, who have now tied the Capitals for the second Wild Card spot.
Here are all the takeaways from the defeat.
Dylan Strome, T.J. Oshie Spark Some Life Into Team, Frustration Boils Over For 77
Strome ultimately scored the lone goal for the Capitals, snapping a nine-game goal drought after tipping in an Oshie shot after both were put on a line with Anthony Mantha, who set the screen in front. The goal pulled Washington within two and marked Strome's 12th goal of the season and the second point in as many games for Oshie. However, Barkov's goal shortly after would make it a three-goal game once again.
Oshie wasn't done there, though, as the frustration finally boiled over for No. 77. Late in the second, he got hit from behind by Matthew Tkachuk in the crease, and from there, a scrum broke out as Oshie threw some punches with Ryan Lomberg and then exchanged words with Tkachuk while trying to go after Florida's leading scorer. It lead to matching roughing penalties for Oshie and Lomberg and an extra unsportsmanlike call on Oshie, who was sent to the room and early and remained in the box for the first part of the third period.
That would mark a turning point as things turned up in the third.
Backstrom & Kuznetsov End Power Play Drought As Capitals Push In Third
Early on in the game, the man advantage struggled as it had been over the last few games. After going 0-for-3 to open the game and failing to score on their last 11 attempts, the Capitals finally broke through and found the solution: traffic in front.
Nicklas Backstrom ended the skid, firing a quick shot through an Oshie screen in front to make it a 4-2 game. He now has three goals in his last six games.
Then, with just over two minutes to go, the Capitals got another power-play goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov, who made it 4-3.
However, team failed to convert on the other four opportunities, and an empty netter would lead to the loss.
Same Shots Plague Darcy Kuemper, Washington Capitals Defense
Back in Tuesday's loss, all three of the Carolina Hurricanes' goals came on the same play, as they struck on point shots that made it through or went off traffic in front. Those same plays came back to haunt D.C. on Thursday.
Gustav Forsling and Marc Staal both broke through on those goals, beating Kuemper as their shots made it through bodies and screens in front. Matthew Tkachuk and Florida did a job of making noise and maintaining a net-front presence, and the Capitals' blue line couldn't do much to help No. 35 out there.
After two shots through traffic, the Panthers got two more on odd-man rushes, with Colin White sneaking behind the defense for one and Aleksander Barkov electing to shoot on a 2-on-1 break for the other.
Washington Capitals Struggle To Get Pucks On Net Early, Pressure Too Little, Too Late
It was a slow start for Washington, who failed to get much going offensively at even strength or the power play. The Capitals appeared to be playing with a pass-first mentality, and there was a lack of shots on goal as a result of trying to find the perfect play. By the end of the first, they had just six shots on goal and were being outshot 30-17 going into the third.
However, the turned the tide in the third, outshooting Florida 12-4 and pulling within two with minutes remaining in regulation. and while Washington brought more pressure after a slow start, but it was too little, too late. The Capitals ended with but spent too much of the time trying to find the perfect play. Two empty netters sealed the deal late.
– Strome led the team with five shots.
– Lars Eller had four shots and tied Frans Nielsen for the most NHL games played by a Danish-born player. He also went 8-for-11 in the face-off dot.
– Dylan McIlrath was a minus-2.
– Head coach Peter Laviolette tweaked the lines later on, placing Mantha on a unit with Strome and Oshie while putting Conor Sheary with Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson.
– Nicolas Aube-Kubel had quite a few good looks in his 200th NHL game.
– The Capitals honored the late Mikhail Ovechkin with a moment of silence before puck drop.
– Johansson left the game early with an apparent injury.
– Erik Gustafsson picked up three assists in the loss, and Oshie had two.