WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have both seen their share of struggles this season. However, as they they both met in their first rivalry showdown of the season, Washington’s struggles were more on display.
The Capitals came out of the gate with speed, but fell off after 20. After that, things got out of hand, as Darcy Kuemper struggled and the team failed to generate much of anything in a 4-1 loss to the Penguins, who ended a seven-game slide.
“I feel like at the end of the first, they kind of took over a little bit. And then I felt like we had, got a few opportunities to get back on the power play and we didn’t take it, we didn’t execute,” Johansson said. “And I almost feel like that took momentum away from us instead of building momentum, which is not how it should be and then it was just an uphill battle.”
Washington has now dropped five of its last six games. Here are all the takeaways from the loss:
Washington Capitals Fall Flat After First, Can’t Get Going Despite Pittsburgh Losing Three Defensemen
Coming out of the gate, the Capitals looked like they would carry over that momentum that led them past Edmonton Oilers on Monday. In the opening frame, Washington was flying, with guys throwing their weight around and getting some good chances in front. However, that play wouldn’t carry over for 60, which has become something of a pattern to open the season.
In the second period, the Capitals stepped off the gas, and some flukes and tough goals for Kuemper led to a 3-0 deficit going into the third period. Jason Zucker’s first of the game went in after Kuemper accidentally kicked it in after covering. Then, Brock McGinn capitalized on a shorthanded semi-break, and Kuemper let it trickled through as he failed to get enough of his pad on it. Shortly after, Jeff Petry struck on a point shot.
Kuemper finished with 24 saves on 27 shots (.889 save percentage).
“Yeah I don’t like letting in goals like that, and I’m not used to letting in goals like that,” Kuemper said. “So that’s frustrating. Especially in a loss. I hate to lose, so tonight was a bad night.”
Washington also got four power-play opportunities, but didn’t get anything going. The Capitals had scored four PPGs on Monday.
Over the course of the game, Pittsburgh lost quite a few defensemen, as Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Jan Rutta and Jeff Petry all went off at one point, leaving the Penguins down three. While Petry soon returned, Pittsburgh was at four for the remainder of the game. Still, Washington couldn’t really generate much, and didn’t have a lot of fight left after going down by three. Jake Guentzel put the nail in the coffin with an empty-netter.
Washington Capitals Experiment With Lines, Johansson & Milano Finally Break Through
With the team trailing 3-0 and a lack of chances at 5-on-5, head coach Peter Laviolette jumbled the lines.
Alex Ovechkin got time with Dylan Strome and Sonny Milano, and also skated with Anthony Mantha and Lars Eller. The Great 8 also stayed in his usual first-line spot with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Conor Sheary, though Aliaksei Protas was given a chance up there as well. Protas also got time with Mantha and Eller, who started with Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
The Ovechkin-Strome-Milano line was an interesting combination with potential, though they didn’t stick together the whole game.
In the third period, the second line of Milano-Strome-Johansson was reunited, and that combo broke through. Milano made a great play behind the net and found Marcus Johansson driving to the slot. Milano made a great backhanded pass to No. 90, who rocketed home his fourth of the season. It marked Milano’s first point with D.C.
MoJo gets one back for the good guys! pic.twitter.com/HazHRPkKpd
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) November 10, 2022
Both Teams Get Physical, Frustration Visible
While it wasn’t a great night on the scoresheet, it was s till a physical tilt between both Metro Division clubs with a lot of bad blood. Alex Ovechkin led with seven hits and was throwing players down to the ice, including Jason Zucker. Garnet Hathaway seemed to also be getting under Guentzel and company’s skin.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel didn’t get a lot of ice time, but did have four hits of his own and didn’t mind throwing his weight around.
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) November 10, 2022
In addition, Washington didn’t shy away from expressing frustration. Milano and Ovechkin visibly slammed the bench and expressed their displeasure with how Wednesday’s national showdown played out.
And, of course, there was a fight, as Trevor van RIemsdyk and Bryan Rust dropped the gloves in the third.
Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes
- Martin Fehervary played in his 100th NHL game. Sonny Milano played in game No. 200.
- Lars Eller won seven of nine face-offs (78 percent).
- Alex Alexeyev logged 11:14 in his debut and was a minus-1 with one shot and one hit.