WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Capitals had a bit of a layoff this week, and it showed in Friday’s tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
They hadn’t played since Monday in a 4-3 shootout win over Anaheim. After that, they had two days off before holding practice Thursday and a morning skate Friday. Through the first two and half periods, the Capitals couldn’t shake off the rust and often found themselves flat-footed. Despite two late goals, Washington couldn’t complete the comeback and fell 4-2.
“We just weren’t sharp in a lot of the plays we were making. I thought mentally, we were just a step behind… we shot ourselves in the foot quite a bit,” T.J. Oshie said of the defeat.
Here are all the takeaways from the loss.
Capitals Can’t Recover From Turnovers, Sloppy First
From the get-go, the Capitals found themselves struggling to keep up with Pittsburgh. The Capitals gave up the puck several times in the first, which led to several odd-man breaks and grade-A chances for the Pens. Granted, Ilya Samsonov — and a couple of lucky breaks — did what they could to keep them off the board. Halfway through the first, the Capitals were being outshot 6-2.
However, a slow backcheck and too much zone time for Pittsburgh led to Danton Heinen putting the Penguins up 1-0 on a tap-in in front.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 11, 2021
By the end of the opening frame, Pittsburgh was up and dominating 11-6 in shots on goal. Despite leading in offensive zone time, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov were the only forwards to manage a shot on goal in the first. The other four shots came from the blue line.
It set Washington up for a slow rest of the night. Pittsburgh got more lucky breaks and made solid plays that led to two more second-period goals from Brock McGinn and Kasperi Kapanen. They were leading 3-0 and 22-17 in shots heading into the third.
Washington managed two goals in the final frame to pull within one late, but they couldn’t complete the comeback after an ENG.
“It was too steep a climb today, but I felt like bench felt like we could still do it,” Eller said.
Kuznetsov, Ovechkin Match Last Season, Give Capitals Life
Despite the negatives, there was a silver lining for the Capitals. Daniel Sprong took over for Wilson on the top line and made a great pass up ice to Alex Ovechkin, who found Evgeny Kuznetsov alone in front. Kuznetsov deked and got the puck past Tristan Jarry to give Washington some life in the third. Ovechkin picked up another helper on Lars Eller’s goal in the final three minutes of regulation.
That was pretty 😍 pic.twitter.com/zJJVOBDGXu
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 11, 2021
Ovechkin is now on a four-game point streak and has 34 points in 27 games this season. He had just 42 points all of last season.
Meanwhile, Kuznetsov’s tally marked his ninth of the season. Through 27 games, he has nine goals and 29 points, matching his total from all of an inconsistent 2020-21 campaign.
Capitals Lose Fehervary On Scary Play
Washington saw a major loss on defense in the second period, as Martin Fehervary suffered a scary injury on a questionable hit from Brock McGinn.
Fehervary was passing the puck at the offensive zone when McGinn’s shoulder made contact with Fehervary’s head. The rookie blueliner went down and was attended to by the athletic trainer before heading down the tunnel. He did not return, and there was no call on the controversial play, despite the high hit to the head.
Losing Fehervary is another major blow for a Capitals team that is already without Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway and Trevor van Riemsdyk (COVID-19), as well as Nicklas Backstrom (LTIR) and Anthony Mantha (IR). It not only takes away one of their top-pairing defenseman but one of their most effective rookies who leads all Washington blueliners in blocks (42) and hits (71).
This wasn’t the first time Fehervary was on the wrong end of a questionable play by Pittsburgh. In the Nov. 14 meeting between these two clubs, Sidney Crosby threw him into the boards head-first. There was no call or further discipline on that play, but Fehervary assured the media he didn’t care too much about it.
No. 42 did not return to play, and the team announced he has an upper-body injury. Head coach Peter Laviolette didn’t have an update on him but said his head “snapped back” on the play.
Wilson Also Exits For Capitals
Tom Wilson was also missing from Washington’s bench to open the third period. At the end of the second, he slid hard into Tristan Jarry and the Penguins net. Per Laviolette, that play led to an upper-body injury for No. 43. There is no update on Wilson at this time.
Prior to leaving, Wilson was leading all Capitals with six hits and also had a block through 15:11 minutes.
Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes
- Lars Eller was solid in the face-off dot, winning 12 of 23 draws (52 FO%). He also picked up his third goal of the season and now has points in back-to-back games and points in three of his last five appearances overall.
- Kuznetsov led all forwards with five shots, while Ovechkin, Dmitry Orlov and Matt Irwin all had four shots apiece.
- Ilya Samsonov stopped 29 of 32 shots (.909 save percentage) and is now 11-2-1 with a .915 SV% and 2.47 GAA.
- Washington went 0-for-2 on the power play and is now 4-for-23 on the man advantage over its last 10 games.