The Caps were not able to earn their second win of their Canadian road trip on Sunday as they fell 2-1 to the Calgary Flames.
The end result is a 1-2 mark on their west coast trip north of the wall.
Why did the Capitals fall short against the Flames?
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1. Mike Smith
Philipp Grubauer will steal a lot of the attention for this game, and rightly so, but Smith was also excellent in net for the Flames as he turned aside 30 of the Caps’ 31 shots for the game.
Only Jakub Vrana was able to solve Smith with Washington’s lone goal.
2. Zone entries
The Caps struggled immensely trying to get the puck into Calgary’s defensive zone.
This may be some of the effects of the loss of Marcus Johansson who was very good at carrying the puck for zone entries. Not only did that their struggles affect the Caps offensively on Sunday, but it also cost them in the most critical moment of the game.
As Dmitry Orlov carries the puck in, he is challenged by the defense. Rather than chip the puck in the corner and make his teammates and the defense work for it, he instead tries an ill-advised pass that is immediately blocked away by Mark Giordano and sent in the other direction. Calgary would score the game-winner on the resulting rush.
3. Special teams
There’s a word to describe Calgary’s penalty kill and that word is “bad.”
The Flames allowed a power play goal in five straight games and two power play goals in each of their last three games prior to Sunday. Yet, the Caps were not able to take advantage and score on either of their power plays to take an early lead.
On the other end of the ice, Washington’s efforts to tie the game fell short thanks in large part to the three penalties they took in the third period.
The most damaging was a too many men penalty with less than three minutes left to go in the game. It’s hard to make a real push to tie it up when you’re shorthanded in the most critical moments.
After winning five straight at home a confident Capitals team was dealt a tough blow in a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. Lars Eller scored 62 seconds into the game, but the Flames scored the next four straight goals for the win.
Here's why the Caps lost.
Calgary's quick response to the first goal
The Capitals took the lead just 1:02 into the game, but it lasted only 3:47. The Caps are a team that seems to thrive off early energy. They looked lethargic in the first period in both Nashville and Colorado and they lost because of it. The quick response by the Flames did not allow Washington to take advantage of the energy, the momentum or the crowd after taking the early lead.
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A bad defensive lapse in the first period
Covering only half of the ice is an inadvisable defensive strategy. In the first period, John Carlson and Brooks Orpik were both caught on the right side of the ice leaving nothing but open ice for Johnny Gaudreau to work with.
From the replay, it did not appear the Caps’ defensemen were caught on a bad line change, it was just a bad defensive lapse. Unfortunately for Washington, Gaudreau is the wrong player to leave wide open and he was able to score Calgary’s first goal.
The second period
The Caps were outshot 13-6 in the middle frame and three of Washington’s six shots came in the final three minutes of the period. Calgary completely dictated the play in the second and took the 2-1 lead on a power play goal by Sean Monahan.
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Calgary had the worst penalty kill in the NHL coming into Monday’s game with a kill rate of just 70.6-percent. Advantage Washington, right? Not so much. Washington had three power play opportunities and did not score on any of them. The Caps were also called for five minor penalties of their own. Of Calgary’s four goals, two of them came on the power play and another came one second after a penalty had expired. What should have been an advantage for Washington turned into a disadvantage as the Flames outscored the Caps 2-0 on special teams.
A miscue and penalty prone Caps’ team failed to extend their streak on home ice Monday night, falling to Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames, 4-1.
The defeat halted Washington’s five-game winning streak at Capital One Arena, two nights after the Caps had seemingly steadied themselves with a sound victory over the Wild on F Street.
Monday’s loss also marked the Caps’ second to the surging Flames in a span of three weeks.
Tarik’s three stars of the game:
1 - Johnny Gaudreau, Flames
Johnny Hockey capitalized on an apparent miscommunication in the first period to knot the score 1-1. With Brooks Orpik and John Carlson on the same side of the ice, Gaudreau raced into the Washington zone and snapped a shot past Braden Holtby’s glove. The goal was Gaudreau’s eighth in the past 10 games. He also notched a primary assist, giving him 19 points during this torrid stretch.
2 - Mike Smith, Flames
The 35-year-old netminder allowed a goal on the first shot he faced—a snipe from point blank range off the stick of Lars Eller just 62 seconds into the contest. After that Smith outstanding, particularly in the early moments of the third period as the Flames clung to a 2-1 lead. Smith turned away shots from Alex Chiasson (two), Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, Dmitry Orlov and Tom Wilson in the opening 2:45 of the final frame to keep the Caps at bay.
3 - Jakub Vrana, Capitals
Vrana started the game on the third line and finished on the first line. In between, he recorded a beautiful primary assist, drew a penalty and notched two shots on net. The assist was Vrana’s first helper since Oct. 7, the Caps’ second game of the season. The 21-year-old was scratched two games ago in Colorado. Seems he heard Barry Trotz’s message loud and clear.
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