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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Hurricanes

4 reasons the Caps lost to the Hurricanes

The Capitals saw a 10-game home win streak and a five-game win streak overall snapped as they fell 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Here's how they lost.

A poor pass from John Carlson

The Hurricanes opened up the scoring in the second period on a power play...but it was Washington who was the man up. In a play that will not make John Carlson's personal highlight reel, the Caps' defenseman tried to pass to Alex Ovechkin on the point, but the pass was too far ahead of him. Jordan Staal anticipated the pass, poked it past Ovechkin and was off on the breakaway. Staal would finish the play by tucking the puck through the five-hole of Braden Holtby with the backhand for the shorthanded goal.


A controversial no-possession call

Midway through the third period, Tom Wilson was awaiting a delayed penalty call for boarding. Carolina took advantage with a go-ahead goal for Victor Rask, but it was not without controversy. Braden Holtby saved an initial shot from Justin Faulk and the rebound bounced up into the slot where Brooks Orpik took a swing at it with his stick. He clearly got a piece of the puck, but was it enough to qualify for possession?

On a delayed penalty, the play is blown dead once the offending team gets possession of the puck, but what qualifies as possession is at the discretion of the referee. Orpik definitely touches the puck, but touching does not necessarily mean possession. The refs allowed play to continue and Rask fired the puck past Holtby for the go-ahead goal, despite the Caps' protests.

A powerless power play

The Capitals had three opportunities with the extra man, but failed to score on any of them in the loss. In fact, Carolina got more goals on Washington's power play than the Caps did with Staal's shorthanded goal. Washington had a late chance to score as Klas Dahlbeck was whistled for slashing just 1:40 after Rask scored the go-ahead goal. The Caps, however, could not take advantage.


Not enough pressure

Scott Darling has had his struggles in his first season with the Hurricanes with a 2.97 GAA and .893 save percentage. Carolina's latest push in the standings has been largely because of the resurgence of Cam Ward who has an 11-4-2 record as compared to Darling's 8-11-6. Darling played fairly well in this game, but the fact is that Washington did not get nearly enough pressure on him with only 27 shots on goal. The Caps have been held to fewer than that only once in their last seven games. That came on Jan. 2 against the same Carolina Hurricanes.

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Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

There's a saying in sports that goes, "A series doesn't start until a team loses at home." For the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, their series won't start until someone wins at home.

Four games into the series, the road team has won every game. Columbus took Game 1 and Game 2 from Capital One Arena and the Caps answered back by winning Game 3 and Game 4 in Ohio.

"We came [to Columbus] to try to get the first one," Barry Trotz said after Thursday's win. "Did that. We came here to get the second one. Did that. All we've done is just got on even terms."

Now the series is a best of three with two of those final three games in Washington, but how much of an advantage does that really give the Caps?

"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," Trotz said. "I think we have been since we got here. We've just got to do it at home."

The various playoff struggles the Caps have suffered in the Alex Ovechkin era have been well-documented to this point. One particularly maddening issue is the team's struggles to win at home. Since 2008, the first year the Ovechkin-led Caps made the playoffs, the team is just 28-25 in home playoff games. Since 2015, Trotz's first season as head coach, the Caps are 12-10 in Washington.

Part of that is just the nature of hockey. Upsets are prevalent in the playoffs in the NHL and home-ice advantage does not mean as much as it does in other sports. But it should mean more than 28-25.

Besides having the crowd on your side, home ice also provides matchup advantages. The home team gets the second line change at home, meaning during a stoppage in play the home coach gets the opportunity to see who the opponent puts on the ice before making his own change. For the Caps, this means getting Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against Artemi Panarin.

Trotz has matched his top shutdown pair against Columbus' top line all series long. According to Natural Stat Trick, when Niskanen was on the ice in Game 4 he held Panarin's Corsi For percentage to 36.36. When Niskanen was not on the ice, Panarin's percentage shot up to 71.43. 

Theoretically, it should be much easier for Trotz to get those favorable matchups at home. Now all the Caps have to do is take advantage.

"Our home record hasn't been really great in the last little stretch at the end of the season here and obviously the first two games of the playoffs," Trotz said. "We owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of that."


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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.