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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Penguins

4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Penguins

The Caps entered the third period tied with the Penguins at 3, but allowed four goals to Pittsburgh in the final frame for the 7-4 loss.

Here's why the Caps fell to their archrivals on Friday.

A slow start

For the second time in as many games, the Caps faced a 2-0 deficit after giving up the first two goals. Washington has now given up the first goal in nine straight games. Yes, the Caps lead the league in wins when giving up the first goal (13), but they cannot always dig their way out of the holes they dig for themselves. The Caps did well to battle back to tie the game at 3-3 and 4-4, but they did not have enough left in the tank to match Pittsburgh in the third period.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF CAPS-PENGUINS

A brutal Christian Djoos turnover

Already down 1-0, Djoos was pressured in the defensive zone by the forecheck of Carl Hagelin. Hagelin pressured Djoos and then stepped into the passing lane as Djoos tried to pass across the middle to Carlson. Hagelin was able to intercept the puck and took it in on net to beat Braden Holtby and make it 2-0. Kuznetsov was directly in front of Djoos before he attempted to pass through Hagelin. Djoos had a choice of passing to Carlson or Kuznetsov and made the wrong choice under pressure. That's a rookie mistake.

Too many penalties

Pittsburgh came into this game with the best power play in the NHL scoring at a rate of 26.7-percent. Discipline had to be priority No.1 for the Caps. Not only did Washington give up four power plays, but three of those penalties came in the offensive zone. Defensive zone penalties happen. You're chasing the puck and the puck carrier can draw hooks, trips, high-sticks, etc. Offensive zone penalties are unforced errors. The Caps could not afford any of those on Friday and they took three of them. Pittsburgh ultimately scored on three of their four opportunities.

MORE CAPITALS: WHICH CAPS ARE STILL IN THE RUNNING FOR NHL AWARDS?

Speed

The Penguins are a speedy team that likes scoring on the rush. The Caps are a heavier team and do not have the jets to match Pittsburgh. Despite that, Washington was drawn into a track meet early on and ended up trying to play a style of game that favored Pittsburgh. Washington is not going to win a track meet with the Penguins, but they allowed themselves to get drawn in.

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

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USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE LIGHTNING

Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

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Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

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