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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Sabres

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Sabres

The Caps saw their three-game win streak snapped Tuesday at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. Here's why they lost.

Jack Eichel

He may be known more for being the guy drafted after Connor McDavid, but Eichel is a great player in his own right and that was on display against Washington. Buffalo’s first goal of the game was completely setup by the work of Eichel. On an offensive zone faceoff, Eichel knocked the puck through the legs of Lars Eller, jumped after it to pressure Brooks Orpik and force the turnover and then made the pass to the open Evander Kane on the doorstep for the goal.

MORE: OVECHKIN MAKES TARIK'S THREE STARS. WHO ARE THE OTHERS?

Not enough shots

Washington managed only four shots on goal in the first period and did not reach double digits until 13:10 had elapsed in the second period. In the end, they were only outshot 32-25 which doesn’t look too bad, but a lot of those shots came in a third-period flurry as they tried to claw their way back into the game.

Benoit Pouliot

Pouliot has 122 career goals and four of them have come against Philipp Grubauer in just five games. It was no surprise then to see Pouliot record the game-winner in the third period given his history with the Caps’ netminder. John Carlson stepped into the offensive zone to join the attack, but Pouliot took the puck in the other direction, skating the length of the ice, away from a Jakub Vrana poke attempt and netted the shot right through the legs of Brooks Orpik.

Back-to-back games

With Tuesday’s loss, Washington is now 0-4-0 on the back end of back-to-back games. With nine more back-to-backs remaining the Caps need to figure out how to get some wins in those situations.

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

A Capitals team that struggles after lengthy breaks is now indeed struggling after its return from the bye week. Since returning on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, the Caps have lost three straight games including two at home with only two points to show for their efforts.

Heading into the bye, Washington looked like one of the top teams in the NHL with 14 wins in 19 games. Now, they have taken a step back and are working at returning to the level they were playing just a week ago.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oh, and to make matters worse, the Caps do not play again until Thursday and then are off for the All-Star break.

It's Jan. 22 and Washington has only two more games this month. Even if they do figure things out on Thursday against the Florida Panthers, they will have to figure it out all over again when they return from the All-Star break on Jan. 31 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

So where do the Caps rank after their recent slide and how far could they fall if they do not right the ship? Find out here in this week's NHL Power Rankings!

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.

RELATED: HERE'S WHY THE CAPS LOST TO PHILADELPHIA

Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.

Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.

"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."

Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-FLYERS

But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.

If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.