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Insider analysis: Capitals suffer first loss of the season despite Grubauer's heroics

Insider analysis: Capitals suffer first loss of the season despite Grubauer's heroics

T.J. Oshie scored a pair of power play goals and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer was outstanding Monday night in Tampa.

But the Caps blew a 3-1 second period lead, and the Lightning handed Alex Ovechkin and Co. their first loss of the season, 4-3, thanks to an overtime goal by Brayden Point.

How it happened:

Nicklas Backstrom opened the scoring at 16:42 of the first period, snapping a slick cross-zone pass from Andre Burakovsky past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (23 saves).

Oshie’s first tally came on a redirection of a John Carlson point shot less than two minutes later, and the Caps took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

Early in the second period, the Bolts got on the board thanks to Alex Killorn, who rifled a shot over Grubauer’s glove from the top of the circles.

A turnover by Dmitry Orlov in the neutral zone led to the opportunity.

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Oshie’s second goal—a blast from the middle of the power play diamond—restored Washington’s two-goal lead. But the 3-1 cushion didn’t last, either. With 51 seconds remaining in the middle frame, Chris Kunitz redirected a shot from Anton Stralman to send the game into the third period 3-2.

In the third, the Lightning turned up the pressure. Grubauer held the Bolts back as long as he could but he couldn’t turn away Nikita Kucherov, who blasted past Taylor Chorney and roofed a backhander to knot the score 3-3. The goal was Kucherov’s third in three games.

A couple of Caps said they were their own worst enemy in the final 30 minutes of regulation.

“They are a good, skilled team and…you have to play as good as you can against these guys,” Backstrom told reporters at Amalie Arena. “You can’t let them have any space or they are going to score. We should have had this game.”

Oshie added: “It’s a mental part of the game that I feel like it’s just natural once you get up, you feel like you’re doing a good job by sitting back and trying not to give them anything. But when a team is as fast as the Lightning are, and as dynamic as a couple of their players are, it just gives them too much time and space. So, early in the season here, that’s a learning moment for us.”

In the extra session, Point's goal, a redirection of a Kucherov rocket on a 4-on-3 power play, clinched the Bolts' win. Tampa Bay was awarded the power due to a too many men violation on the Caps—their second of the game.

“I don’t know about the first too many men—I didn’t agree with that one,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “But the one in overtime, that was definitely a penalty. It was on us a little bit.”

Boom, Backstrom:

Backstrom’s first goal of the season was the 189th of his career, pushing him past Bob Carpenter for eighth all-time in franchise history.

Next up in No. 19’s sights: Dave Christian (193), Bengt-Ake Gustafsson (196) and Alexander Semin (197).

Great Grubi:

Grubauer, in his first start of the season, finished with 36 saves, including saves on 16 of the 17 shots he faced in the third period to force the game to overtime. Two of Grubi’s late stops came without his stick.

“It was a tough game,” Grubauer said. “They came out in the last period and we gave them a little bit too much. [Some] simple mistakes cost us. But overall we did a lot of good things tonight. The PK was pretty sharp.”

Special Teams Doing Special Things:

The Caps’ power play went 2 for 4, while the penalty kill went 4 for 4 in regulation.

Point's game-winner marked the first power play goal the unit has surrendered this season. Orlov, Matt Niskanen, Lars Eller and Devante Smith Pelly saw the most PK time on Monday. Grubauer, however, was the star, making 12 shorthanded saves.

“It all comes down to pretty good goaltending,” Trotz said. “We had some pretty good stops there during the penalty kill.”

Other Observations:

O’s All the Way Across: Ovechkin has been the NHL’s most prolific goal scorer to start the season, racking up seven in the Caps’ first two games. Against the Bolts, he did not record a point, though he played well and nearly set up a couple of goals with nifty passes. No. 8 did, however, finish with four shots on goal.

All Together: With Grubauer getting his first start, Trotz has worked 21 of the 23 players on the roster into a game. The only players yet to suit up are rookie defenseman Christian Djoos and right wing Tom Wilson, who served the third game of a four-game suspension. Wilson is eligible to return Friday in New Jersey.

Two-for-Three: Backstrom (1 goal, 2 assists) and TJ Oshie (2 goals, 1 assists) each posted three-point nights.

What’s Ahead:

The Caps have a scheduled day off on Tuesday.

They host the Penguins on Wednesday, then face their first back-to-back of the season—at New Jersey on Friday and at Philly on Saturday.

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Vrana returns and other morning notes ahead of Saturday's game against the Wild

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Vrana returns and other morning notes ahead of Saturday's game against the Wild

Coming off a poor two-game road trip, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz elected to keep his lineup mostly familiar with Bruce Boudreau and a hot Wild team coming to town.

Here’s how they’re expected to line up tonight on F Street:

Forwards
Stephenson – Backstrom – Oshie
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Smith-Pelly
Vrana – Eller – Wilson
Connolly – Beagle – Chiasson
Extra: Walker

Defense
Orpik – Carlson
Orlov – Niskanen
Chorney – Bowey
Extra: Ness

RELATED: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-WILD

Now for some notes, quotes and observations from the morning skate:

  • Braden Holtby (10-4-0/2.68 gaa/.918 Sv%) is scheduled to return to the net for Washington. It’s likely Devan Dubnyk will get the nod for Minnesota, which has won four games in row. Dubnyk (8-6-1/2.28 gaa/.922 Sv%) earned shutouts in three of those games.
  • After getting smoked 6-3 and 6-2 in Nashville and Colorado, respectively, the Caps are looking to get things back on track at home, where they’ll play the next four games in a row and nine of the next 10. The good news? T.J. Oshie and Co. have won their last four games on home ice after a 1-3 start there.
  • The only lineup change for the Caps is Jakub Vrana returning after sitting out Thursday as a healthy scratch. Vrana has two points—both goals—in his last 13 games...and one was scored into an empty net.
  • Trotz was pretty direct when asked where his team needs to improve after a couple of ugly losses on the road. “We were executing, playing pretty solid and in a groove, if you will,” Trotz said of the Caps winning five of six games to start the month. “But it’s gone off the rails a little bit here in the last two games. We’re the only ones that can get it back. …We’ve had too many passengers. Everything starts with our best players. Tonight, we’re going to need our best players to be the best players because everyone else will follow.”
  • Christian Djoos, who suffered an upper-body injury in Nashville and missed the Colorado game, did not skate Saturday. “I don’t know exactly when he’s going to skate yet,” Trotz said. “He’s still day-to-day with the trainers. Once they tell me he can skate, he’ll be out there.”
  • Tyler Graovac, in Hershey on a long-term conditioning stint, figures to be back soon. He’s got a goal and an assist in two games with the Bears. Although the stint is set to end this weekend, Trotz said he plans to talk to Graovac and that his stay in Hershey could be extended to a fourth or fifth game with the player’s permission. “I’ve set it up with him and I have good communication with him,” Trotz said. “[So] if he needs a fourth or a fifth game, we’ll talk and we’ll decide. …There’s a possibility that he could return as soon as Monday or as late as next Friday.” 

 

MORE CAPITALS: CAPS' FIRST QUARTER REPORT CARD

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Game 21: Capitals vs. Wild Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 21: Capitals vs. Wild Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Minnesota Wild

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Wild will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Wild game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

 You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-WILD GAME?

The Capitals (10-9-1) take on the Wild (9-7-2) Saturday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Washington.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-WILD GAME ON?

The Capitals-Wild game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Capitals GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals vs. Wild
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-WILD GAME?

The Capitals-Wild game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-WILD OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.