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Caps rookie Jakub Vrana headed to bench for first time vs. Devils, but why?

Caps rookie Jakub Vrana headed to bench for first time vs. Devils, but why?

ARLINGTON—Jakub Vrana will be a healthy scratch tonight vs. the visiting Devils, Coach Barry Trotz confirmed after the morning skate.

It’ll mark the first time since the rookie was recalled late last month—a span of 12 games—that he’ll sit.

“It’s a young [player’s] process,” said Vrana, who has not recorded a point in five games.

“It’s how it is sometimes. I’m staying positive. I’m looking forward, [will] work hard and just control what I can control and try to get back in the lineup.”

Trotz’s decision to scratch Vrana should not come as a major shock. Early in his stint, the 20-year-old injected some speed and offense into a lineup that was in need of both. Then the production started to come as he scored a goal and notched two assists during a three-game stretch.

PROSPECT REPORT: Swiss prospects impessing at World Juniors

Lately, though, Trotz has hinted that Vrana may have hit the proverbial rookie wall. During the five-game points drought, he also went two games without a shot on goal.

And with the Caps dropping three of their last four games (1-2-1), Trotz felt like it was time for a change.

It appears that veteran Brett Connolly will replace Vrana on the Lars Eller line, though the team did not do line rushes during the optional morning skate. 

Asked if Vrana could be sent to Hershey, Trotz said a decision on his immediate status has not been made.

“We’ll consider all the options,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s best for the player. We’re not in a development league, we’re in a winning league. We’ve got to balance that and that’s what we’re going to do—whatever is best for his development and us winning, we’ll do that balance.”

“It’s one game,” Trotz said, “we’ll see where it goes after tonight.”

As for Vrana, he sounded like a young player who understands the decision but is also determined to fight his way back into the lineup.

“We have a great team,” he said.

“Many, many great players here. And when you’re cold [for a] few games you might need a reset, get back on the track and wait for [when] the opportunity comes again. That’s what I’m doing right now, staying positive, seeing how it’s going to go and trying to get my spot in the lineup back.”

RELATED: Effort wasn't there, but Caps liked how they crashed the net

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.


Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.


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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came only 2:30 into the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby.

On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life.

The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.