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Caps rookies show promise in loss to Panthers

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Caps rookies show promise in loss to Panthers

With outdoor temperatures climbing into the 90s, the ice inside Germain Arena was not ideal for making tape-to-tape passes in Saturday’s rookie game between the Capitals and Florida Panthers.

But that wasn’t enough to dampen the enthusiasm of Hershey Bears coach Troy Mann following the Caps’ 2-1 shootout loss in Estero, Fla.

“It would have been nice to get a win because so many positive things happened in the game,” Mann told reporters after the first of three rookie scrimmages. (The Caps and Lightning will face off Sunday night at 7 p.m., followed by a Tuesday morning game against the Nashville Predators).

Eighteen-year-old defenseman Connor Hobbs, a fifth-round pick of the Caps in the 2015 draft, scored the lone goal for the Caps in the second period on a pass attempt that found its way through Florida goaltender Sam Brittain. Hobbs is expected to return to the Regina Pats this season for his first full year under former NHL coach John Paddock.

Four different Capitals hit the post in Saturday’s scrimmage – Riley Barber and Travis Boyd in the second period and Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson in the third – and goaltender Vitek Vanecek was sharp the entire game, his only blemish coming on a Connor Brickley wrist shot with 13:51 gone in the third period.

“I thought Stephenson was very good,” Mann told reporters. “Vrana obviously has skill level. I thought there was a little too much one-on-one play where he felt he could beat everybody.”

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Mann was also impressed by the play of Boyd and free-agent forward Tim McGauley, whom he called “very good” at transitioning the puck.

On the back end, Mann said he liked the first defensive pairing of Jonas Siegenthaler, 18, and Madison Bowey, 20. Siegenthaler, a second-round pick by the Caps in June, is expected to return to Switzerland next week, while Bowey is tabbed for his first season in Hershey.  Mann also liked what he saw from defenseman Christian Djoos, 21, a seventh-round pick in 2012 also ticketed for Hershey.

 “Overall we were real happy with how the defense played in general,” Mann said. “But up front we could really use a little bit more of a push from some guys like the (Caleb) Herberts and those kind of guys that can give us a little bit more as the tournament progresses.”

These are the line combinations and defense pairing Mann used on Saturday:

Forward Lines

Jakub Vrana – Chandler Stephenson – Riley Barber

Caleb Herbert – Travis Boyd – Liam O’Brien

Nathan Walker – Miles Koules – Kevin Elgestal

Tim McGauley – Trevor Cox – Derek Deblois

Defense Pairings

Jonas Siegenthaler – Madison Bowey

Christian Djoos – Tyler Lewington

Keoni Texeira – Connor Hobbs

Free agent defensemen Alex Basso and Dan Gibb and free agent right wing Cole Wilson were healthy scratches on Saturday. Free agent goaltender Taran Kozun is expected to get the start on Sunday.

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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.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

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.

MORE CAPITALS: KEMPNY EXCITED TO MOVE FROM LAST PLACE CHICAGO TO FIRST PLACE WASHINGTON

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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.