News, notes and second thoughts from the Caps’ 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night at Verizon Center:
Quick strike: Evgeny Kuznetsov gave the Caps a 1-0 lead 1:28 into the third period, but the Penguins scored on their next shift just 24 seconds later on a rebound goal by Beau Bennett. The Caps’ checking line of Jay Beagle, Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson and the defense pairing of Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney were on the ice for the goal.
“That’s when you’ve got be resilient,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s not a systematic thing. You just have to make sure the next line out there is diligent in terms of detail. Make sure they win their battles, keep interior position and see if we can build some momentum. The next shift is huge.”
What’s a penalty?: The Caps were shorthanded for much of the first period because of penalties to Chandler Stephenson (elbowing), Orpik (boarding) and Karl Alzner (high sticking). The Stephenson and Orpik penalties seemed a little questionable after video replays showed Stephenson led with his shoulder and Phil Kessel turned his back on Orpik just before getting hit.
“The toughest part is we wanted to come out physical and took a couple penalties from us playing physical,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “It’s tough to find where that boundary is.”
Killers: Despite the early penalty trouble the Caps killed off 1:45 of a two-man disadvantage thanks the the strong play of Matt Niskanen, Alzner and Brooks Laich.
“It’s pretty rare that when you kill those off you don’t win,” Trotz said of the 5-on-3.
The Caps now have killed off 23 of 27 man-advantages.
Ramping it up: Wednesday night’s game was the first of eight straight Eastern Conference game for the Caps.
“That was probably the most physical and most intense game we’ve played so far this year, not a surprise with the two teams involved,” Niskanen said. “Something we talked about before the game was going to the crease and trying to score dirty goals there; we had lots of good scrums, but couldn’t get (more than) one past them.”
Fourth line troubles: The Caps’ allowed the game-winning goal less than 2 minutes after Bennett tied the score when the Penguins’ second/top line over-matched the Caps’ fourth line, with Evgeni Malkin finding Kessel down low for his team-high fourth goal of the season.
Trotz said other than a couple shifts he did not like the play of his fourth line of Stephenson, Laich and Andre Burakovsky. With center Michael Latta and right wing Stan Galiev itching to get into the lineup it will be interesting to see who skates on that fourth line when the Caps return to the ice on Saturday (Friday’s practice was cancelled).
Faceoff troubles: The Capitals lost 55 percent of their faceoffs Wednesday night, mostly against Sidney Crosby, who won 18 of 26 (69 percent). Beagle won just 6 of 17 draws (35 percent) and Oshie went 0-for-3).Oshie, who rarely took faceoffs before this season, is now 7-for-21 this season. Stephenson won 3 of his 4 faceoffs in just 5:42 of ice time.
Kuzy’s streak: Kuznetsov’s goal extended his point streak to four games (4 goals, 6 assists, which matches his career high. He has 12 points in his last six games.
Etc.: Karl Alzner’s assist was his first point of the season. John Carlson led all skaters in ice time (25:16). Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie led all skaters in shots (5). Orpik and Oshie led all skaters in hits (7). Niskanen led all skaters in blocked shots (5). The Caps outshot the Pens 34-25 and outhit them 37-24.
What’s next: The Caps close out their mini homestand when the face the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night at Verizon Center. The Jackets are 2-1-0 since hiring coach John Tortorella following an 0-7-0 start.
MORE CAPITALS: Why Caps blame themselves for loss to Penguins