When the Capitals take to the ice at home on Monday, they will be playing for their playoff lives. They lost their third straight game on Saturday as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Caps to the brink.
Here is why the Caps fell on the road for the first time in this series.
A rough start
Nineteen seconds was all the time Tampa Bay would need to score in Game 5.
Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov chased after it, but instead of getting the puck he inexplicably played the body of Cedric Paquette. Paquette was able to chip it into the offensive zone to Ryan Callahan. Callahan tried to pass to the slot, but it hit off of Orlov right to Paquette who buried it past Braden Holtby who was very deep in the crease.
If Orlov doesn’t cough the puck up in the neutral zone, if Kuznetsov plays the puck instead of the body or if Holtby challenges that shot, that goal doesn’t happen. An ugly play all around for Washington.
A no-call on Steven Stamkos
Later in the first period, Orlov went to corral a puck in the neutral zone, but was pressured by Stamkos, fell to the ice and turned the puck over to Nikita Kucherov. It was very clearly a trip on Stamkos, but there was no call. Palat would score on the play to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.
You can read more about the play here.
A rough night for Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen
Orlov and Niskanen is normally the Caps' best defensive pair, but they had a very long night. They were on the ice for each of the Lightning’s three goals of the game.
Orlov’s turnover led to the first goal, Stamkos’ trip of Orlov led to the second. On the third, Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman was somehow able to drive and turn the corner on Niskanen leading to a scoring opportunity that eventually deflected off the glove of Ryan Callahan and into the net. Stralman is not the speediest of players. The fact he was able to go one-on-one with Niskanen and get in behind him was surprising to see.
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Whenever a player has a career year in the last year of his contract, there is always some trepidation the next season. Was he really worth all those years or all that money that come with his new deal or did he just cash in on one great season?
John Carlson got the big contract and now is silencing all the doubters with his outstanding play.
Carlson scored his fifth goal of the season Monday as he chipped in a great feed from Jakub Vrana past Vancouver Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson (see above).
He later assisted on Evgeny Kuznetsov's goal in the second period giving him his fifth multi-point game of the year.
On the final year of his deal in 2017-18, Carlson was brilliant with 15 goals, 53 assists and 68 points, all of which were career highs.
It’s rare to see a bonafide No. 1 defenseman hit the open market, meaning there would have been plenty of teams lining up to pay him the big bucks. The Caps never let it get that far and they re-signed Carlson to an eight-year deal worth $64 million before free agency opened. His $8 million cap hit ties him for second among all defensemen.
That’s a whole lot of money to spend on a player whose previous career high was 55 points. Carlson would not have been the first player to regress in the first year after signing a big deal and he certainly would not be the last.
For now, however, he looks like he is worth every penny.
Carlson’s 68 points last season led all defensemen and he looks like he’s on pace to shatter those numbers. His goal Monday was his 11th point on the season. It took him 15 goals to reach that mark last season and 43 games to reach five goals.
Despite a career year, Carlson was not invited to the All-Star Game, he was not a finalist for the Norris Trophy and he was not named a first or second-team All-Star at season’s end. At his current rate of play, however, he will be impossible to ignore.
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On June 7 in Las Vegas, Jay Beagle was in a Capitals uniform as they hoisted their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Three weeks later, the 33-year-old signed a four-year, $12-million contract with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Capitals begin a four-game, Canadian road trip this evening in Vancouver. Beagle did not attend the Capitals ring ceremony at the Palm three weeks ago so the Caps awarded Beagle with his ring today.
Each ring contains 252 diamonds, 35 rubies and one sapphire. Beagle was impressed but isn't sure how much use the ring will get.
“Not sure I’ll wear it again. It’s like wearing my truck.”
Jay Beagle will not be on the ice tonight against his former team. Beagle broke his forearm when he blocked a shot against the Florida Panthers on October 13th. Beagle is expected to be sidelined for another five weeks.
Despite the injury, it has still been a great week for Beagle.
A shiny, new ring AND a baby girl. Not too shabby.
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