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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Golden Knights

4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Golden Knights

The Caps did a much better job not allowing the Vegas Golden Knights to dictate the pace of play, but still fell 4-3 to the speedy Knights on Sunday. Here's why.

Turnovers

The Capitals struggled to keep control of the puck giving up several turnovers, including a few in the defensive zone. Washington seemed to struggle with the Golden Knights' relentless forecheck. Vegas' first goal was the result of a Matt Niskanen turnover in the defensive zone which led to a flurry by Vegas. Niskanen got the puck back and then failed to clear it. He shot it off the wall, but it was corraled at the blue line and ended up in the back of the Caps' net. Washington also struggled through the neutral zone as they tried a lot of stretch passes that Vegas was able to read and pick off.

No one able to separate Reilly Smith from the puck

In the second period, Vegas was on the power play. Reilly Smith was fed the puck in the slot and got the quick shot off. It was saved by Philipp Grubauer. He then proceeded to shoot the puck again off the rebound and then again off the second rebound for the goal despite being surrounded by John Carlson and Jay Beagle.  Someone has to get the puck or knock Smith away. He should not be able to get both rebounds.

A defensive breakdown in the 3rd period

Jonathan Marchessault skated the puck through the middle of the neutral zone with Smith on his left. Madison Bowey attempted to challenge him in the neutral zone with his stick. The way he challenged, however, left the passing lane to Smith open. Bowey needed to call for the switch with Brooks Orpik, who started the play on the left, or Orpik needed to recognize Bowey was committed to the challenge and shift right to cover Smith. Neither Bowey nor Orpik made the right play, however, leaving Smith with an open lane on net. Then he beat Grubauer short-side as it looked like the Caps' netminder was anticipating a far-side shot.

The third period

Things got off to a great start as the Caps took a 3-2 lead less than a minute in. It went downhill after that. Not only did Vegas score twice in the third to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead, but Washington was outshot 11-6. Six is not enough and 11 is too many in a contested game like this. It looked as if the Caps were hoping to shut down the Knights after taking the early third-period lead, rather than continuing to push the pace.

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Kuznetsov's teammates are supportive but in tough spot after suspension

Kuznetsov's teammates are supportive but in tough spot after suspension

ARLINGTON, Va. -- In a team sport, every mistake a player makes affects the team. On Saturday, the news came out that Evgeny Kuznetsov misleading the NHL about cocaine usage and his subsequent failed IIHF drug test will now cost the Capitals one of their top centers for the first three games of the season. It is a tough blow for a team in a highly competitive division facing a brutal October schedule.

Kuznetsov’s actions have put the team at a disadvantage to start the season, but despite that, his teammates remain unwaveringly supportive.

“It's not easy moment for him and for his family, but it is what it is right now,” Dmitry Orlov said of Kuznetsov’s suspension. “He cannot do anything about that now. He's going to sit for three games and then come back and we're going to help him and support him. He's still our friend, our teammate. He should move forward past that, forget it and just focus on this season.”

With the support, however, also comes the reality that the team is going to have to find a way to win without him.

“The team has kind of accepted that and it's going to be a huge loss for us through the first three games,” Chandler Stephenson said.

The schedule makers did Washington no favors with their first three games as the Caps start on the road in St. Louis where the Blues will raise their Stanley Cup banner, then play in New York for the Islanders’ home-opener before the home-opener in Washington on the second night of the back-to-back.

Those are three tough games in a schedule that is not advantageous for Washington and now they have to navigate it without Kuznetsov.

“You never want to lose a player like [Kuznetsov] out of your lineup, whether it's the positive light that he brings to the rink or his skill and ability to take over games,” T.J. Oshie said. “But we've got some guys that'll step in and try to do a good job and try to get some wins without him.

“I think we're comfortable with whoever's in there,” Oshie added, “So for those three games whoever happens to be in there whether it's Lars or whoever they slot in there, we'll be comfortable with it, but we'll always miss Kuzy being in the middle.”

With Kuznetsov out, Lars Eller will move up to the second line. The major question mark now is who centers the third line for those three games? The likely candidate is Travis Boyd who entered the league as a center before being used primarily as a winger. With all the offseason acquisitions, Boyd is considered someone who has to re-earn his spot in training camp.

The extra cap space the team has with Kuznetsov out the first week could also potentially open up some possibilities for younger players the team otherwise would not have been able to afford, guys like Connor McMichael.

With all due respect, losing Kuznetsov and gaining a player who is fighting to stay on the NHL roster or an 18-year-old prospect is a pretty dramatic drop-off.

Even if those first three games are a struggle, however, the team is not focusing on that. The players are ready to get through those three games, move on and support their teammate.

“It's unfortunate for us,” Oshie said. “I'm sure he's pretty upset about it. We'll get through the three games and welcome him back with open arms.”

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How to watch: Capitals vs. Blackhawks preseason Game 1

How to watch: Capitals vs. Blackhawks preseason Game 1

Hockey season is finally back, and with roster battles heating up, particularly on the fourth line and final defensive pair, the Washington Capitals will get their first taste of preseason game action. 

After a premature departure in the playoffs to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games, the Capitals are looking to kick-off their preseason with a win over a Chicago Blackhawks team that failed to make the playoffs and earned the third overall pick in the draft.

The Blackhawks are one of three teams the Capitals will face in the preseason, including the Hurricanes and Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

The Caps will face the Blackhawks in the regular season on October 20 at United Center in Chicago.

CAPITALS-BLACKHAWKS PRESEASON GAME 1: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks

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

When: Monday, September, 16, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Blackhawks preseason game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

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

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

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