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.
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.