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5 reasons why the Caps lost to Arizona

5 reasons why the Caps lost to Arizona

CAPITAL ONE ARENA—With a four-game road swing looming, the Caps were hoping to finish off a five-game home stretch on a high note. Things did not go according to plan Sunday as the Arizona Coyotes came into Washington on the back end of a back-to-back and with their starting goalie on injured reserve and still took a 4-1 decision over the Capitals.

Here are five reasons why the Caps lost:

The penalty kill…again

The Caps’ struggles on the penalty kill continued Sunday. With Matt Niskanen in the penalty box in the first period, the Caps’ penalty kill pushed forward into the offensive zone looking for a shorthanded opportunity. A shot by John Carlson was stopped by Darcy Keumper and Arizona launched a counter attack. Suddenly a shorthanded Caps team was caught too far up ice leading to a three-on-one for the Coyotes. The penalty killers hustled to get back in time and they almost did, but they were caught completely out of position and could not get their system set up. A few slick passes by Arizona led to Vinnie Hinostroza netting the easy goal.

Todd Reirden talked in the preseason about wanting the penalty kill to be more aggressive this season, but thus far Washington has not been able to push the offense without leaving itself vulnerable in the defensive end. The team has now allowed at least one power play goal in four straight games.

The Caps need to take some notes on Arizona’s penalty kill. Not only are they top-ranked unit in the NHL, but they have also scored an incredible nine shorthanded goals on the season.

One pass too many

A promising offensive drive for Washington ended up in the back of their own net as Arizona was able to take advantage of one extra pass by Travis Boyd.

The Caps entered Arizona’s zone on a three-on-two rush. Dowd dropped a pass to Andre Burakovsky who passed it cross-ice to Boyd. Boyd had nothing but room to work with, but instead of taking the open shot he elected to make the extra pass to the trailing Michal Kempny. The pass went behind Kempny and Panik took it in the other direction and fired a beauty of a shot to beat Braden Holtby.

You see often in hockey that a missed opportunity at one end can turn into a goal at the other. That was a shot Boyd had to take.

The penalty kill…again, again

Things went from bad to worse for the Caps’ penalty kill. Nicklas Backstrom pulled the Caps to within one with his second period goal, but Evgeny Kuznetsov was called for high-sticking just 41 seconds later and the penalty kill was victimized yet again. This time it was Alex Galchenyuk who backhanded a rebound past Holtby.

Washington’s struggles on the penalty kill are completely overshadowing the strides this team has made defensively five-on-five. The Caps have allowed only two five-on-five goals in the past four games. The problem is they have also allowed six power play goals during that same stretch and have lost two of those four games.

Darcy Keumper

With starting goalie Antti Raanta on IR, you may have thought the Caps caught a break Sunday. The Coyotes played Saturday in Pittsburgh and currently have a goalie with zero NHL experience serving as the backup. Head coach Rick Tocchet elected to stick with Keumper in Washington.

Despite having no rest between starts, Keumper was more than up to the task on Sunday as he looked strong between the pipes with 38 saves. He gave up only one goal to foil the return of the Alex Ovechkin, Backstrom, T.J. Oshie line, though that line did account for the team's only goal of the game.

A stifled power play

Sunday’s game featured the NHL’s second-best power play for Washington facing off against the league’s best penalty kill in Arizona. The Coyotes definitely got the better of the matchup as they killed off both of Washington’s opportunities on the man advantage.

The power play was always going to regress a bit – it was producing at far too high a rate to be sustainable – but when the Caps are forced to rely on their five-on-five offense, they have come up short. Washington is now 0-4-1 in games in which they have not scored at least one power play goal.

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Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson's two-point night including the shorthanded game-winner as the Capitals held on for a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday. The win was Washington's third on their six-game road trip, which concludes Saturday in Buffalo.

Here are four reasons Washington won.

1. Braden Holtby’s first period

After the first period, it looked like we were going to have a goalie duel. Frederik Andersen looked absolutely brilliant to start and the Caps needed Holtby to be equally brilliant to keep Washington in it. He was.

Holtby made 12 of his 40 saves in the opening frame, including an absolute beauty to rob Patrick Marleau. Andersen robbed Michal Kempny and Nicklas Backstrom on one end of the ice and Toronto picked up the puck off the rebound for a quick 2-on-1 counter. Kasperi Kapanen fed Marleau beautifully, but Holtby stretched out to make the spectacular save with the blocker. A few minutes later, Holtby made a quick pad save on a William Nylander backhand, then recovered just in time to deny Connor Brown on the rebound attempt.

Because of Holtby’s efforts, both teams went to the locker room locked in a 0-0 tie.

2. Alex Ovechkin draws a penalty, scores the power play goal

Morgan Rielly does not take many penalties. Heading into Thursday’s game, Rielly had taken only two minor penalties all season, which is pretty remarkable when you think about a top defenseman averaging 22:43 of ice time per game.

In the second period, however, Ovechkin managed to draw a hold on Rielly. When you get a team’s top defenseman in the box, you need to take advantage. The Caps did just that off a quick play off a faceoff.

T.J. Oshie won the draw back to John Carlson. As soon as the draw was taken, Ovechkin backed away towards the top of the opposite faceoff circle. Toronto was slow to setup the defense, so when Carlson fed Ovechkin for the one-timer, he had an open shooting lane on net. Ovechkin delivered a fadeaway one-timer from above the circle and beat Andersen glove side.

3. A key forecheck by Tom Wilson

Brett Connolly made a nice play in front of the net to deke around the stretched pad of Andersen and backhand the puck into the open goal. Wilson made that play happen, however, with a great forecheck.

Jake Gardiner went to recover the puck behind the goal line in the defensive zone, but Wilson came streaking in like a freight train and knocked Gardiner off the puck. Lars Eller pounced on the loose puck and fed Connolly in front of the net. He did the rest.

4. The Tom Wilson shorthanded exclamation point

Washington carried a 2-0 lead into the third period and looked to be the better team, but a goal form Andreas Johnsson put the Maple Leafs right back in it. The ice was definitely tilting in Toronto’s favor and less than 90 seconds after Johnsson scored, John Carlson took a hooking penalty.

With the game on the line, however, the penalty kill delivered.

Holtby made a kick-out save and two Leafs went after the rebound, but Brooks Orpik made a key stick lift on Mitch Marner and Eller beat Johnsson to the puck and had a lane for the breakout. Wilson turned on the jets and hustled out of the zone to try to catch up with Eller for the 2-on-1. He got there just in time and Eller delivered the pass to him just past the blue line. Wilson took aim and fired a wrister past Andersen to end any hopes for a comeback.

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Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

To watch the entire video, click "play" in the video player above.

Capitals fan Greg Christian and his late wife, Dona, made a plan to watch their favorite team at every NHL arena. Greg finally achieved that goal.

Gred attended the Caps' tilt with the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 23, taking with him a picture of Dona sporting a Hockey Fights Cancer jersey.

Greg and his wife were long-time Caps fans, and spent road trips talking about hockey and sports. They were soon inspired to follow the Caps on the road and make it to every possible venue to watch them play.

However, those plans would be interrupted in April 2017, when Dona was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The two made it to 34 NHL venues together before she passed away in November, last taking in a Caps game at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, according to the Washington Post.

The two have now seen Washington play at 36 venues, including two past arenas and three stadiums. And once Seattle gets an NHL franchise, Greg told WUSA9 he plans to be in attendance.

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