Braden Holtby kept Washington in it, but a tired Capitals team fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 on Tuesday for a tough start to their six-game road trip.
There's no way to sugarcoat it, Columbus was the better team from start to finish and Holtby was the only thing that kept this game respectable. Through 40 minutes, the score was only 1-0 and the Caps remained one shot away from tying the game. A late third-period goal, however, ended any hope for a comeback on the night.
Here are four reasons the Caps lost.
Teams have to play back-to-backs. It’s part of hockey. These are not automatic losses and it is no excuse for playing poorly. Having said that, the effect Monday’s game had on the Caps was evident from the drop of the puck to the moment the clock hit 00:00.
Washington did not have its legs under it and a rested Columbus team took full advantage. The Caps were a step behind the Blue Jackets and it led to a number of bad penalties and odd-man rushes. Usually teams get their second wind after after a sluggish start, but Washington looked out of gas all game.
The Caps got their first power play in the game in the third period in a one-goal game. Yet, Columbus ended up with the better opportunities as they got a number of quick breaks behind the defense. The power play ended with John Carlson slashing Cam Atkinson on the shorthanded breakaway.
A bad line change
Holtby was absolutely brilliant in net and stole a number of shots that looked like sure goals. But when a goalie has to face a 3-on-1, the odds aren’t in his favor.
Anthony Duclair finally got one past the Caps’ netminder in the second period as Columbus managed to catch Washington on the line change. With most of Washington’s skaters around the bench, Oliver Bjorkstrand saw an opportunity when his team gained possession of the puck and made a quick pass up to Anthony Duclair. Two other Blue Jackets players stepped up into the rush and caught the Caps on a 3-on-1 with only Brooks Orpik back on defense.
Orpik played the rush correctly and cut off the pass, leaving Holtby to defend the shot. Duclair waited until Holtby showed him a little bit of the 5-hole and shot it through. Holtby may have been leaning a bit in anticipation of the pass and it cost him.
Stop me if you heard this before, but penalties were an issue for Washington.
The Caps took five minor penalties on the night and three of them were stick penalties with two hooks and a slash. Tom Wilson was also called for a trip and Washington was booked for too many men in the second period.
For a tired team, having to kill multiple penalties is not ideal. It put the offense behind the eight-ball all night long which leads us to the next point….
Not enough offense
The Caps had four shots on goal in the first period. Think it couldn’t get any worse? You would be wrong because they got only three shots on goal in the second.
Yes, you read that right. Through 40 minutes, Washington had only seven shots. They did not even reach double digits until more than halfway into the third period.
The Caps tried to rally late and finished with 20 shots on goal, but that's not enough to expect to get a win against a goalie like Sergey Bobrovsky who earned his third shutout of the season.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- On the Road Again: What Caps must do on longest road trip in eight years
- Trade Deadline: For / Against Wayne Simmonds
- NHL Power Rankings: Caps losing points because of penalties