The Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins battled to a tie in regulation on Tuesday, but Kasperi Kapanen gave the Penguins the overtime 3-2 win as he finished a 2-on-1 break to beat goalie Vitek Vanecek. Washington has now lost four out of five games to the Penguins this season. This is also the eighth straight time Washington and Pittsburgh have played in overtime in which Pittsburgh has walked away victorious.
Here are three reasons the Caps lost.
Washington struggled against the speed of the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils in their last two games. Facing another team with jets in the Penguins, Tuesday's game really became a battle of speed vs. size.
One way to slow a fast team down is to hit them and that was clearly a point of emphasis for the Caps. Through two periods, Washington was out-hitting Pittsburgh 26-5, but they were getting out-shot 30-15. Through regulation, Pittsburgh had the 36-22 edge in shots and Washington had the 29-15 edge in hits.
The Caps had a plan to slow the Penguins down, but you can't just yield possession. You have to force them into turnovers with those hits. Washington was fortunate that this game was tied through regulation thanks in large part to the efforts of Vanecek. They allowed Pittsburgh to have the puck on their stick far too much.
In overtime, the Penguins held onto the puck for the majority of the overtime which eventually led to Kapanen scoring the 2-on-1 goal.
Washington has to do a better job of not just slowing teams down, but doing it in a way that generates the puck. A team like Pittsburgh is too dangerous to just carry the puck around all night.
Dueling goalie interference calls
Sometimes referees come into games looking to send a message early on to set the tone, especially in contentious rivalry matchups. The message on Tuesday was leave the goalies alone and that actually cost the Caps.
Mike Matheson was called 77 seconds into the game for goalie interference. He got a little shove from Dmitry Orlov and then bowled into Vanecek. About four minutes later, the refs evened it up with a questionable goalie interference call on Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin gave Tristan Jarry a bump in the crease that sent him to the ice. Whether Jarry sold the call or was legitimately caught off guard by Ovechkin wasn't clear, but it didn't matter. Ovechkin was off to the box and Pittsburgh took advantage.
The Penguins tried to set up on the backdoor multiple times before Evgeni Malkin finally cashed in on the deflection. It was a nice play by Kris Letang at the blue line as he snapped a pass to the far side to a waiting Malkin.
A quick answer
Conor Sheary gave the Caps the 2-1 midway through the second period, but Jake Guentzel tied it up just 22 seconds later.
The Penguins for years have focused on defensemen shooting for deflections instead of for the net and they have had success with it. John Marino fired a shot that was clearly going wide of the net until Guentzel got the shaft of his stick to it and deflected it into the far corner past a stunned Vanecek.