The Capitals started out firing against the St. Louis Blues, but couldn’t add onto their lead when they had the chance. As it turned out, that’s what burned them in the end in a 5-1 loss in St. Louis on Friday.
The team is now 20-7-8 on the season with a quick turnaround before tomorrow night’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
Here are a few takeaways from the Capitals’ loss:
Second Period Blues
The Capitals allowed just six shots in the second period. The problem was that the Blues scored on half of them.
In a period that, statistically, didn’t look terrible, the Capitals fell behind by what turned out to be an insurmountable margin during a Blues onslaught. The back-breaking goal was an Ivan Barbashev goal at 19:59 of the second period to put the Blues up 4-1 and chase Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov.
In all, they weren’t wildly outplayed in the second period necessarily, but the Blues made good on their chances and the Capitals didn’t.
Early push nets just one goal
For a score that didn’t reflect it, the Capitals were a few bounces away from turning the game into a significant lead in the first 10 or so minutes.
Ville Husso made a few stellar saves and the Capitals narrowly missed a few in-tight chances that could’ve put them up two or three goals in the early going. The Blues struggled to get out of their own end in the first 10 minutes, but Washington did not make them pay.
As it turned out, the fact that the Capitals put just one in the net ended up costing them.
Top line Hathaway as lineup juggled
Neither T.J. Oshie nor Nicklas Backstrom were in the lineup on Friday against the Blues, which left coach Peter Laviolette in a position where he had to juggle the lineups a bit.
That left Connor McMichael in the press box as a healthy scratch and Garnet Hathaway on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
It hasn’t been a clean year for the Capitals injury or COVID-wise, as they’ve still only played just one game this year with all four of their top centers in the lineup. But for now, that streak will continue and they’ll have to keep making due with what they can.
After he allowed the fourth goal at 19:59 of the second period, Laviolette made the decision to end Samsonov’s night. All four goals he allowed, on 16 total shots, came at even strength.
Zach Fucale replaced Samsonov in his first appearance since a shutout performance in Detroit against the Red Wings. In relief, he stopped all eight shots he faced.
The Capitals will play the Wild on Saturday night, but the starting netminder for that game remains unclear after Friday's outcome. Vitek Vanecek has not played since Dec. 19 and it remains unclear when he will return.
Since mid-November, Samsonov has played well and seemed to find his footing. Friday against the Blues was certainly one of the few games he hasn’t played well in since that time.