A late comeback fell short for the Capitals in a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Washington entered the third period down 3-0, but made it 3-2 before an empty-netter by Jeff Carter provided the knockout.
Here are some observations from the game.
The Caps finished the game without Martin Fehervary and Tom Wilson.
Fehervary left the game in the second period after getting hit in the head by Brock McGinn. The hit left him down on the ice for several moments before finally getting up and heading straight down the tunnel. He was in concussion protocol.
Wilson was tripped late in the second period and slid into goalie Tristan Jarry. It appeared he may have hit his head on the goal post and he grabbed his head afterward. It is unclear if this is when he was injured as he remained on the bench. He did not return for the third period.
For a team already dealing with so many players missing, these would be significant blows.
A step back for the defense
Washington has been one of the top defensive teams in the NHL, but they have taken a real step back of late.
Including Friday, the Caps have allowed three or more goals in seven of their last nine games. The Penguins used quick plays and quick puck movement to find holes in the defense. Two of Pittsburgh's four goals came on quick passing plays. Danton Heinen used a give-and-go with John Marino to find a lane into the slot for the tip-in when the return pass from Marino came his way. A neutral zone turnover turned into a goal as the Caps collapsed to one side on the quick transition trying to cut off the attack. Sidney Crosby was able to deliver a nice pass to a wide-open Kasperi Kapanen who buried the shot.
Heinen's goals was especially cringe-worthy as, prior to the goal, Mike Matheson had the puck alone in the Caps' zone by himself as Pittsburgh changed lines and the Caps did not challenge him. With literally a 1-on-5, Washington was caught puck-watching until Penguins reinforcements arrived leading to the goal.
A 2nd loss for Samsonov
Ilya Samsonov came into the game with an 11-1-1 record on the season. He was handed just his second regulation loss on Friday.
Samsonov looked very jumpy early in the game, over-committing on plays in a way we have not seen lately. This has been an issue for him, but something we have seen less of in his recent hot streak. After a tough start, Samsonov settled in and put together a decent night with 29 saves on 32 shots. His best save came in the third period with a great kick-out save on Brian Dumoulin.
A shaky defense was the reason for this loss, not Samsonov.
Friday marks the fifth straight game in which the Caps were held without a power-play goal. They have gone 0-for-7 in that stretch.
Part of the issue of late has been that the team is not generating many power plays. You don't have to be a mathematician to know seven opportunities in five games is not much. The team also continues to struggle on the break-ins as well, limiting the amount of time they get to set up the power play.
Alex Ovechkin remains one goal shy of tying the all-time record for power-play goals (274) held by Dave Andreychuk.