Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck shut the Capitals' offense down with 33 saves on Thursday, handing Washington its first shutout loss since Dec. 16. The Caps saw their brief two-game win streak end in disappointing fashion as they failed to show the same offensive burst or physical dominance they had in recent games.
Here is how the Caps lost.
A distance shot
Ilya Samsonov turned aside 29 of the 31 shots he faced, but the first goal he allowed was one he will probably want back.
Dmitry Kulikov set up shop at the blue line and fired a slap shot that wired into the top corner over the blocker of Samsonov. Nicklas Backstrom came out to challenge Kulikov and provided a bit of a screen, but from that distance and with no deflection, that's one Washington needs its goalie to grab.
Overall, it was a really solid game for Samsonov, but this is one he needed.
One reason why Kulikov's early goal loomed large was because Washington just could not solve Winnipeg's netminder. Hellebuyck stopped all 33 shots he faced for the shutout.
The Caps had chances, but you would like to see a bit more traffic in front of the net to make life harder for Hellebuyck. He was seeing the puck really well and it was going to take more traffic, more screens, more deflections to beat him on Thursday. Washington needed an ugly goal and couldn't get it.
The power play
The Caps had only three power-play opportunities for the game, but had a golden opportunity in the second period down 1-0 when Neal Pionk was called for hooking and just three seconds after his penalty expired, Anthony Bitetto was given another hooking penalty.
Washington had virtually four straight minutes of a power play at the end of the second period in a one-goal game...and did nothing with it.
A quick release
Kyle Connor had a little room to work with in the high slot and he made the most of it, firing a shot to beat Samsonov and give Winnipeg the 2-0 lead.
Mark Scheifele found Connor from behind the goal line and Radko Gudas stepped up to challenge, but Connor used a lethal quick release to put the puck in the back of the net.
One of the most noticeable differences the last few games when Washington was starting to play better was how physical the Caps were playing again. They manhandled the Penguins and wore them down in the third period. The physical play was a major aspect in Washington's dominant start on Tuesday as well when it looked like the Caps were just going to dominant the Jets.
There was none of that on Thursday.
This game lacked a lot of the physical edge that the Caps had used the last few games to dictate play and it was very noticeable in what was a sleepy affair.
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