Caps say they need to close out games better


As the seconds ticked off the clock at Capital One Arena, the Capitals made one final push to win the game in regulation only to come up empty-handed.

And as the game went to overtime, there was a feeling that the Capitals never should have let the Blackhawks back in the game in the first place.

In a 4-3 shootout loss, the Capitals cleaned up their game after the first 20 minutes and put a sloppy start behind them. Despite that, they lost their one-goal lead in the third period and couldn’t make up for it in time as they lost in back-to-back games for the second time this season. 

“I didn’t think we played our best hockey in the first,” Garnet Hathaway said. “I think we thought maybe they’re an inferior team. But they’re playing a lot better than I think they were at the beginning of the year and they deserved to win that first period. I thought we fought back in the second...A point’s a point, it’s better than zero obviously, but we’re a good enough team where we need to fight for two points every night.”

The loss to the Blackhawks was, notably, the second defeat in a row where the team surrendered a third-period lead.

Against the Panthers on Tuesday, the Capitals gave up four goals in the final period in a 5-4 loss that looked far different than the one Thursday. They allowed 26 shots in the third period that night and struggled to keep a surging Panthers team out of their own end in the final minutes. 


But while the process was far different Tuesday, and far better, the end result was essentially the same.

“The last two games we made mistakes in the third and we didn’t need to, as a team, and I just think we need to tighten that up and realize we don’t need to score another goal,” Nic Dowd said. “Just continue to play defense, get pucks out.”

Five-on-five shot attempts in the third period were dead even at 17 as shots favored the Blackhawks 8-7. But once the Capitals got a goal from Hathaway, the Blackhawks turned on the offense and tied the game 11:56 into the period. 

“Third period I thought we had looks,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “(I) thought we were better defensively, just gave up a couple chances and it was a miscoverage on the third goal where I think we had someone there. They drifted off to the side and ended up leaving a hole down the middle of the ice.”

The blown leads in the third period aren’t yet an issue for the Capitals — and far from it. 

They hit the post multiple times throughout the game, including once in overtime when Evgeny Kuznetsov hit the left post. And, after the loss, they're still 14-4-6 this season.

But it’s something that they’ve certainly taken note of the last two games, of which they feel they’ve left three points on the ice.

“I think regardless of if we’re up by three or we’re up by one in our building, somewhere else, you’ll see our team turn it on if we’re down by one goal, right, and then all of a sudden guys start playing with more jam,” Dowd said. “Ovi has a big hit, we score a goal, we’re into it, crowd’s into it. But I think we have to learn how to be precise the entire game and finish.”