A game against the last place St. Louis Blues who were missing sniper Vladimir Tarasenko on Thursday seemed like easy pickings for the Washington Capitals. But that’s why they play the game.
What looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but as the Blues scored four unanswered goals in a 5-2 romp. The only silver lining for Washington was Alex Ovechkin’s first period tally that snapped a six-game goal drought for the Caps' captain.
Here are four reasons Washington lost.
A wicked deflection
St. Louis struck first just four minutes into the game. An innocent looking shot from Robert Bortuzzo from the blue line ended up in the back of the net behind a baffled Braden Holtby. Replay showed Holtby had his glove up and the puck was headed right for it, but forward Robert Thomas just managed to get a piece of it with his stick right in front of Holtby to deflect it in.
A backbreaking goal
Killing a penalty is hard to do. Even if you play perfectly for 1:50, you could still end up giving up a goal and walking away with nothing to show for your efforts. That can be deflating for a team and it seemed to be for Washington on Thursday.
The Caps’ penalty killers looked strong for much of the night including in the second period as Washington clung to a one-goal lead. Tom Wilson had a shorthanded breakaway and another opportunity soon after, but was not able to score. A few seconds later Colton Parayko scored to tie the game.
There were just 14 seconds left on the power play.
That goal seemed to take the wind out of Washington’s sails. Oskar Sundqvist scored just over four minutes later to take the lead late in the third and a game that looked like the Caps had control of was suddenly getting away from them.
After Parayko tied the game at 2, the Blues outscored Washington 3-0.
The third period
Heading into the final frame, the score was only 3-2. The Caps were certainly not out of it by any stretch. But rather than play themselves back into contention, Washington was put on their heels to start the final frame.
Despite trailing by a goal, the Caps were badly outplayed by the Blues. Washington did not get a shot on goal in the third period until about 13 minutes in. By that time, St. Louis had already managed to fire 12 shots on Holtby including two goals.
The power play
There’s no way around it, the Caps’ power play was just plain awful.
The biggest issue the power play has faced of late has been zone entry. It looked like the Blues did their homework and they stacked the blue line as a result to make it difficult for Washington to enter the offensive zone. The tactic certainly proved to be effective as the Caps clearly struggled to get past that blue line to set up their power play.
Frustration from the coaches was evident early. On the team’s very first power play of the game, Washington was whistled for offsides twice in the first 37 seconds. That was all Todd Reirden needed to see and he immediately subbed out the top power play unit, a unit that typically plays about 1:30 of a two-minute power play.
That was in the first few minutes of the game. Things did not get much better over the course of the game.
St. Louis entered Thursday’s game having given up 10 power play goals in their past eight games for a kill rate of just 60-percent. And yet, the Caps’ power play was not able to score on any of their three power play opportunities.
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