The Capitals are undefeated no more as they fell 4-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout on Sunday. Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal of the season, but Washington played a sloppy, penalty-filled game and it proved costly in the shootout. Jake Guentzel was the only player to score through four rounds to give Pittsburgh the win.
Here is why Washington lost.
A bad start
For the third time already this season, the Caps allowed a goal in the first minute of a period as Evan Rodrigues scored just 19 seconds into the game.
Brian Dumoulin had the puck at the point, but instead of firing the shot on net, he instead passed it off to Rodrigues at the side of the net. Rodrigues stuck out his foot and the puck hit off it on net where it went through the 5-hole of a shocked Ilya Samsonov.
Whether because he thought Dumoulin was going to shoot or because he was battling a screen, Samsonov was a bit late to get over to cover the shot from Rodrigues which is why the 5-hole was so wide open.
A Samsonov turnover and a long review
Whenever a goalie goes behind the net to retrieve a puck, you can bet there's an opposing player not far behind hustling to provide pressure. Goalies need to be aware of that and communicate with their teammates to ensure a disastrous turnover does not happen. Samsonov and his teammates seemed to get their wires crossed in the second period as a giveaway led to Pittsburgh's second goal of the game.
As Pittsburgh dumped the puck into Washington's end of the ice, Samsonov went back to retrieve it. Justin Schultz was heading back with Teddy Blueger hot on his heels, but instead of following Schultz, Blueger made a heads-up play, broke off his pursuit and cut to the other side of the net. As Samsonov tried to feed the puck into the corner thinking Blueger was still behind Schultz, he actually fed it right to Blueger who was there to cut off the pass.
Blueger quickly fed the puck to the slot for Colton Sceviour and that's when things got weird. Shooting at an open net, Sceviour shot up and the puck seemed to bounce right back out. At first glance, it looked like Samsonov had gotten back quickly enough to make a miraculous glove save, but the play was called a goal by the referee who determined it had hit the top inside of the net and went out. The play went to review, but the overhead camera was broken and the refs had to rely on other angles. From the front, it looked like Sceviour hit the cross-bar and missed the net. Finally, a back angle revealed that the puck had actually hit the camera inside the net. After a very lengthy review, Pittsburgh was finally awarded the goal to tie the game at 2.
Pittsburgh's third goal came on a wrist shot by Marcus Pettersson in the high slot. The shot beat Samsonov glove side who was at the top of the crease, but he actually was not able to come out and challenge as much as he would have liked after a poorly time cut across by John Carlson.
As Jason Zucker took the puck behind the net to Samsonov's right, he was chased by defenseman Brenden Dillon. Dillon broke it off to defend the right side which forced Carlson to cover the left. He headed to that side just as Zucker passed the puck out to Pettersson and Samsonov and Carlson actually bumped into each other as Samsonov tried to come out of the net to challenge.
Too many penalties
Including Sunday, the Caps have taken 10 minors in their past two games combined, five each. Were they able to kill off all 10 of those penalties? Yes, but taking that many penalties completely disrupts the rhythm of the offense. Washington took three minor penalties in the second period on Sunday and managed only three shots on goal.
But beyond just the number of penalties, the type of penalties the team has taken is also a concern. Two trips, a cross-check, an interference and a slash. These are penalties teams take when they can't get possession of the puck.
Following Friday's game, Peter Laviolette said, "Usually when you are not dictating you are looking to defend and that leads to holds and trips and your sticks in wrong areas instead of being the one who is determining and deciding which way the game is going to go. You are reacting to it."
That sentiment was certainly true on Sunday. It cost the Caps a point.