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Caps blow four leads en route to their first regulation loss

Caps blow four leads en route to their first regulation loss

The Capitals carried a 4-2 lead into the final frame but gave up four goals in the third period en route to a 6-5 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday, their first regulation loss of the season.

Alex Ovechkin scored two goals on the power play, but it wasn't enough as the Caps coughed up the lead four different times.

Observations from the loss

Coughing up leads are a problem

The Caps took the lead four different times in this game. Four times. They held a two-goal lead in the third period. They even battled back once Nashville tied it at four. But Washington could not build on the momentum and it could not protect the lead.

Again.

This marks the third straight game the Caps have coughed up the lead in the third period. It’s still early in the season, but that is a troubling trend.

On Tuesday against the Dallas Stars, the problem was that Washington completely took their foot off the gas. They did not get a shot on goal against Dallas until the period was halfway over. In this game, they weren’t holding back, but it was frantic back-and-forth hockey. That is not how this team plays offensively. That feeds into Nashville’s game and it was Nashville that was able to take advantage.

Sloppy, sloppy

The Predators’ first goal came off a Jakub Vrana turnover. The second goal came when Radko Gudas pinched too far up at the offensive blue line when Nashville had the puck, which the Predators turned into a 2-on-1. The third goal was a power-play goal. The fourth goal was a Brendan Leipsic defensive zone turnover.

You get the idea.

The Caps were their own worst enemy on Thursday.

This is how Carlson should play the power play

Penalty killers know what the Caps want to do. It’s not a secret. They want to get Ovechkin the puck in the office for the one-timer. If you know it’s coming, you cheat to him and get in front of him. But what if you don’t know it’s coming? Carlson is a good player, you just can’t leave him free to do what he wants.

There were too many times earlier in the season where Carlson would get the puck and quickly feed it over to Ovechkin where the penalty kill was waiting. The two goals on Thursday came because Carlson froze the penalty kill. The first time he paused and looked like he was searching for the pass. The defense cheated away from Ovechkin leaving him wide open. The second goal was a fake slap shot from Carlson which froze the PK and again left Ovechkin open.

When teams have to account for Carlson, it gives Ovechkin more room to work.

The third line is fine

This was our first chance to see Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller and Richard Panik together on the third line. They looked very good early on, a good mix of speed and skill. The forecheck from that line caused Washington’s first goal of the game as it generated two offensive-zone turnovers which Eller put in the back of the net.

Todd Reirden is pissed

You don’t see Reirden get angry too often. When Nashville tied the game at 4 in the third period, he called a timeout and tore into the team. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him that angry.

A common criticism of Reirden last season was that he wouldn’t take it to the team when he needed to, but that wasn’t the case in Nashville.

Turning point

The Caps came into the third period with a 4-2 lead. Ryan Johansen made it a one-goal game with a power play and just one minute after that, Matt Duchene tied the game at 4.

Filip Forsberg carried the puck into the offensive zone, but was defended well by Nick Jensen and Brendan Leipsic who forced him to the boards and he coughed up the puck. Leipsic grabbed it, cleared it, the Caps went on to win and there was much rejoicing.

Except that didn’t happen.

Leipsic held onto the puck too long in the face of pressure from Mikael Granlund and turned it over. Granlund fed it to Forsberg who fed Duchene and suddenly a game the Caps looked like they had control of was tied.

Play of the night

Ovechkin nutmegged Granlund then deked around Josi to draw the penalty. On a night in which he scored two goals, this play outshone both of them.


Stat of the night

Ovechkin’s first goal was his first-ever point against goalie Pekka Rinne. His two power play goals were the 248th and 249th of his career moving him ahead of Luc Robitaille for fourth place all-time in power play goals.

OK, that’s two stats, but those are both pretty amazing.

Quote of the night

“It’s time for us to put together a 60-minute effort here. You can’t win hockey games with only one period here and there. That’s not acceptable.” - Nicklas Backstrom

Fan predictions

Well, you were wrong. Ovechkin scored twice, but it still wasn’t enough.

Nailed it.

You were definitely right, but I doubt you thought you would be right four times.

The Mystics won by 11 so...still wrong.

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6 things to know for Caps-Canadiens: Man down for the Caps

6 things to know for Caps-Canadiens: Man down for the Caps

After a quick trip to Philadelphia, the Capitals (14-2-4) return home to host the Montreal Canadiens (10-5-3) for a Friday night matchup. You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Washington with Caps FaceOff Live kicking things off at 6 p.m. before Caps Pregame Live begins at 6:30 p.m. to bring you up to the 7 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Postgame Live, D.C. Sports Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here are six things to know for Friday’s game.

Man down

Carl Hagelin took the ice in a non-contact jersey for Friday’s morning skate and will not play in the game. Nic Dowd did not participate and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He had a large gash in his hand late in the game against Philadelphia. That leaves the Caps with only 17 healthy skaters on the roster. A full lineup has 18 skaters.

Todd Reirden said the coaches would meet after the skate to determine who to call from Hershey. The fact that there is a discussion suggests that at the very least they are considering recalling someone other than Travis Boyd.

Here are the lines from Friday’s skate:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - ??? (Hagelin skated here) - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Radko Gudas
Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen

Samsonov starts, Holtby gets Saturday

With the Caps playing Friday and Saturday, the netminders will split the two games. Ilya Samsonov will play Friday against Montreal while Braden Holtby will get the start Saturday in Boston.

Samsonov was handed his first loss as a starter on Monday against the Arizona Coyotes and his second loss of the season. Friday will be his eighth appearance this season.

It will be a tough matchup as Samsonov will be going head-to-head against one of the top netminders in the world in Carey Price. Interestingly enough, both players have similar numbers this season as Samsonov enters this game with a .915 save percentage and 2.45 GAA as compared to Price’s .916 and 2.65, though Price is doubling up Samsonov in terms of games.

This could be a big night for the power play

The Caps are converting 22.9-percent on the power play, but it did not look good Wednesday in Philadelphia. Friday could provide the power play with a “get right” opportunity as Montreal ranks 28th on the PK at 73.7-percent. It has been better recently at 77.8-percent in their last five games, but the Caps still must be licking their lips over this opportunity...or at least they will if they can get Montreal into the box.

The Canadiens do not take many penalties and are tied for the fourth-fewest minors taken this season at 52.

Ovechkin is due

Ovechkin has 13 goals already this season, but his pace has slowed a bit this month. In six games in November, Ovechkin has only two goals and they both came in the same game against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 7.

The good news is that Ovechkin loves playing against Montreal. In 48 games against Montreal, he has 31 goals and 53 points.

No Kotkaniemi

One of Montreal’s bright young stars will be out of the lineup. Jesperi Kotkaniemi has been out injured for all of November and he will remain out for Friday’s game.

Kotkaniemi is a budding Caps’ killer with two goals and two assists in just three career games against Washington.

One month and counting

The Caps have not lost in regulation since Oct. 14. It is now Nov. 15 and Washington has gone a full month without suffering a single regulation loss. The Caps have points in 13 straight games and have won 11 of their last 13.

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Capitals Prospect Report: Connor McMichael is on pace for a special season

Capitals Prospect Report: Connor McMichael is on pace for a special season

Guys, we need to talk about Connor McMichael.

First off, he had another ridiculous week:

  • On Thursday, Nov. 7 he scored a goal for Team OHL in the Canada-Russia Series in a 4-1 win for the OHL.
  • On Friday, Nov. 8 he scored one goal and three assists in a 4-3 win for London over North Bay. He was named the first star of the game.
  • On Saturday, Nov. 9 he scored one goal and two assists in a 4-2 win for London over Owen Sound. He was again named the first star of the game.
  • On Monday, Nov. 11 he scored a goal in the OHL's second game in the Canada-Russia Series, this time in a losing effort to Russia.

What we really need to talk about is how absurdly McMichael is dominating the OHL. He currently leads the league in points with 41. Arthur Kaliyev and Quinton Byfield are right behind him at 39 points, but both players have played in 21 games. McMichael has played in just 16. Of those 16 games, he has been held off the scoresheet in only one of them. He has registered 19 goals and 22 assists. In 2006-07, Patrick Kane recorded an incredible 62-goal, 145-point season. Through the first 16 games of that season, per The London Free Press, Kane had scored five fewer goals and had seven fewer points.

That's right, McMichael has compiled 41 points in just 16 games. That is a rate of 2.56 points per game. According to McKeen Hockey, that is the second-highest rate of points per game in the OHL among U19 players of all-time, second only to Eric Lindros.

It is still early in the season and that is one heck of a pace he's producing at, but we could be looking at a very special season for him.  That of course begs the question, just how good could this guy be in the NHL?

Other prospect notes

  • Aliaksei Protas sits tied for the WHL lead in points with 30. Earlier in the week he was in sole possession of the league lead meaning that Caps prospects were simultaneously leading both the OHL and WHL in points.
  • Riley Sutter was officially reassigned to Hershey over the week. Because he was injured before the season, he was still technically with the Caps on non-roster season-opening injured reserve. He had been sent to Hershey several weeks ago along with Kody Clark to continue training there, but could not officially be sent to the AHL until he was medically cleared.
  • Nova Caps spoke with Martin Fehervary about his first season in North America. “The hockey in Sweden compared to North America, the style is very similar," he said. "It’s fast hockey, they skate really well so its fast hockey. It’s kind of the same, I would say here it’s a little bit faster but the adjustment was kind of easy so far.” You can read the full article here.
  • Pheonix Copley accomplished a rare feat on Wednesday as he recorded a shutout in a loss. Hershey lost 1-0 in a shootout to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Copley saved all 29 shots he faced in the game to record the shutout, but the Bears ultimately lost in the shootout so he collected the "L" as well.
  • Mitchell Gibson made his collegiate debut on Friday for Harvard. He started against Princeton and stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout win. He was given the start again on the following day against Quinnipiac and again had a strong showing with 32 saves on 34 shots in the 7-2 win.
  • Mike Sgarbossa had one of the highlights of the week with his shootout goal against Lehigh Valley.

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