If the Caps had lost to the Islander Thursday night, it would not have been hard to figure out why.
Both teams were given four power play opportunities on the night. Washington went 0-for-4. The Islanders scored twice.
New York tied the game at 1 with a John Tavares power play tally and tied the game again at 2 apiece in the second period thanks to Anders Lee.
“They got back in the game on special teams,” Barry Trotz said to reporters.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the penalty kill is a major concern for the Capitals and Trotz didn’t mince words after the game.
“At home our special teams numbers are not very good at all,” he said. “On both sides.”
He’s not wrong.
In five home games this season, the Caps have scored only once in 19 power play opportunities for a paltry 5-percent success rate. The lone goal came in the home opener on Oct. 7. The penalty kill has struggled as well as the team has killed off only 15 of 22 power plays for a kill rate of 68-percent and it almost cost Washington the win on Thursday.
But while Trotz was quick to recognize how the team’s struggles on the penalty kill allowed New York to stay in the game, he was also slow to criticize the unit.
“We've got a lot of new people on the back end and also killing penalties so it's a work in progress,” he said. “It's part of the whole process. Coaching staff's working hard on it and the players take a lot of pride in it. We'll go through stretches where it's given up some goals, but it showed resilience. We give up two power play goals and when it really counted, they had two power plays and they didn't score. That's a lot on the resiliency of the guys.”
That certainly is a glass-half-full way of looking at it.
It may be a stretch to say that about the first penalty Washington killed off as it came in the second period with the Caps leading 2-1. It is absolutely fair, however, to point to their second kill as a critical moment in the game.
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With the game tied at 3 in the third period, Taylor Chorney took an interference penalty. Washington had only killed one of three penalties to that point so it was easy to believe the Caps could potentially allow the tying goal and ultimately see another two points slip away, but they were able to get that last critical kill.
Less than one minute after Chorney came out of the box, Eller scored the game-winner.
Killing two out of four power plays is nothing to write home about and the team knows it has to be better on special teams at home, but it was that final penalty kill that ultimately proved to be a critical moment in the win.
Said Trotz, “I'm not going to beat up on the PK because the PK, when it mattered most, they got it done.”