WASHINGTON -- The first-place Capitals and lowly New Jersey Devils reversed roles for a night as New Jersey handed Washington an ugly 5-1 loss. The Caps had a lackluster start to the game and never recovered as New Jersey kept adding to its lead. Washington had no answer on offense, defense or special teams for the Devils in a game in which they never truly looked like the better team.
Here is how the Caps lost.
A neutral zone gaffe
Nick Jensen gave up a horrendous turnover Wednesday in Philadelphia. On Saturday, he got caught too high in the neutral zone leading to New Jersey's first goal of the game.
Nico Hischier won a faceoff at center ice. Will Butcher passed up the wall looking for Jesper Bratt. Nick Jensen stepped up in the neutral zone to cut off the puck, but it got by him suddenly catching up way too far up the ice sparking a 2-on-1. Hischier had the puck and took it in on net himself to get New Jersey on the board.
A sleepy start
This was the 12th time in 15 games the Caps gave up the first goal. Washington simply was not firing on all cylinders when the game started. Often they have been able to recover from those type of starts, but they were not in this one as New Jersey took the 1-0 lead into the locker room and continued to play with momentum and confidence as the second period began.
A big rebound
Already up 1-0, Nikita Gusev took advantage of a Braden Holtby rebound to make it 2-0.
Will Butcher fired from the faceoff circle and Holtby was able to get his blocker to it. The shot came from Holtby's left and the rebound went to his right leaving a wide-open net for Gusev who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The rebound bounced right to him and he potted it home.
The power play
The Caps' woeful power play has been a major talking point of late, especially in the wake of allowing a shorthanded goal to Philadelphia on Wednesday which proved to be the game-winner.
Trailing 2-0, Washington was handed a golden opportunity to get back into the game as Miles Wood was given a double-minor for high-sticking Richard Panik. The Caps did manage to score...but only after Blake Coleman scored a shorthanded goal to make it 3-0.
Fast-forward to the third period with Washington down 4-1, Hischier was called for an elbow and P.K. Subban was nailed for delay of game 77 seconds later. That gave Washington 43 seconds of a two-man advantage to work with to spark the comeback, but no dice. The Caps did not score on either power play and finished 1-of-5 on the power play on the night.
Hischier was, by far, the best player in this game. Not only did he score the first goal after Jensen was caught too far up in the neutral zone, he added a second goal in the second period. The Devils hopped on a defensive zone turnover for Washington and Kyle Palmieri fed Hischier cross-ice. Hischier fired a one-timer far-side to beat Holtby.
Holtby was watching Palmieri on his right, slid left for the pass, then the shot came to the far-side to his right.
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