In their first shootout of the season, the Capitals fell at home 4-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
Here are some observations from the game.
This was not the sharpest defensive game we have seen from the Caps. The first period was marked with a number of defensive breakdowns and really the team was lucky the deficit was only 1-0. That goal came as a result of a mistake Nic Jensen made in the neutral zone.
A fairly innocent-looking breakout by Chicago turned into a 2-on-1 as Jensen left Patrick Kane and tried to cut off the breakout pass in the neutral zone. Jensen was on the blue line with Kane in front of him, but he tried to intercept the pass leaving Kane free to streak up behind him with Alex DeBrincat. When Jensen missed the puck, Kane and DeBrincat finished the chance with a DeBrincat goal to take the lead.
This was just one example. Really the entire defense looked off for much of the game.
There seemed to be a bit of a carryover from Tuesday's collapse for Washington as the team turned in a flat, lackluster performance and trailed 1-0. That changed in the first minute of the second.
Just 21 seconds in, Alex Ovechkin delivered a huge hit to Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy. The hit was clean, to the shoulder from an angle in which Murphy could see Ovechkin coming, but the force knocked Murphy backward and his face hit the boards as he swung around. That moment seemed to spark the Caps as Nic Dowd scored to tie the game 1 one on the very next shift.
"4th" line to the rescue
The Carl Hagelin, Dowd, Garnet Hathaway line is usually tasked with playing defense and providing energy. On Thursday, however, they provided the difference offensively with goals from Dowd and Hathaway.
A breakout in the second period created a 3-on-2 for Washington. After some pretty passing, Dowd was alone in front for the easy tap-in as the defense just could not keep up with the chemistry. Hathaway delivered the Caps their first lead of the game as Dowd found him coming out of the penalty box early in the third. Chicago did not account for Hathaway coming back on the ice and had all five players in the offensive zone giving Dowd a great opportunity to launch Hathaway on the breakaway.
A penalty kill miscue
Evgeny Kuznetsov has gotten a lot of time on the penalty kill this season and he has looked fairly decent. A miscue in the second, however, gave Chicago a 2-1 lead.
With Dowd in the penalty box, Kuznetsov found the puck on his stick in the defensive zone with a chance to clear it all the way down. He did not. Instead, he held onto the puck and slowly skated up in the defensive zone. It looked like he was waiting for someone to launch into a counterattack, but it never came. With white jerseys converging on him, Kuznetsov weakly put the puck into the neutral zone where it was recovered by Chicago.
With the puck in the neutral zone, two penalty killers tried to sneak in a quick line change, but Chicago brought the puck quickly into the offensive zone and the late line change gave Dominik Kubalik the chance to get in behind the defense and score.
Hathaway's third-period tally would not hold up as Seth Jones tied the game at 3 midway through the period. That would force overtime.
Washington entered Thursday's overtime 0-5 on the season in overtime games with each loss coming in overtime. The Caps had not even managed to get to a shootout.
Their overtime woes followed them to the shootout, however, as the Caps last after both Kuznetsov and Daniel Sprong hit the post on their shot attempts. Patrick Kane netted the eventual winner with Marc-Andre Fleury stopping Ovechkin in Washington's final shot.
The last time the Blackhawks won in Washington was Jan. 10, 2006. Thursday's game snapped an eight-game win streak for the Caps over Chicago at home.