Defense falters as Caps fall to Blues 5-2

Conor Sheary

The Capitals did not put together their best defensive performance on Tuesday in a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. The Caps have now lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time in March.

Here are some observations from the game.

11 forwards, 7 defensemen

With T.J. Oshie, Nic Dowd and Johan Larsson all unavailable, Washington skated a lineup with 11 forwards and seven defensemen rather than the normal 12 forwards and six defensemen. Forwards cycled in to play with Connor McMichael and Conor Sheary while Matt Irwin was the extra defensemen.

Peter Laviolette has said in the past he does not like using seven defensemen because he does not want to shuffle defensive pairs so the result was the Caps essentially playing down a player. Irwin played the last 29 seconds of the game. That was his only shift of the night.

The decision not to play Irwin more was a bit curious considering Michal Kempny really seemed to struggle. He took two minor penalties in the game with just 13:41 of playing time.

Johansson return/debut

Tuesday marked the debut and return of Marcus Johansson to the Caps' lineup after he was acquired at the trade deadline on Monday. He skated on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Johansson's skating remains his main asset along with his ability to break into the offensive zone. For the game, he logged 17:56 of ice time and recorded no points.


A back-and-forth 1st

The first period was a wild affair that saw four goals scored in less than nine minutes. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on the power play to put Washington on the board. Brandon Saad responded just over three minutes later with the best goal of the night as he took the puck through the neutral zone, cut through the defense and slid the puck through the 5-hole of Vitek Vanecek. The Caps responded 1:13 later on a 2-on-1 with Anthony Mantha setting up Tom Wilson. Finally, Ryan O'Reilly struck on the power play to tie the game at 2.

All four goals came in a period of just 8:53.

Et tu, Nathan Walker?

St. Louis entered Tuesday's game with a league-best +26 goal differential in the second period and this is where the Blues separated themselves with two goals. It was a former Capitals player who scored the go-ahead goal.

Nathan Walker was an emergency call-up on Tuesday as the Blues had a number of injuries to their lineup. In his first NHL game since Jan. 15, Walker crashed the net and was in the crease for a perfect feed from Brayden Schenn which Walker tipped home.

The Australian winger was a third-round draft pick of Washington and ultimately played 10 games for the Caps.

Defensive woes

Tuesday's game continued a troubling trend for the Caps who have now allowed three or more goals in seven of their last eight games.

St. Louis moved the puck very well and took advantage of key turnovers by Washington. The Caps also did not do a good job of protecting the front of the net as they allowed three goals from close-in.

Vanecek did not have his best performance as he left a lot of big rebounds for St. Louis to pounce on. He did, however, make one of the saves of the season, diving to make an incredible glove save to deny Jordan Kyrou on a 3-on-1.