The Capitals' return to Vegas was not quite as triumphant as their last visit to Sin City. Washington ultimately fell 5-3 in a very physical affair Tuesday thanks to a late power play tally from former Cap Nate Schmidt.
Here are five reasons the Caps lost.
Just over a minute into the game, Brett Connolly was called for goalie interference on Marc-Andre Fleury. It looked like he was pushed into the Vegas netminder, but the call was made and it proved costly as Ryan Reaves scored on the resulting power play.
That call? Debatable, but the Caps took two more penalties in the opening frame. Washington was fortunate to escape that period with a 1-1 draw taking three minor penalties. It’s hard to gain much momentum when you’re constantly in the box. Starts were a problem for the Caps even during their seven-game win streak and the fact is they could have taken control of that game early had they stayed out of the penalty box.
Losing Tom Wilson
Reaves and Wilson went after each other in the first period, but things took a turn in the second period when Reaves caught Wilson with a late, blindside hit. Wilson’s head hit the ice hard as he fell and he had to be helped off. He did not return. That was the end of the night for Reaves as well as he was issued a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct.
Since his return from suspension, Wilson has provided a major spark to the Caps and entered Tuesday’s game as the team’s hottest player. Wilson had scored seven goals in the past six games and the team clearly missed him after he was forced to leave the game.
A missed opportunity on the major
Washington held a 2-1 lead when Reaves was issued a major penalty. With five minutes of power play time to work with the Caps got…nothing.
Not only were the Caps not able to convert on the major power play, but the resulting momentum from the kill Vegas received resulted in a two-goal swing. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare tied the game less than two minutes after the penalty expired and Cody Eakin scored just 17 seconds later to give Vegas the 3-2 lead.
Powerless on the power play
The major power play was not the only instance in which the Caps came up short. Of the four power play opportunities Washington had on the night, they were unable to convert in any of them including two minor penalties in the third period.
It was not a case of running into a hot goalie or dangerous setups coming up just barely short, the power play just never looked in-sync. Despite getting 11 minutes of power play time to work with, the Caps’ power play walked away empty-handed for the night.
A late double-minor
With the score tied at 3 in the third period, Nic Dowd battled Brayden McNabb on the forecheck in a race for the puck. As both players neared the end boards, Dowd attempted to lift the stick of McNabb, but he missed and instead caught McNabb right in the face. With the blood gushing, Dowd was booked for four minutes with just 5:14 remaining in regulation.
Washington managed to kill off 3:50 of the double minor but former Cap Nate Schmidt fired a wrister from the high slot that somehow managed to beat the glove of Braden Holtby to give Vegas the lead with 1:24 remaining. Schmidt would add an empty-netter for his second goal of the night to finish off the game.
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