The Capitals gave up the first four goals of the game on Monday and saw their four-game win streak snapped in a 5-3 clunker as the Florida Panthers completed the season sweep. Everything Saturday’s win against Tampa Bay was, this game wasn’t. Rather than the high-paced, physical style Washington showed against a dominant win over the best team in the NHL, the Caps looked slow and plodding in Sunrise, Fla. and were thoroughly dominated against a Florida team that has had their number all season long.
At least for two periods.
Washington was down 4-0 heading into the third, but staged a frantic comeback to pull within one before an empty-net goal shut the door for good.
With the loss, Washington failed to clinch the team’s fourth consecutive Metropolitan Division title. The opportunity was there as the New York Islanders lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs meaning all the Caps needed was two points. Now, however, they will have to wait until Thursday to get another crack at wrapping up first place.
Here are three reasons Washington lost.
A lucky bounce
Florida was the better team in this game by far, but they did get a bit of extra help on the first goal. The Panthers dumped the puck into Washington’s defensive zone, and the puck rolled around the boards and off the skate of the unsuspecting referee. Rather than wrapping around the boards or staying behind the goal line, the puck bounced off the referee and out to the faceoff circle, leading to a mad scramble in front of the net. No one could get a handle of the puck until Colton Sceviour kicked it out to Frank Vatrano in the slot for the quick shot and the goal.
Dadonov wreaks havoc below the goal line
The Panthers’ second goal looked pretty similar to the first, but it was great work from Evgenii Dadonov that set up the goal rather than just a lucky bounce.
Nicklas Backstrom won a defensive zone draw to the corner, where Matt Niskanen went to retrieve. Dadonov was all over him and managed to cut off a pass along the boards from Niskanen to Dmitry Orlov right behind the net. He tried to chip it in front, but Niskanen recovered and tried to get the puck out of danger. He could not control it, however, and Vincent Trocheck poked it away. Backstrom was there to support, but did not try to put it back behind the net with Trocheck lurking. Instead, he turned and blindly tapped the puck out of danger from Trocheck, but right in front of the net where Jonathan Huberdeau waited, gift-wrapping him an easy goal.
A momentum shift
Washington got its first power play in the second period. Down 2-0, it felt like this could be a game-defining moment for the Caps. It was, but not in a positive way.
Just 13 seconds into the man advantage, Trocheck delivered the knockout punch with a shorthanded goal through the five-hole of Pheonix Copley.
The Panthers broke the puck out of their zone, but rather than simply dump it down, Aleksander Barkov saw he had a 2-on-2 in front of him and instead passed it over to a streaking Trocheck. Trocheck easily made his way around Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was caught having to play defense on the rush. Trocheck then finished off the play with a very deceptive shot that completely fooled Copley. There was no windup or warning, he simply fired off a quick shot to catch Copley five-hole before he knew what hit him.
That made the score 3-0. Troy Brouwer would add another goal later in the second to make it 4-0. Washington would rally for three goals in the third, but it was too little, too late.
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