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Insider analysis: Capitals suffer first loss of the season despite Grubauer's heroics

Insider analysis: Capitals suffer first loss of the season despite Grubauer's heroics

T.J. Oshie scored a pair of power play goals and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer was outstanding Monday night in Tampa.

But the Caps blew a 3-1 second period lead, and the Lightning handed Alex Ovechkin and Co. their first loss of the season, 4-3, thanks to an overtime goal by Brayden Point.

How it happened:

Nicklas Backstrom opened the scoring at 16:42 of the first period, snapping a slick cross-zone pass from Andre Burakovsky past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (23 saves).

Oshie’s first tally came on a redirection of a John Carlson point shot less than two minutes later, and the Caps took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

Early in the second period, the Bolts got on the board thanks to Alex Killorn, who rifled a shot over Grubauer’s glove from the top of the circles.

A turnover by Dmitry Orlov in the neutral zone led to the opportunity.


Oshie’s second goal—a blast from the middle of the power play diamond—restored Washington’s two-goal lead. But the 3-1 cushion didn’t last, either. With 51 seconds remaining in the middle frame, Chris Kunitz redirected a shot from Anton Stralman to send the game into the third period 3-2.

In the third, the Lightning turned up the pressure. Grubauer held the Bolts back as long as he could but he couldn’t turn away Nikita Kucherov, who blasted past Taylor Chorney and roofed a backhander to knot the score 3-3. The goal was Kucherov’s third in three games.

A couple of Caps said they were their own worst enemy in the final 30 minutes of regulation.

“They are a good, skilled team and…you have to play as good as you can against these guys,” Backstrom told reporters at Amalie Arena. “You can’t let them have any space or they are going to score. We should have had this game.”

Oshie added: “It’s a mental part of the game that I feel like it’s just natural once you get up, you feel like you’re doing a good job by sitting back and trying not to give them anything. But when a team is as fast as the Lightning are, and as dynamic as a couple of their players are, it just gives them too much time and space. So, early in the season here, that’s a learning moment for us.”

In the extra session, Point's goal, a redirection of a Kucherov rocket on a 4-on-3 power play, clinched the Bolts' win. Tampa Bay was awarded the power due to a too many men violation on the Caps—their second of the game.

“I don’t know about the first too many men—I didn’t agree with that one,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “But the one in overtime, that was definitely a penalty. It was on us a little bit.”

Boom, Backstrom:

Backstrom’s first goal of the season was the 189th of his career, pushing him past Bob Carpenter for eighth all-time in franchise history.

Next up in No. 19’s sights: Dave Christian (193), Bengt-Ake Gustafsson (196) and Alexander Semin (197).

Great Grubi:

Grubauer, in his first start of the season, finished with 36 saves, including saves on 16 of the 17 shots he faced in the third period to force the game to overtime. Two of Grubi’s late stops came without his stick.

“It was a tough game,” Grubauer said. “They came out in the last period and we gave them a little bit too much. [Some] simple mistakes cost us. But overall we did a lot of good things tonight. The PK was pretty sharp.”

Special Teams Doing Special Things:

The Caps’ power play went 2 for 4, while the penalty kill went 4 for 4 in regulation.

Point's game-winner marked the first power play goal the unit has surrendered this season. Orlov, Matt Niskanen, Lars Eller and Devante Smith Pelly saw the most PK time on Monday. Grubauer, however, was the star, making 12 shorthanded saves.

“It all comes down to pretty good goaltending,” Trotz said. “We had some pretty good stops there during the penalty kill.”

Other Observations:

O’s All the Way Across: Ovechkin has been the NHL’s most prolific goal scorer to start the season, racking up seven in the Caps’ first two games. Against the Bolts, he did not record a point, though he played well and nearly set up a couple of goals with nifty passes. No. 8 did, however, finish with four shots on goal.

All Together: With Grubauer getting his first start, Trotz has worked 21 of the 23 players on the roster into a game. The only players yet to suit up are rookie defenseman Christian Djoos and right wing Tom Wilson, who served the third game of a four-game suspension. Wilson is eligible to return Friday in New Jersey.

Two-for-Three: Backstrom (1 goal, 2 assists) and TJ Oshie (2 goals, 1 assists) each posted three-point nights.

What’s Ahead:

The Caps have a scheduled day off on Tuesday.

They host the Penguins on Wednesday, then face their first back-to-back of the season—at New Jersey on Friday and at Philly on Saturday.

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Capitals Faceoff podcast: Barry Trotz has his work cut out for him


Capitals Faceoff podcast: Barry Trotz has his work cut out for him

Barry Trotz is now the head coach of the New York Islanders, a team that missed the playoffs and just lost their franchise player. So how does next season look on Long Island?

In the long summer months, the Capitals Faceoff Podcast will take a look at some of the Caps' competition next season. In this episode, it's the New York Islanders. Brian Compton of joins Rob Carlin and Tarik El-Bashir to talk about what Trotz brings to Long Island and what's left to work with.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.


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Monumental announces major improvements for in-game experience at Capitals and Wizards games


Monumental announces major improvements for in-game experience at Capitals and Wizards games

Monumental Sports & Entertainment announced an overhauled in-game entertainment experience for the 2018-19 Wizards and Capitals seasons on Wednesday. 

These changes include a new DJ stage, new permanent 3D on ice/on court projection system, along with new Wizards and Capitals entertainment squads, as Capital One Arena undergoes $40 million in renovations.

“We are committed to putting on the best show possible for every fan who comes to a game at Capital One Arena,” said MSE President of Business Operations Jim Van Stone.  “So, as we upgrade the facilities at the Arena this summer, we are also upgrading all of our in-game entertainment to keep the experience fresh and on the cutting edge.”

“We’re excited about these new changes to our game entertainment experience,” said Hunter Lochmann, MSE Senior Vice President of Marketing.  “We work hard to create the best, most engaging entertainment experience in professional sports and we hope fans love this new, revamped energy.”


Some of the other improvement announced were:

  • Digital signage experience throughout the fully-renovated concourses that will pull fans into an exclusively all-Wizards or all-Capitals team experience each night highlighting player and team imagery on each concourse
  • Sponsored quadrants in the Arena where fans will experience concourse takeovers and can expect special offers and giveaways from sponsors
  • Olympia ice resurfacer bus: groups of fans will be able to take pre-game and intermission rides
  • Award-winning, chef-inspired dining experience featuring options from premiere chefs David Chang, Cat Cora and Alex McCoy
  • A transformed and modernized PwC Club offering some of the best sightlines in the Arena and new 100-level lounge, both featuring top-of-the-line comfort seating and exclusive food and beverage options so fans can gather in style during the games 
  • A new in-bowl broadcasting platform for NBC Sports Washington