If the Capitals thought they were going to be able to sleepwalk their way to an easy first-round series win, Monday’s game should serve as a rude awakening. In the first playoff game in Raleigh since 2009, the Carolina Hurricanes dominated the Caps 5-0 on Monday to earn their first win of the series.
Micheal Ferland left the game early in the first period with an upper-body injury, and Andrei Svechnikov unwisely picked a fight with Alex Ovechkin, who knocked him out in three punches. And yet, despite playing a team that was missing two forwards for the majority of the game, it was Washington that looked like it was playing shorthanded.
Despite all their years together in the same division, there was no real rivalry between these two teams. That changed on Monday after what was a brutally physical affair. The Hurricanes’ win makes the series 2-1 for the Caps with Game 4 coming on Thursday.
Here are five reasons Washington lost.
1. A Christian Djoos turnover
While the vast majority of the game did not go the Caps’ way, they actually looked alright the first five minutes or so. It was a choppy start which quieted down an energized Raleigh crowd and Washington’s top line looked very good. One bad turnover changed all of that.
Christian Djoos got less than six minutes of ice time in Game 2 and Todd Reirden on Sunday said he needed to get him more playing time. Djoos did play a fair amount in the first period, but it cost the Caps as Djoos fumbled a puck in the defensive zone and turned it over to Carolina. The resulting possession for the Hurricanes turned into their first goal of the game as Warren Foegele scored his first of two goals on the night.
2. The second period
You would be hard-pressed to find a worse period of hockey for Washington this season. They were dominated in every aspect of the game. Carolina won every race to the puck, every board battle, every battle for the open puck. The Caps were outshot for the period 18-1, with their first shot coming with 4:45 remaining in the period.
A close 1-0 game turned into a blowout as the Hurricanes scored more goals (2) than the Caps had shots (1).
3. A defensive miscommunication
When you have three players all on the left boards and no one anywhere else in the defensive zone, that’s not how the coaches drew it up. Three Caps all got caught along the wall while Sebastian Aho came tearing into the offensive zone. Teuvo Teravainen found Aho who easily stickhandled around a diving Matt Niskanen and he passed to Foegele who scored his second of the game.
4. The forecheck
Part of what made the second period such a nightmare was the fact that the Caps had no answer for Carolina’s suffocating forecheck. Washington had only one shot on goal in the second period, but it is hard to get any shots off when you can’t get the puck out of the defensive zone.
In the face of the Hurricanes’ forecheck, Washington constantly turned the puck over or simply dumped the puck into the neutral zone. If they were lucky enough to get to the neutral zone, they did not have enough time to connect any passes to generate any sort of offensive pressure whatsoever. It felt like the entire second period was played in the Caps’ end of the ice and that is not really much of an exaggeration.
When one team is forced to play defense for an extended period of time, it usually leads to a goal or a penalty and that is exactly what happened. Nicklas Backstrom was called for interference on Jordan Staal and Dougie Hamilton scored to put the Hurricanes up 3-0.
5. Two failed power plays at the start of the third period
As bad as the second period was, the score was only 3-0 with 20 minutes left to go. That’s a sizable deficit, but not an insurmountable lead. Washington was given not one, but two opportunities to get back into the game with two power plays in the first six minutes of the third period.
The Caps were down 3-0, had two power plays and were still being outshot 1-0.
Things really went off the rails after that.
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