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Now it's a series: Capitals obliterated by Hurricanes in Raleigh

Now it's a series: Capitals obliterated by Hurricanes in Raleigh

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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The next great hashtag, give props to Stephenson and Carlson can't stop scoring


The next great hashtag, give props to Stephenson and Carlson can't stop scoring

Game 1 of the World Series was completely overshadowed by the big matchup in Calgary between the Capitals and Flames...OK, so that’s not entirely true, but while the Nationals were battling in Game 1, the Caps extended their win streak to four games including two wins to start their five-game road trip.

Here is everything you need to know from Tuesday's 5-3 win.

Observations from the win

Another big-game for Carlson

The NHL points leader scored another two goals to give him 20 points in his first 11 games. He now has a career-high eight-game point streak.

Yawn. Seen it. It's all routine at this point.

All kidding aside, if you’re not on the Carlson hype train, get on board. This is quickly turning from a great start to a special one.

Reirden is showing a lot of trust in his fourth line

Brendan Leipsic, Chandler Stephenson and Nic Dowd only played about 6:45 together as a line on Tuesday, but the vast majority of that time came in the third period when the Caps when it really mattered and with the Caps protecting a lead.

Six minor penalties in the first two periods limited their ice-time to less than seven minutes. You may look at that as a sign of distrust, but if you dig deeper and see that the fourth line took six shifts in the third period alone, you start to realize it’s not how much they were used but when that really matters.

Big props to Stephenson

At no point in the offseason did I think Stephenson would be a regular in the Caps’ lineup this year. That’s not just me, the Caps essentially broadcast that they were not satisfied with his play when they signed him to a contract just under the maximum cap hit that can be buried in the AHL. At that point, I thought he should have started packing his bags for Hershey. Instead, he worked his butt off, had a great training camp and has stuck on the roster ever since.

Stephenson’s goal was not just pure luck. No, I don’t mean he meant to bank the puck off Rasmus Andersson. What I mean is he followed the puck on a dump-in, sped in to steal it from Cam Talbot behind the net and then banked it in. He didn’t give up on the play and created a goal out of nothing.

There are times I think Reirden shows Stephenson a little bit too much faith as I think Dowd should not be scratched as much as he is, but it is hard to argue with Stephenson continuing to play a fourth-line role considering how much he continues to work for it.

Give credit to Vrana

Tom Wilson scored the game-winner on a goal that was assisted by Lars Eller and Michal Kempny. But do not discount the role Jakub Vrana played on that goal.

Eller picks up the puck when Travis Hamonic failed to control it and Vrana immediately went hard to the net. Noah Hanifin went with him which left Wilson wide open for the goal.

Vrana may not get a point for it, but he was instrumental in setting up that play.

Turning point

Calgary battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game at 2 late in the second. That tie lasted...10 whole seconds.

Play of the night

Brendan Leipsic dumped in the puck and Talbot went behind the net to corral it. You see this multiple times per game, every game. Nothing ever comes from it. This time, however, Stephenson never gave up on the play and caught Talbot by surprise.

Stephenson stole it from Talbot and fired a centering pass off Andersson into the empty net.

Stat of the night

First, the obligatory Carlson stat:

Now another bonus stat just to make sure this does not get monopolized by Carlson.

Nicklas Backstrom picked up an assist on Ovechkin’s goal in the second period. That assist was the 649th of his career which moves him one past Daniel Sedin for the fifth-most assists all-time by a Swedish-born player.

Quote of the night

Ovechkin on Carlson’s incredible start to the season:

“#Johnny4Norris. That’s a hashtag right now. Let’s keep it going.”

Fan predictions

I don’t know whether to be more impressed by how many predictions you got right or the window.

Calling a Stephenson goal is pretty damn bold.

Nailed the score.

Caps in 5.

Anything to avoid going to Edmonton.

I’m kidding! I hear Edmonton is lovely this time of year….

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Carlson's two goals lead Capitals to sloppy 5-3 win over Calgary

Carlson's two goals lead Capitals to sloppy 5-3 win over Calgary

The Capitals are a perfect 2-0 to start their five-game road trip after a 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. It was a sleepy game for the Caps who were largely outplayed through the first two periods. A few short bursts of brilliance, however, were enough to ensure Washington never trailed.

Here is how the Caps won.

A gift for Carlson

John Carlson entered the game as the NHL’s leader in points. He is arguably the hottest player in the league. He doesn’t need gifts, but he was gifted a goal by Calgary goalie Cam Talbot early in the second.

After a sleepy first period, the Caps’ came out swinging in the second and Alex Ovechkin nearly connected with Nicklas Backstrom on a pretty passing play on the backdoor. The puck curled around the boards and Carlson stepped up and just fired a hopeful shot on net that seemed to catch Talbot by surprise as it hit the short-side for the goal.

That is a horrific goal that Talbot just should not have given up. If you watch, he actually shifts a little backward after the initial play missed. Perhaps Talbot misjudged where he was in net, but that is an angle he should have been able to easily cut off based on the position of the puck. Instead, he backed up, left the near-side open and Carlson hit it.

The goal extended Carlson’s point streak to a career-high eight games. He would add an empty-net goal to give him 20 points on the season.

Bank shot!

Just over two minutes after Carlson put the Caps on the board, Chandler Stephenson extended the lead to 2-0 with a great play behind the net to pickpocket Talbot.

Talbot went behind the net to corral a dump-in from Brendan Leipsic, but Stephenson never gave up on the play and zipped in behind the net after Talbot. He stole the puck away from Talbot. He was boxed in by the Flames’ netminder and two more Flames skaters so he attempted to center the puck, but it bounced off of defenseman Rasmus Andersson and into the net.

A 10-second response

Overall, this was not a great game for the Caps. They looked sleepy and out of sync, missing numerous easy passes in the offensive zone that ended their offensive opportunities. Two early goals in the second spotted them a 2-0 lead, but Calgary took control and Austin Czarnik tied the game at 2 late in the period. That briefly woke up the Caps and Ovechkin put Washington back on top just 10 seconds after the game was tied.

Calgary won the faceoff after the goal, but Radko Gudas forced a turnover that Backstrom picked up. Two forwards had gone past him in anticipation of entering the offensive zone, a third player was on the ice after getting hit by Gudas, one defenseman stepped to the boards to give T.J. Oshie a shove, but could not recover to stop Backstrom and suddenly Backstrom was in behind four players for a 2-on-1 with Ovechkin. He made the simple backhand pass on the rush and Ovechkin fired the one-timer into the net.

Jakub Vrana’s drive to the net

Michal Kempny fired a stretch pass to launch a breakout. It looked like Travis Hamonic could have grabbed the puck, but he couldn’t control it and left it out for Lars Eller to continue the attack. As Eller took the puck, Jakub Vrana drove hard to the net bringing Noah Hanifin with him and that left Tom Wilson wide open. Eller passed to Wilson who netted the knockout punch.