Mika Zibanejad torched the Capitals for five goals, but Washington did itself no favors with too many penalties and bad misplays with the puck in a 6-5 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday, and it sounds like Todd Reirden is getting frustrated.
Observations from the loss
With the game tied at 4 in the third period, Lars Eller took an unnecessary roughing penalty as he hit Brendan Smith from behind with his head down. Eller tried to wrap him up, but he drove him into the boards. It was an obvious penalty and one the team could not afford. Three seconds after the power play expired, John Carlson delivered a cross-check high to Brendan Lemieux. With three seconds left on that power play, Eller was given another penalty for high-sticking Jacob Trouba.
All three penalties were obvious and they came at a critical time. Washington killed off the first two power plays, but gave up the goal on the third to give New York the late lead.
One of the most striking parts of the Caps' struggles is their complete inability to build any momentum.
They could not build off a strong first period on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers and ended up losing 5-2. They could not build off of Alex Ovechkin's 700th goal against the New Jersey Devils, which tied that game at 2. They would go on to lose that game. Again on Thursday, they could not build off a strong start, they could not build off a 1-0 lead, they could not build off Ilya Kovalchuk's first goal, they could not build off overcoming deficits of 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4. Even when Ovechkin tied the game with 43 seconds left to go, it didn't matter. Washington did not build that momentum and kept giving the game right back to New York every time.
Benching is a slippery slope
Nic Dowd took two penalties in the first period. He did not play again until the second as he was parked for the final seven minutes of the first. Nicklas Backstrom centered the fourth line in Dowd's absence. Clearly, Reirden was sending a message and holding a player accountable. Eller did not play again in this game after taking his second penalty in the third period.
But benching players can be a slippery slope.
Evgeny Kuznetsov had the worst play of the evening early in the third as he went to retrieve a dumped puck behind the net and just...whiffed. He pulled up and missed the puck completely allowing an easy steal for Pavel Buchnevich. Buchnevich backhanded a puck to Zibanejad in front of the net and he shot it in before Ilya Samsonov really knew what happened. This happened just 12 seconds into the third.
Kuznetsov was back on the ice about two minutes later for his next shift.
Washington was trailing and it was the third period. It makes complete sense why Todd Reirden would want Kuznetsov on the ice, but if you send the message that players are going to get benched for bad mistakes, you lose that message when Kuznetsov goes back on the ice after such a terrible play behind the net.
Washington got off to a great start in this game, taking a 1-0 lead off a goal from Carl Hagelin. They then proceeded to give up the game-tying goal less than two minutes later as Zibanejad scored the first of his five goals. After that it was the Zibanejad show, and the Caps would not lead again.
Play of the game
Yes, this is a Caps-centric site, I am the Capitals Insider, I cover the Caps and if you're reading this, presumably you're a Caps fan. Having said that, a dude scored five goals and his fifth was an overtime breakaway. You've got to give props to him.
Dmitry Orlov went up high in the neutral zone and Tom Wilson needed to drop back to account for him. He was late getting there leaving Zibanejad open for the breakaway stretch pass. At that point, there was never any doubt he was going to finish off the game.
Stat of the game
Ovechkin is now tied for the league lead with a two-goal performance.
Alex Ovechkin ties the game with his second of the game. He's now tied with David Pastrnak for the NHL lead in goals with 47.— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) March 6, 2020
Quote of the game
Reirden is getting frustrated with the penalties.
"It's getting too late in the season for players to take penalties and then me to have to sit them because they can't go on the ice without taking a penalty," the head coach said after the game.
Hagelin goal— Top Line Oshie (@TopLineOshie) March 5, 2020
Dare I say, Shutout?— TylerKaroway (@BC_2DC) March 6, 2020
Both goalies don't let in a single goal and this game alone extends the season for an entire month, in which one team eventually wins when the opposing goalie dies of fatigue— Officer Grape (@erp0dos) March 5, 2020
So pretty much the exact opposite of that happened.
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