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Special teams come up short for Capitals, again, in loss to rival Pittsburgh Penguins

Special teams come up short for Capitals, again, in loss to rival Pittsburgh Penguins

WASHINGTON – The Capitals saw their five-game win streak halted on Wednesday at the hands of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Alex Ovechkin was kept off the scoresheet for the first time in 15 games as Sidney Crosby led the Penguins to the narrow 2-1 victory.

Here are four reasons the Caps lost.

Special teams

Both the Caps and Penguins have been struggling on special teams of late. Wednesday’s game offered plenty of opportunities for both teams on the man advantage, but only Pittsburgh was able to cash in.

Washington had five power play opportunities but failed to score even once and looked unsure of themselves on every opportunity. The real issue was moving the puck into the offensive zone. Once the power play was set up, the Caps looked as dangerous as always. Getting the puck through the defensive and the neutral zone, however, was a real struggle.

The Caps were able to kill off three of Pittsburgh’s power plays, but allowed one goal and it proved to be crucial.

The lone power play goal came in the second period as Sidney Crosby deflected in a point shot from Evgeni Malkin to put the Penguins on the board.

Off target

The Caps had a number of high-quality opportunities, but many of those opportunities sailed clear of Pittsburgh's net. Washington’s sights were a bit off on the night as they missed the net 22 times over the course of the game. Ovechkin had eight of those misses and saw his 14-game point streak come to an end as a result.

Sidney Crosby

While Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet, Crosby was not.

Crosby deflected in his team’s first goal and was credited with an assist on the second. He was originally credited with the goal as he swung his stick as it bounced in the crease, but replay showed he never actually touched it. The goal was given to Bryan Rust and Crosby had to settle for the assist.

Save of the night by Marcus Pettersson

With about six minutes left in the game and the Caps trailing by one, Lars Eller finally beat goalie Matt Murray. His shot trickled through the Pittsburgh netminder and to the goal line, but Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson made a diving save the sweep the puck off the goal line just before it trickled over.

It was the third close call of the night as Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov both hit the post earlier as well. 


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Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

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Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

The New York Islanders outlasted the Capitals in a defensive battle Friday with two third period goals to hand Washington a 2-0 loss in Barry Trotz's return to Capital One Arena. The loss is now the Caps' fourth straight and knocks them down to third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Here are three reasons Washington lost.


You could definitely see the effect Barry Trotz has had on this Islanders team in this one. Last year, the Islanders were laughably terrible on defense. On Friday, they frustrated the Caps offense all night long.

New York was positionally sound all game long, forcing the Caps to the outside and limiting all of their offensive opportunities. Every time it looked like Washington had a rush developing, the Islanders got back and got in front of the puck. Every time the Caps tried to set up their offense, New York forced them to the perimeter and kept them from the high-danger areas. Thomas Greiss was there to clean up the rest as he recorded his second shutout of the season.

Washington was limited to just 19 shots on goal on the night, 15 through the first two periods.

A third period breakthrough

Braden Holtby looked very sharp for the Caps all night long in his first game since he suffered an eye injury on Jan. 12. He was finally beaten in the third period thanks to a great deflection by Josh Bailey.

Mathew Barzal showed some great puck control as he entered the offensive zone, wheeled around away from the initial defensive pressure, carried it to the high slot and fired a shot. By wheeling around, that allowed Bailey the chance to park himself in front of Holtby for the deflection.

In such a tight defensive game, you knew it was going to be an ugly goal like Bailey’s that would finally break through.

A third-period 2-on-0

John Carlson pinched into the offensive zone. When that happens, that means it’s Michal Kempny’s job to hightail it back on defense if the puck gets past Carlson.

Instead, Kempny tried to step up and to try to keep the puck in at the blue line. Cal Clutterbuck got the puck past him, and it was off to the races with him and Matt Martin on a 2-on-0. Clutterbuck called his own number and finished off the play with the goal to put the Islanders up 2-0.


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First place in the Metro could be on the line for Caps, Islanders tonight

First place in the Metro could be on the line for Caps, Islanders tonight

WASHINGTON — First place in the Metropolitan Division could be on the line when the Capitals host the New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Washington) at Capital One Arena on Friday. This game is about much more than just Barry Trotz’s return to Washington as head coach of the Islanders – though that is the big storyline in a game with several good ones. Here is what to watch for in tonight’s rivalry game with the streaking Islanders. 

Holtby returns

Good news from the morning skate at Capitals Iceplex where Braden Holtby has been cleared to start against the Islanders tonight following his eye injury last Saturday against Columbus. That wasn’t at all clear Thursday when Holtby practiced, but neither he nor coach Todd Reirden would confirm he was playing against New York. The eye appears to have improved over night, however, and the Caps won’t have to recall a goalie from AHL Hershey. Holtby is expected to start.   

“It’s been a little bit of touch and go,” Reirden said. “Any time you can get your No. 1 goalie in there it’s great for us. Real happy to have him in there for us tonight.”

First place?

This qualifies as a big game in January. The surprising Islanders (27-15-4) have won 13 of 16 to stun the NHL. Remember, this is a team that lost star center Jonathan Tavares in free agency and was expected to be an also-ran this season. Instead, New York (58 points) is one point behind Columbus and the Capitals (59 points) for first place. The Blue Jackets (28-15-3) host Montreal on Friday so there’s no guarantee a win gets New York or Washington (27-14-5) into first place. Columbus (59) is technically ahead of the Caps, but they are even in points through 46 games.

Quick rebound

The Caps were outclassed by Nashville in a 7-2 loss on Tuesday. They are 3-4-2 over the past nine games. They were outscored 11-3 by St. Louis and Nashville this week. A good even strength team most of the season, Washington has been outscored 10-2 at even strength in its past three games. The power play is showing signs of life recently. The penalty kill has shown some improvement. Now the Caps need to plug the leak at evens to get back on track. 

Orpik ceremony

Defenseman Brooks Orpik played in his 1,000th career game on Monday against the St. Louis Blues. He will be honored with a pregame ceremony. Expect gifts from the Caps, his teammates and the NHL. Orpik played 11 years with the Pittsburgh Penguins and is in his fifth year in Washington and has his name on the Stanley Cup twice.  It’s been quite a career for the 38-year-old. 

Barry’s back

Of course, the big story is Barry Trotz returning to Washington after leading the Caps to the Stanley Cup in June. Expect a video tribute in the first period and a huge ovation from the crowd. Given how hot the Islanders are there will be probably be a few of them in the building, too. There’s a reason for everyone to cheer.

“It’s going to be pretty cool for Barry and for the fans and for everyone really,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “Being a head coach of a Stanley Cup champion team carries a lot of weight, it carries a lot of respect, which I imagine he’ll get on the Jumbotron tonight…It’ll be nice to see him again/ Pretty special moments with him on our side of the bench.”