Special teams woes doom Capitals in loss to Bruins

© Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

With 2:34 left in Thursday’s game against the Bruins, center Nic Dowd committed a tripping penalty — one he voiced his displeasure about — as the Capitals played a man short in the crucial moments of a tied game. 

The Bruins only needed most of those two minutes to score the winning goal, which came from Charlie McAvoy with 45 seconds left to play, as the Capitals lost 4-3 at TD Garden. 

As the final few minutes exemplified, their special teams weren’t up to par in the loss. 

The penalty kill went 1-for-3 against the Bruins’ power play, as David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night gave Boston a 2-1 lead in the second period before the eventual winner by McAvoy. 

It should be noted, however, that John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Conor Sheary were all not in the lineup against the Bruins. Nick Jensen also had to leave the game after the second period, which left the Capitals with just half of their usual defensive lineup.

Washington’s penalty kill is now at 79.63% on the season, firmly in the middle of the league on the disadvantage. But the more troubling play, as it has all season, came from the power play. 

The Capitals went 0-for-4 on the man-advantage and didn’t tally a shot on the final three opportunities of the game. They shot just twice on their first power play of the game, and in their final two chances of the game, allowed two shots from the Bruins’ penalty kill according to Natural Stat Trick. 


The power play is now 18-for-120 on the season (15%), which puts the team tied for 30th place in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, only ahead of the Arizona Coyotes and the Montreal Canadiens as of the time of writing.

Also according to Natural Stat Trick, the team’s power play ranks 28th in shot attempts percentage (84.31), 24th in shots for percentage (80.89), 22nd in expected goals (86.60) and 14th in high-danger chances percentage (86.79). Their team shooting percentage on the power play is just 9.89%, which ranks above just the Coyotes and Canadiens. 

So as the team reaches the halfway mark of the season, they’ll have two months to figure out what ails them on the power play before the March 21 trade deadline. 

But, as seen Thursday in Boston, when the special teams aren’t strong, it can cost the team a game.