Capitals

Washington suffers second-straight regulation loss: 5 reasons the Caps lost

Capitals

The Capitals have lost two straight in regulation as they fell 4-2 to the New York Rangers on Thursday. Washington gave up a goal less than two minutes in and chased the rest of the game. Alex Ovechkin provided one of the few highlights as he passed Mike Gartner for seventh on the all-time goals list with his tally in the third period.

Here are five reasons the Caps lost.

Playing from behind

The Capitals failed to protect a 3-0 lead in each of the past two games. While that had a lot to do with possession -- Thursday's game was much more even in that respect -- Washington's task was made that much difficult as they were the ones trying to erase an early lead.

Ryan Strome deflected in a shot from Adam Fox that hit the top corner past Vitek Vanecek. The goal came less than two minutes into the game and Washington looked sluggish from then until late in the second period.

No body

There are some players who make incredible plays and there's nothing you can do but just shake your head because they are that skilled with the puck on their stick. With all due respect, defenseman Anthony Bitetto is not one of those players. Yet, no one on the Caps wanted to put a body on him as he skated around in the offensive zone through poke checks and on net for a backhanded goal.

The goal was the third of Bitetto's career. His last goal came on Nov. 18, 2017, over three years ago.

 

Bitetto wheeled around with the puck behind the Caps net and was hit by Hagelin, but he managed to bounce off him and maintain possession. From there, I guess the Caps thought he was just impervious to hits because no one would put a body on him.

Nic Dowd had Bitetto along the wall, but perhaps fearing a boarding penalty, he seemed to let up and tried a poke check that Bitetto skated through before cutting to center. He then split through both Jonas Siegenthaler and Zdeno Chara who tried to reach with their sticks which, again, he was easily able to skate through, and he backhanded the puck in.

Don't get me wrong, it was a great play by Bitetto and a heck of a highlight, but one that was allowed to happen by some weak stick checks as opposed to someone other than Hagelin trying to put a body on him.

A mistake-filled 2-on-1

The game-winning goal came as a result of a mistake from both Zdeno Chara and Trevor van Riemsdyk.

We know the defense is more aggressive in the offensive zone this season under Peter Laviolette, but Chara made a mistake pinching in the offensive zone in the third period along the boards after a puck he wasn't going to get.

A pass from Jakub Vrana missed T.J. Oshie and hit the far boards right by Kaapo Kakko. Chara decided he could get there in time, but Kakko beat him to the puck, chipped it off the wall and suddenly van Riemsdyk was the only white jersey between the puck and the Caps' net.

When defending a 2-on-1, the defenseman's responsibility is to cover the pass and let the goalie have to worry only about the shot. As the puck-carrier gets closer to the net, the defensemen then pinches more and more over in order to both block the passing lane, but also cut off the shooting lane. Van Riemsdyk ultimately misplayed it. He tried to slide to snuff out the opportunity from Strome, but the slide took van Riemsdyk out of the passing lane and out of the play completely. Strome passed to Panarin and van Riemsdyk had slid so far that Panarin could return the puck for the slam-dunk goal by Strome.

The power play

New York gave the Caps the chance to get back in it. Washington had four power-play opportunities including in key moments, but the Caps were not able to convert and went 0-for-4 on the night.

With all the momentum going New York's way in the second period, New York took a 2-0 lead and was in complete control, Mika Zibanejad took an unwise slashing penalty. That was the key moment of the game. The Caps needed a goal there. They didn't get it.

Washington came into Thursday's game ranked second on the power play with a massive 40.9-percent, but that doesn't mean anything if you can't score in important moments when it matters. It mattered on Thursday.

Puck management

The Caps got plenty of shots on goal on Thursday, which is something that had been an issue, but that masked the puck management issues the team had. There were far too many forced passes, far too many turnovers, far too many one-and-dones offensively. It was just a sloppy game overall.

 

Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 11 a.m. Sunday for full coverage of the Capitals' next game against the Philadelphia Flyers.