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Caps disagree with call on waved-off goal


Caps disagree with call on waved-off goal

NEW YORK – The Capitals still believe it was a goal.

The game officials, obviously, disagreed.

With 2:08 remaining in the second period of a scoreless game, Joel Ward parked himself in front of Henrik Lundqvist and got into a bit of a shoving match with Rangers center Derek Stepan. While they were tussling in front of the goal crease, Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen cranked a shot from the point.

The shot appeared to hit Ward in the shoulder and the puck popped into the air and landed in the net, a few feet away from Lundqvist, who had been bumped out of his crease by Ward.

Despite Ward’s celebratory leap and a loud cheer from the Caps bench, referee Kevin Pollock immediately waved off the goal.

“They just said there was incidental contact,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said after the Caps’ 2-1 overtime loss, which sends the second-round series back to Washington for a critical Game 6 at Verizon Center. “We felt that obviously, he was pushed in [by Stepan]. They made the call and that was it. We just deal with it and move on.

“On that one, I felt two things: that Lundqvist came outside the blue [paint] and engaged a little bit of contact, and then Ward was pushed in.”

RELATED: Alan May weighs in on controversial negated Ward goal

The series’ designated officiating manager, former NHL referee Rob Shick,  said he supported Pollock’s on-ice ruling. Since incidental contact is a non-reviewable matter, the NHL war room in Toronto was not consulted on the play.

“The goaltender wasn't allowed to play his position in the crease,” Shick said. “Incidental contact [by Ward]. I support the call. Results in no goal, no penalty."

The Caps nearly scored minutes after the non-goal, with Lundqvist stopping Jason Chimera on another deceptive pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov from behind the net.

“The guys did a good job of bouncing back from that,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said, “because it can be frustrating having a goal that gets disallowed. But we stuck with it.”

Special teams play: The Rangers and Capitals went 0-for-2 on the power play in Game 5. The Caps are now 1-for-8 on the man-advantage in the series and 3-for-21 in the playoffs. The Rangers are 1-for-11 in the series and 4-for-31 in the playoffs.

Slowing Ovechkin: New York defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh did an excellent job on Alex Ovechkin, holding him to just two shots on goal. Ovechkin had six more attempts blocked and one miss the net in Game 5. He has not scored since his incredible individual effort resulted in a goal in Game 2.

Faceoffs more even: After the Caps dominated the faceoff circle in Game 4, the Rangers were much better in Game 5, winning 48 percent of the draws. Nicklas Backstrom won 11 of 22 faceoffs, while Jay Beagle won 10 of 18.

By the numbers: The Caps are now 3-10 in series-clinching games. They are also 3-8 in Game 5s when leading a series 3-1. Of the 10 times the Caps have held a 3-1 series lead, they are 6-4. But when they’ve led a series 3-1 and lose Game 5, they are 3-4..   

Look ahead: The Caps have scheduled a 12:30 p.m. practice at Kettler on Saturday. They have not practiced since an optional skate on Tuesday.

MORE CAPITALS: Glencross accepts responsibility for game-ending mistake

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Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Friday’s loss to the Florida Panthers was disappointing in a number of ways for the Capitals, but some good may yet come from it with the emergence of the third line.

A poor performance in the opening frame led to Todd Reirden switching up his lines to start the second. No change had a greater effect than the addition of Jakub Vrana to the third line in place of Andre Burakovsky to play with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly.

The move yielded instant results.

Connolly scored his first goal of the season less than two minutes into the period and added an assist. Vrana also recorded a goal and an assist, while Eller had a three-point night with three assists.

“It was just to make something happen,” Eller said, “Not that [Burakovsky] did something wrong, but just to make something happen and it worked. We kept riding the wave from there on and got two in that period. That seemed to work so that was positive.”

Vrana, Eller and Connolly were three players who had been playing well for the Caps, but were just not producing.

Heading into Friday’s game, Vrana and Eller both had only one point apiece on the season. Connolly had four, but three of those points came earlier in the season while he was skating on the team’s top line.

Friday was his first goal of the season.

“It’s good to get a goal,” Connolly said. “Getting some assists and all that and being a factor on some goals, but it’s nice to see one go in. I’ve had a lot of chances to start the year, thought I’ve been playing well. Lot more shots, lot more chances than I had last year and throughout the last two seasons per game. So I feel I’m ahead of the game right now in terms of that.”

Depth scoring has been a major weakness for the Caps so far in the early season. Washington had gotten only two bottom six goals prior to Friday’s game, and both came in the team’s blowout win over Boston in the opener.

They needed a spark to get offense from the bottom six, and they just may have found it on Friday with that third line combination.

Don’t be surprised to see that Vrana-Eller-Connolly trio stick together in Vancouver for the Caps’ next game against the Canucks.


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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”