Locked in a goalies' duel, the Caps blinked first in a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday.
How it happened: Braden Holtby and Jaroslav Halak were perfect through two periods, but a costly fumble at the blue line by Dmitry Orlov proved disastrous. With the Caps buzzing on their best power play of the night, Orlov tried to stop the puck from clearing the offensive zone, but it squirted past him. Rather than abandon the play and immediately get back on defense, Orlov instead tried to corral the puck. That left Shane Prince free behind the defense. Once Casey Czikas got the puck away from Orlov, he launced Prince on the breakaway and Prince finished the play with the game's first goal.
Just 3:28 later, the Islanders made the Caps' pay for another Orlov turnover as he chipped the puck from the corner of the defensive zone back into the slot. The Islanders pounced on it immediately and after a scrum in front of the net, Brock Nelson finally fired the puck past the helpless Holtby. Jason Chimera added another goal just one minute later as the floodgates opened.
After getting blanked the first 43:15 of the game, the Islanders scored three goals in a window of 4:28 in the third period.
What it means: The loss is the second straight for Washington and snaps a 10-game point streak for the Caps against the Islanders. The Caps have now lost three of their last five games and are 2-4-2 against Metropolitan Division foes this season.
Rookie debut: It may have ended in a loss, but it was a night to remember for Jakub Vrana who made his NHL debut. It didn't take him long to make his presence felt as he registered the Caps' first shot on goal of the game, a pretty backhand that forced a nice save from Halak. Vrana was also given the rookie treatment during warmups as the Caps let him skate out alone for a few laps before joining him on the ice.
Too little, too late: The Caps thought they had broken the scoreless tie in the last second of the first period as Justin Williams tipped in a beautiful pass by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov's proved to be a little too patient on the play, however. The goal was reviewed and it was determined the puck did not completely cross the line until after the clock struck 0.0 and the goal was disallowed.
It was just that kind of night for Williams. In addition to the overturned goal, he also took an elbow up high from Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck who was not assessed a penalty. Williams also had a season-high seven shots on goal, but walked away with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
An old nemesis: Any mention of Halak is bound to stir up memories of the Capitals' stunning playoff loss in 2010 in which Halak stood on his head for the Montreal Canadiens in an improbable upset of the Caps. He recaptured that form on Thursday as he turned aside all 38 shots he faced in his first shutout of the season. Heading into Thursday's game, Halak's numbers on the season were not pretty. In 14 games he had managed only a .904 save percentage and a whopping 3.08 GAA. He had not allowed fewer than two goals and allowed more than two in 10 of his 14 appearances. But there's just something about the Caps when it comes to Halak.
Look ahead: The Caps head south to Tampa Bay for a Saturday night matchup with the Lightning on Saturday. They then return to Washington for a brief two-game home stand against the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins.