RALEIGH—As one might imagine, the mood in the visitors’ dressing room here at PNC Arena was quite somber following the Capitals’ 5-1 loss to the Hurricanes.
Indeed, there was a lot to lament. The porous D-zone coverage. The missed scoring chances at the other end. The penalties.
But what bothered the Capitals most was the feeling that they had let Philipp Grubauer down.
“We talked about that between periods,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “One of the things the backup goalie does, is every day they are in the net and they’re taking all the extra shots, they’re taking the extra work, they’re putting in the extra time. And they don’t get to play all the time. And when they do, they get the back-to-back situation like we have here today. So they don’t get the fresh team.”
The Capitals were anything but fresh on Saturday night. They pulled into the hotel at 3 a.m. after escaping Chicago with a 3-2 win in overtime on Friday night—and it showed.
Still, to a man, they said that they felt like they didn’t do enough to help Grubauer, who faced 38 shots. The Capitals have allowed more shots just once this season (45 in Winnipeg on Nov. 1).
“We weren’t very sharp,” said defenseman Matt Niskanen, who was whistled for two penalties. “They were much more engaged than we were, much more invested in the game. It seemed like every little play mattered a little bit more to them than it did to us. It’s unfortunate for Gruby because he’s been good for us. We kind of gave him a stinker tonight. I feel bad for Grubs, and we know that we’ve got to be a lot better than that.”
Especially in the first period, when a “flat” start in Trotz’s words, forced Grubauer to make several big saves…just to keep it 2-1 Hurricanes entering the second. In fact, eight of Carolina’s 16 shots in the opening stanza came from within 20 feet of the net.
“It’s a tough position for him,” T.J. Oshie said. “Typically, he gets the backend of back-to-backs and we got to find ways to get wins there. He made some unbelievable saves in the first period and kept us in it and we didn’t recover for him.”
Oshie added: “That’s the worst feeling we take out of this—we kinda hung him out to dry there.”
With another set of back-to-back games looming this week—Tuesday and Wednesday against Columbus and Pittsburgh—Grubauer said he hopes to get another start soon.
And if he does, here’s to hoping he gets better effort and execution from the players in front of him.
“We already forget that game,” said Evgeny Kuznetsov, who scored his second goal of the season. “All I worried [about] is Gruby. He makes lots of good saves. I feel bad for that. We just kind of left him alone.”
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