The Caps struck first, but it was all Carolina after that as the Caps fell 5-1 to the Hurricanes on Saturday.
How it happened: Evgeny Kuznetsov opened the scoring in the first period with his first goal since Oct. 20, but it was all downhill from there. Carolina scored twice in the first period and three more times in the game on their way to the 5-1 win.
What it means: The loss drops the Caps to 5-2-1 on the road this season. In their fourth game within the division, the Caps are now just 1-2-1 against Metropolitan Division foes. Their record against all other teams is 8-1-0. The five goals Carolina scored Saturday is the most the Caps have given up this season. Washington gave up four against the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers. Those two games also resulted in regulation losses.
Junk mail: Early in the season, Barry Trotz lamented that Philip Grubauer got too much "junk mail" assignments last season. A back-to-back game just 23 hours after Friday's contest in Chicago certainly qualifies and it showed on Saturday. The final numbers for Grubauer were ugly—four goals allowed on 37 shots—but that doesn't paint an accurate picture of how the German netminder played. The Caps gave up nine scoring opportunities in the first period alone and were fortunate to trail only 2-1 after the first 20 minutes. Washington struggled mightily with just getting the puck out of the defensive zone against Carolina's aggressive forecheck and were only in this game as long as they were because of Grubauer's efforts between the pipes.
One for Kuzy: One of the few bright spots of the night was the goal by Kuznetsov, his second of the season and first since Oct. 20. Dmitry Orlov carried the puck into the offensive zone and backhanded a pass from the right corner to the trailing Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov curled the pass and fired a beautiful wrister from the high slot into the back of the net. Kuznetsov is an immensely talented player, but he frequently gets caught trying to do too much. On this play, he kept it simple and was rewarded.
Shuffling the deck: With the game getting away from them, Trotz elected to shuffle his offensive lines in search of a spark starting in the second period. The lines mixed and matched frequently making it hard to keep track. Zach Sanford took a shift with Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. Tom Wilson was with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Kuznetsov also took a few shifts with Ovechkin. But on a night in which nothing seemed to go right for the Caps, none of the line changes worked either. All eyes will be on Tuesday's morning skate to see just what the lineup will look like for the team's next game.
Look ahead: The Caps close out the three-game road trip on Tuesday in Columbus as they face another Metropolitan Division foe in the Blue Jackets. Then it’s another quick turnaround as the Caps host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center on Wednesday.
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