The Washington Capitals lost 4-3 in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night at the Verizon Center. The Capitals now have only one win in the last six games (1-2-3) but remain in second in the Metropolitan Division, 13 points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Here are the five takeaways from the loss:
1. The Capitals are clearly frustrated with losing games due to mental mistakes.
The second period began with a combined five goals on twelve shots all within the first five minutes. Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said they played into Carolina’s strength by being a rush team against a rush team.
The lone goal of the first period came off a Carolina 5-on-3 power play. The first penalty – too many men on the ice – was a result of Martin Erat leaving the bench early. Coach Adam Oates seemed to point to Erat after the game when he attributed the loss to “mistakes by veteran guys” and a “lack of concentration.”
2. The Capitals can’t stop giving up quick response goals.
Alex Ovechkin tied the game 49 seconds into the second period, then Carolina regained the lead 55 seconds later. Steve Olesky gave the Capitals a 3-2 lead at the 3:54 mark, but Carolina tied the game 40 seconds later. These quick response goals continue a disappointing trend for the Capitals this season.
After the game, Capitals forward Brooks Laich was clearly frustrated.
“To be honest, it’s sort of embarrassing. And especially that we’re aware of it. What was it, two tonight that we gave up quickly after a goal? It’s not acceptable,” he said.
While not willing to use the word embarrassing, other players echoed the sentiment.
“It’s frustrating. We can’t let that happen,” Olesky said.
“It’s been a problem all year long,” Brouwer agreed.
3. The Capitals do not have a starting goalie halfway through the season.
Philipp Grubauer played well but not spectacular. In fact, Grubauer generally plays well but not spectacular.
Grubauer made his ninth start of the season (plus two in relief of Braden Holtby). He made 29 saves on 33 shots in the loss. He is now 5-2-3 with .932 save percentage. Zero shutouts.
However, he has only faced two teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today. A 3-2 loss against the Anaheim Ducks and a 5-4 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers.
4. John Carlson is the best defenseman on the Capitals.
John Carlson will represent Team USA in the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February. He leads Capitals defensemen with seven goals (Mike Green is second with three). He and (along with Karl Alzner are the best defensemen on the team.
With three minutes left in a 3-3 game, Carolina defenseman Ryan Murphy wrapped around the net on a power play shot. However, instead, Carlson got his stick in the way to make the block. 30 seconds later, on the same power play, Carlson shut down Hurricanes winger Skinner, who already had two goals at that point, on a potential breakaway. These two plays were the top defensive plays of the game.
5. It is too early to decide if the new lines will work.
Oates shuffled the top two lines: Ovechkin-Eric Fehr-Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom-Marcus Johansson-Brouwer. The old top line of Oveckhin (1 goal, 9 shots and 5 hits), Backstrom (1 assist and 2 shots) and Johansson (2 assists) all played great in their new lines. Brouwer (1 goal) and Fehr (4 shots) also looked good.
Coach Oates was “happy” with the lines.