Despite even-strength scoring, an early lead and more production from their captain, Washington dropped the first tilt of their five-game home stand, losing 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night. The loss also marked the Capitals first game against a Metropolitan Division opponent, one of three they will face in October.
After feasting off of their power play for three games, the Capitals failed to score on the man-advantage while relinquishing a power play goal to the Hurricanes.
“We just didn’t play how we have to play,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “Everyone knows we have one of the best power plays in the league, but we have to use it. Tonight we did little things that cost us the game.”
Nonetheless, Capitals head coach Adam Oates doesn’t see any reason to be alarmed. In fact, he was pleased with what he saw from his team against the ‘Canes.
“I thought it was a good hockey game,” Oates, who believes his team has played better than 1-3, said. “I thought both teams played well, I thought we did a lot of good things. Tough break on the winning goal, our execution wasn’t good on that goal…but all in all I thought the game was OK.”
Oates noted that a penalty-filled second period upset his team’s rhythm.
“It seemed like one of those nights where there was like a different call every shift,” he said.
The Capitals bench boss also addressed his team’s inability to hold a lead this year.
“I don’t think it’s time to push the panic button yet,” he said. “I’m sure it’s something we’re going to talk about.”
Disrupted momentum and tough breaks aside, the fact is that the Capitals are off to a 1-3 start after stressing during training camp that they didn’t want to find themselves in a similar position as last year, especially now that they are a part of a more competitive division.
If Oates’ silver-lining spin seems slightly contrived, Washington center Nicklas Backstrom provided some refreshing frankness in his post-game remarks.
“We’ve got to make sure we look at ourselves in the mirror and do a better job,” Backstrom, who was visibly frustrated after the game, said. “I mean, this is not good enough, that’s for sure. We’ve got to play better five-on-five as well. We had power play chances tonight, but you want to play a good 60-minute game and we haven’t done that yet, I think, this season.”
Like every other game this season, the Capitals enjoyed the luxury of playing with a lead. Jason Chimera’s quick turning shot from the left circle surprised Anton Khudobin, sailing through the backup goalie’s pads to give the Caps a 1-0 advantage at 5:33 of the first period. A fluky goal, the first of 18-year-old Elias Lindholm’s NHL career, deflected off of Washington defenseman John Carlson’s stick and past Braden Holtby to tie the score at 12:58 of the second period. Less than a minute later, though, Ovechkin tipped Steve Oleksy’s shot past Khudobin for his fifth goal of the season. When John Erskine took an ill-timed interference penalty while the Capitals were already shorthanded in the second period, former Washington forward Alexander Semin, who receives a chorus of boos every time he touches the puck in the Verizon Center, needed only five seconds on the two-man advantage to knot the score again.
Carolina got their first lead of the game at 6:59 of the third period when new Hurricane Nathan Gerbe corralled Jordan Staal’s bouncing rebound to score his third goal of the season. With Holtby pulled, the Capitals made a late but unsuccessful push to tie the game in the third period.
Washington gets back to work Saturday night against Colorado.
“I think they’re fine. I think once you get rid of that zero, everybody can breathe, right? And it’s just sometimes it’s hard to get rid of it.” – Adam Oates on the second line of Mikhail Grabovski, Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer
“He’s not really getting enough minutes to get into a groove, but I really love his energy and his size out there and his willingness to hit and finish and create opportunities in the offensive zone and, you know what, he’s still learning.” – Adam Oates on Tom Wilson
With five goals and two assists through four games, Alexander Ovechkin is off to his hottest start since 2010-2011.
After earning the second assist on Chimera’s goal, John Carlson is now two points away from earning his 100th career NHL point.
The game’s three stars were 1. Nathan Gerbe (Carolina), 2. Alexander Ovechkin (Washington), and 3. Karl Alzner (Washington)