Another day, another slow start. For the second time this week, the Washington Capitals seemed to forget they were supposed to be playing a hockey game against a team from Florida. Coach Adam Oates called it “the worst we’ve played in our own end for a long time.”
Mike Green, who had a rough night already with a waved-off goal in the first period, gave the puck away to Dylan Olsen early in the second period, who took the impetus to score and give his team a 1-0 lead. Outshot by 16-7 in the first period alone, it took a dirty hit on Eric Fehr by Erik Gudbranson late in the second period to help the Caps remember how to play hockey again. Sort of. They had 8 shots on goal in the second period, despite a 3-minute power play.
Troy Brouwer came to his comrade’s rescue after the hit, earning himself 17 minutes worth of penalties in the process. Sure, he avenged his teammate’s honor, but robbed his team of a valuable piece of what would have been a 5-minute power play. Instead, it was two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey followed up by a 3-minute Capitals power play. All hail The Code.
Fehr returned to the game in the third period after undergoing NHL concussion protocol.
Okay, so a 4-minute power play isn’t something to complain about, especially when it’s a power play that’s as effective as the Caps.The wizardry of Mikhail Grabovski’s work on the boards during the 4-on-4 time paid off in the form of a Nicklas Backstrom wrist shot that tied the game. The Panthers Alexsander Barkov scored the go-ahead goal for Panthers before the 4-on-4 expired.
Before the 3-minute Capitals power play expired, the Capitals scored the tying goal, but it was first waved off by the referee when there should have been a whistle. The play was reviewed, and the replay showed the goal belonged to Joel Ward, assisted by Marcus Johansson and Backstrom.
Philipp Grubauer, the backup goalie’s backup, faced a total of 41 shots on goal, regulation and overtime combined, not to mention the 10 round shootout. The Capitals only mustered 25 shots the entire game, so this was a classic Washington Capitals case of goaltender bailout. By all intents and purposes, the Capitals should have lost this game in regulation, and by a much larger margin. Grubauer made save after magisterial save, and bailed out the rest of the team when they had a lapse. He plays with the composure and maturity of a much more experienced goaltender.
However, there is no way the Capitals can continually allow their goaltenders to be shelled in every game and expect to win (or in this case, make it to overtime). It might work for a little while, but it won’t last forever. Just look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.