December 15, 2017

Washington Capitals Game 79 Recap: Caps erase disastrous start but lose in OT

The Washington Capitals entered Saturday night’s game with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but they will have to wait at least one more day after losing to the desperate Ottawa Senators in overtime.

In the first ten minutes of the game, the Caps took three penalties and allowed three goals to put themselves in a 3-0 deficit that looked insurmountable. After regrouping in the locker room, a different Capitals team came out to dominate the remainder of regulation tying the game at three, but another mistake cost them in the extra frame.

The Caps simply could not get out of their own way in the first period. After giving up an early goal off of a bad line change, the Caps tried to respond but a Mike Green goal was waved off for a goaltender interference call on Joel Ward. Ward was engaged with Marc Methot and knocked the defenseman into goalie Andrew Hammond.

Things spiraled from there as Eric Fehr took a hooking penalty with 50 seconds remaining in Ward’s penalty. Holtby was then booked for delay of game as he swept a puck out of danger and into the stands just 28 seconds later. Ottawa responded with goals on both two-man advantages.

Despite the early 3-0 deficit, the Caps mounted an impressive comeback thanks to goals from Marcus Johansson, Mike Green and Troy Brouwer. With all the momentum on their side, Mike Green left a drop-off pass for John Carlson that was intercepted by Kyle Turris who ended the game with a breakaway goal.

With the loss, the Caps drop to third in the Metropolitan, one-point behind the New York Islanders.

Game notes:

  • Braden Holtby tied a franchise record with his 22nd consecutive start. While the Caps early struggles were certainly not his fault, the first goal was not one he would have allowed earlier in the season. Mark Stone found himself with room to work after Ottawa took advantage of a poor line change and beat Holtby high to the glove side. Stone is a good player with 20 goals coming into Saturday’s game, but with no screen and little room to shoot at, that’s one Holtby should have had. Coming just two nights after another rough game in Montreal and it’s clear the Caps need to clinch soon so they can put in Justin Peters and give their workhorse a break.
  • The Ward penalty in the first period that started the Caps’ parade into the penalty box very easily could have gone uncalled. He and Methot were bear hugging one another next to Hammond and Ward gave an extra shove that sent Methot down to the ice and into the Hamburglar. There was no hope for the Green goal to count, but with both players engaging one another, the referee could very easily have waved off the goal with no penalties. He did not and soon after the Caps found themselves down 3-0.
  • How does a team give up 3-0 goals in the first 20 minutes and dominate through the rest of regulation? With all the penalties in the first, the Capitals were simply not able to develop any kind of rhythm on offense. Once they did, the Senators were exposed. This is a defense that has relied on the spectacular performance of Hammond and is otherwise fairly weak. Had the Capitals started this game better, there is no doubt they would be celebrating a playoff berth right now because they were clearly the better team.
  • On a Capitals team dripping with talent, one of the most frustrating mistakes they always seem to make is getting too ‘cute’ on offense. They always seem to look for the perfect play and it cost them in overtime as Green tried to pass back to Carlson rather than shoot. As a right-handed shooter coming in close to the net on the left side, Green would have had to try a backhander and most likely thought Carlson had a better opportunity. That close to the net, however, he has to be aware that the defense is collapsing around him and he did not have that kind of room for the drop off. He needed to shoot that close in.
  • Johansson is a player who takes a lot of guff from Caps fans and rightly so, he is a forward with top-six talent that struggles to assert himself on the ice. That was not a problem on Saturday as he was the Caps’ best player. In addition to his goal, he also hit the post, drew a penalty and finished the night with three shots on goal.
  • The magic number for the Caps to clinch a playoff berth now sits at three. They can earn that on Sunday with a win over Detroit and an Ottawa loss. The Senators will face Toronto on Sunday.
About J.J. Regan

J.J. Regan is a contributor to District Sports Page. He also is a college football and NHL blogger for CSNwashington.com and CSNbaltimore.com and has a master's degree in interactive journalism from American University. Regan follows all DC sports but focuses mainly on the the Caps and college football. You can view his online portfolio at regansports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

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