Laich: 'Tough one to give up with 2 minutes to go'
Capitals coach Adam Oates was blunt and to the point following the Caps’ crushing 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night at Consol Energy.
“We played a pretty good game, but we figured out a way to lose it,” Oates said. “Too many mistakes. It’s a shame, because we played a good hockey game. You get tired of saying that, especially when we blow it. … I think we shot ourselves in the foot at the end.”
The Capitals took three one-goal leads on goals by Brooks Laich in the first period, Jason Chimera in the second period and Alex Ovechkin in the third period. But each time, the Penguins responded with goals that came at the end of shifts for the Capitals.
“The last thing I said going out for the third period is, ‘You guys know how much juice you’ve got in the tank. We played last night. They didn’t. On both [third-period] goals I thought we should have changed. We didn’t and they caught us tired.”
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Three minutes after Ovechkin’s go-ahead goal with 8:35 gone in the third period. Jussi Jokinen tied the score at 3-3 with Eric Fehr, Nicklas Backstrom, Connor Carrick and Dmitry Orlov on the ice for the Caps in a 4-on-4.
On the Penguins’ game-winner by Olli Maatta with 1:54 remaining in the third period, the line of Jason Chmera, Marcus Johansson and Joel Ward and defensemen Karl Alzner and John Carlson were on an extended shift when Evgeni Malkin circled around the right side of the net and out the other side before dishing to Maatta for the game-winner.
“He’s fresh there,” Oates said. “The whole shift he looked like the guy who was fresh. He was elusive and we chased him and they broke us down.”
Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth faced 37 shots and said he didn’t see that last one by Maatta, which sailed through four players before hitting the twine.
“I was screened, there was a lot of traffic in front,” Neuvirth said. “They did it all night long. They gave me a pretty hard time. I was having a tough time finding the puck all day long.
“Actually, I thought I did a decent job finding the puck. I saw maybe 90 percent of them, just the last one I didn’t see.”
Neuvirth was bowled over in his crease in a collision between Mike Green and Evgeni Malkin, but declined to comment on how he was feeling after the game.
For the most part the Capitals seemed more upset at blowing the leads than they were with their overall game.
“We played good, solid hockey, but that team has experience and they score two goals,” said Ovechkin, who scored his league-leading 34th goal of the season. “It’s hard. I don’t think we deserved to lose tonight.”
Nicklas Backstrom had a rare rough night, finishing a team-worst minus-3 and having the Pens’ first goal go off his stick on a backcheck.
“They’re probably the best puck-moving team in the league,” Eric Fehr said. “They were coming at us with a lot of speed and a lot of skill. This team is playing as good as any team and they’ve won 12 in a row in their building. There’s a reason for that.”
The Capitals have now lost three one-goal games in a row and are now a distant 18 points behind first-place Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.
They’ll try to turn the page when they visit the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday night.