Caps fall 4-3 to rival Penguins
Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals try to turn the page on Wednesday night’s emotional 4-3 loss to the Penguins and look ahead to Friday night’s contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena:
So close: The Caps were 1:54 away from going to overtime for the 19th time this season when Evgeni Malkin played keep-away with the puck and fed defenseman Olli Maatta. The Finnish rookie faked a shot, putting Joel Ward out of position for the block, then fired a wrister through four players that Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth said he never saw.
Oh-for-6: The Caps are now 0-5-1 in their last six meetings against the Penguins, who set a franchise record with their 13th straight win at ConsolEnergyCenter. “They're our rival, said Brooks Laich, whose shorthanded goal was his first since Nov. 27. “There is a lot of distaste with our group and theirs. We knew that coming in that it was going to be an intense, emotional game. For the most part it was. It was a tough one."
Angry Oates: Caps coach Adam Oates used the term “blow it” or “blew it” six times in his post-game press conference. He was most upset with his players staying on the ice too long in the third period, especially since they were playing their fifth game in seven nights. “You get caught up in the moment and think, ‘Maybe we can get one more rush out of it,’” Oates said. “When you go up [into the offensive zone] you’ve got to be able to get back. It’s a mistake. And it’s a shame because it’s a big hockey game and you don’t want to blow a point.” Ironically, before the game Laich said almost the exact same thing. “The one thing we have to make sure of during the game is that if you go offensively you have to make sure you have enough juice to get back defensively,” Laich said. “Don’t over-extend the shifts, keep them short and that way we stay fresh throughout the game.”
Penalty trouble: The Caps gave the Penguins three power plays, all on tripping penalties. One went to Ward, two others went to defenseman Mike Green, who tripped Malkin twice. The Pens were 0-for-3 on the power play; the Caps were 0-for-2.
Inside the box score: Caps defenseman John Carlson led the Caps with 28:07 in ice time and finished a minus-1. Green played 20:20 and was a plus-2. Nicklas Backstrom got caught too deep in the offensive zone in the second period and it cost him when Kris Letang’s shot went off his stick on the backcheck the other way. Backstrom finished a minus-3.
Rookie treatment: Rookie defenseman Connor Carrick experienced the Caps-Pens rivalry for the first time and went head-to-head against Sidney Crosby on a few occasions. Crosby shoved him to the ice in the third period, but John Erskine quickly came to the defense of his 19-year-old defense partner. Asked what it was like facing Crosby, Carrick managed to crack a smile. “Well, he’s good. I can confirm that,” he said. “He’s really good. I was pretty excited, like everybody else, going into this game. Guys were pretty jacked up but the older guys here did a great job like me and Willie [Tome Wilson] and Orly [Dmitry Orlov] pretty calm. It was a fun game to be a part of for 50-some minutes there. It’s pretty upsetting to lose, but everyone’s lost tough hockey games and we’ve got to bounce back.”
Look ahead: The Caps are 2-0 against the Blue Jackets this season, both wins coming at home. Alex Ovechkin and Joel Ward scored a goal in each of those two victories.