Earlier in the week when the Washington Capitals struggled to even pass the puck between themselves and fell behind against Pittsburgh, they didn’t have much in the way of a response. They had more fight Friday night when they spotted the Montreal Canadiens a three-goal lead in the first period, but the Capitals also made so many of the same types of mistakes that they’ve worked to prevent.
The recurrence of problems like turnovers and lost assignments off a faceoff that contributed to the slow start and the six minor penalties that prevented Washington from making any headway, made Friday’s 3-2 loss to Montreal a more maddening outing for Coach Adam Oates.
“Sometimes when I’m up here, I’m more frustrated than others in terms of how the game went,” Oates said during his post-game news conference. “Tonight I’m a little bit more mad at some of the older guys [who didn’t] help the young kids out. We all watch our shifts, we all watch video. We have a simple formula and when we don’t do it, we give them chances.”
Montreal’s first goal by Travis Moen was the result of a turnover by Mikhail Grabovski as he exited the Capitals’ zone. Their second goal came on a deflection by David Desharnais and while there wasn’t enough video evidence to wipe out the goal as having been scored by a high stick, it wasn’t that ambiguity that bothered Oates. It was that Washington failed in its coverage assignments after losing a faceoff.
Desharnais won the draw against Nicklas Backstrom and as the puck went out to the point Washington’s top centerman lost track of his counterpart. Desharnais slipped behind Backstrom and with defensemen Nate Schmidt and Tyson Strachan both in the slot no one was at the front of the net to keep an eye on the Canadiens center.
“It wasn’t conclusive to overrule, but still, on the play, it’s a faceoff goal from a shot from the point that we talk about every single day and we made mistakes on coverage,” Oates said. “You make mistakes in the league, you get burned. There’s no other way to cut it.”
Martin Erat’s roughing minor, a questionable call after he drove the net and knocked Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov into Peter Budaj, was just one of many unnecessary penalties but it led to Daniel Briere’s goal to make it 3-0.
Oates liked the way the Capitals bounced back after falling behind, showing life late in the first when Alex Ovechkin scored to make it 3-1, and taking control of much of the final two periods. But they still took too many penalties derailing what was a delayed occurrence Friday night – the Capitals playing the way they were supposed to.
“Yeah, we made a great push at the end 40 minutes, used a lot of energy that we probably need tomorrow. That’s the frustrating part,” Oates said. “All we did to make the push was play correct.”