Five thoughts on the Capitals’ 4-1 loss to Carolina

December 4, 2013

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Capitals two-game winning streak came to an end as the Carolina Hurricanes hung a 4-1 loss on them at Verizon Center Tuesday night in a game that saw starter Braden Holtby pulled after two periods.

Five thoughts on the loss to Carolina.

1. U-turn. Tuesday morning several players were asked if they believed the Capitals had turned a corner after their two, come-from-behind wins over the weekend. No one jumped up and offered a truly affirmative response because, after all, it was only two wins.

Similar to the way that every time the Capitals score a goal in a game there’s some trepidation to see whether they can build off of it or will give up a goal immediately afterward, they haven’t found consistency in their play from one game to the next or even one period to the next.

Washington got off to a decent start against the Hurricanes but were thrown for a loop in the second period and unable to regain their footing.

“You can just see when we push it in the third period there, of course we wanted to try to score goals and want to make plays, but we get away from just chipping the puck in and we want to go out on our own page,” Karl Alzner said. “That’s the main problem, that we forget what gets us to the position where we get the questions, ‘Are we turning the corner?’ And then we go back and we do a U-turn. It’s tough to watch at times and we were all guilty of it at some point.”

2. Power play? The Capitals went 1 for 5 on the man advantage against the Hurricanes, finally getting a goal in the third period when the contest was already out of hand.

When Washington was still trailing by one, though, it had a pair of power play tries go by the wayside extending an inefficient trend for the unit. Over the past 10 games the power play is 5-for-37 or 13.5 percent. On the Capitals’ second power play against the Hurricanes they could barely even set up in the offensive zone, in which case they’re not building momentum for themselves but their opponent.

The Capitals have scored 31 percent of their 77 goals on the season on the power play, and can’t afford to have that source of offense dry up.

“It’s reads. I think that’s similar to a lot of the other problems that show themselves once in a while. Guys are frustrated, they make bad decisions,” Coach Adam Oates said. “I think over the course of the year you’re going to have these moments but I think it comes down to the individual mistakes.”

3. Green’s goal. After spending the past several days being reminded by Oates not to focus on his lack of goals, Mike Green finally scored one. His shot on the power play with 6:39 gone in the third came when the contest was already beyond the Capitals’ reach Tuesday night, but it marked Green’s first goal since April 27. It certainly wasn’t the type of environment postgame that led to revelry of any sort, but it should help continue to boost Green’s confidence.

“I wish it was on a different night but hopefully the floodgates open up,” Green said.

4. Philipp Grubauer. Oates told Grubauer during the second intermission that he would be playing in the third and the Capitals’ top goaltending prospect performed well in just his third NHL appearance. He stopped all nine shots he faced in what was the second relief outing of his NHL career. The 22-year-old may be third on the organizational depth chart but his poise and composed play as he rises through the ranks are encouraging signs for his development.

“Of course it’s a little bit easier because there’s not so much pressure but I want to prove myself that I can play at this level too,” Grubauer said. “I want to show them that I can do the job too so just one shot at a time. You have to make simple plays up here.”

5. Justin Peters. For one reason or another the Hurricanes backup netminder seems to play well more often than not against the Capitals. He’s 4-3 all time against Washington with a 1.67 goals-against average, a .938 save percentage and two of his three career shutouts have come against the Capitals.

Consider that Peters’s career numbers overall are a .902 save percentage and 3.13 goals-against average and it’s certainly an interesting trend. While the Capitals certainly could have challenged him more, Peters did his part in Carolina’s win especially in the first period as he dismissed several quality chances to give his teammates a chance to get a lead.

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Katie Carrera · December 3, 2013