Where Tuesday night ranks on the list of terrible showings from the Capitals this year isn’t really quantifiable. But the timing of their 5-0 defeat to the Stars in a continued derailment of this team that mathematically is still alive in the playoff race but on the ice looks far from it may make it the worst one yet.
Five thoughts on the loss to Dallas.
1. Tyler Seguin, 15:08 of the first. This play started long before Seguin drove to the front of the net to tip a shot by Jamie Benn between Jaroslav Halak’s legs. It started several seconds earlier on the shift when the Capitals chased the puck, and their opponents, around the offensive zone. Passes bounced and Dallas’s possession wasn’t clean but the visitors were beating the Capitals to the pucks even in situations where they had an advantage in numbers of players.
After a flurry of shots, Valeri Nichushkin went to retrieve the puck below the goal line but was pick pocketed by Nicklas Backstrom. When the top center tried to chip it up the wall toward John Carlson, though, Seguin swatted at the puck and redirected it toward Benn in the left circle.
Benn put the puck on net as Seguin drove to the front of the net, with a step on Backstrom and no resistance from Carlson or Karl Alzner, for the redirection.
“I thought we had a real good first period. They got a pretty lucky break on the goal,” Oates said. “Backy tries to go by Seguin and he knocks it out of the air and it goes right to a guy, then he tips it by Jaro.”
Tipping the puck in the corner to Benn in the circle was a good bounce for Dallas, but it came from their offensive zone time and was finished off by a smart play to go to the front of the net by Seguin. That’s a team making their own luck.
2. Ray Whitney, 9:16 of the second. Dmitry Orlov dumped the puck into the offensive zone and had gone off the ice for a change, but sent it directly to Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen, who took note of the Capitals’ changing units. All three forwards had swapped, putting the fourth line of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Chris Brown and Tom Wilson on the ice and Orlov had been replaced by John Erskine. Mike Green was the only player that didn’t switch.
Lehtonen sent the puck to Alex Goligoski, who sent a well-placed stretch pass from deep in the Dallas zone to the offensive blueline where Alex Chiasson and Ray Whitney had posted up behind the Capitals’ defense. The two forwards were racing toward the goal with a two-on-none odd man rush with Erskine giving chase. Green stopped taking strides when he reached the high slot.
With no help, Halak came out to challenge Whitney but the man they call “The Wizard” pulled the puck around the netminder and into the open net.
“It’s a mistake by a young guy that you obviously don’t want and it just goes to show you, you can never relax in this game. It got all the way to the goalie, great play by the goalie — heads up,” Oates said. Lehtonen “didn’t set it up behind the net, gave it to his D and they went right up on us. We fell asleep back there and all of a sudden it’s 2-0. We didn’t really handle the adversity after that.”
3. Dustin Jeffrey, 9:50 of the second. Off the faceoff at center ice following Whitney’s goal, the Stars set up in the offensive zone again. A shot from the point by Trevor Daley went off the left leg of Erskine, popping out to the right circle where Jeffrey put the rebound back on net.
Halak made the save, but the puck was loose around his pads. Three Capitals – Erskine, Julien Brouillette and Chris Brown – swarmed Chiasson in front of the net but while they mobbed one member of the opposition they forgot about another. Jeffrey was alone and unguarded by the right post, scooped up the loose puck and shot it above Halak who was still down on the ice after making the previous save.
With the exception of Brouillette, four of the five players on the ice for that goal were also on the ice for the one that came 34 seconds earlier. So why did Oates keep the same group out there?
“The D pair really made the mistake and the forwards just got on the ice,” Oates said. “They got changed and I didn’t want to punish them.”
4. Dustin Jeffrey, 9:55 of the third. Chaisson drew attention again as he streaked down the right side boards in the third, pulling both Orlov and Jay Beagle toward him only to then dish the puck to Whitney as he barreled down the slot with the Capitals chasing. Once Washington’s skaters went to him, the 41-year-old winger sent a pass over to Jeffrey on the right side of the cage for a tap in.
Both Alex Ovechkin and Mikhail Grabovski all but coast back into the defensive zone as the play developed in front of them, which is what allowed Whitney to have so much space as he cut through the center of the zone.
5. Ryan Garbutt, shorthanded, 14:50 of the third. The puck jumped out in front after a chance for Jason Chimera on a power play late in regulation – the game’s result no longer in question – and was retrieved by Vernon Fiddler, who rimmed it around the end boards and all the way out of the Dallas end up to the neutral zone. Garbutt was off to the races and gained separation from Green before he hit the Capitals’ blueline. Garbutt skated in on the breakaway, with Green trying to hook him from behind, and beat Braden Holtby to tack on one tally that reinforced how demoralizing a game this was for the home team.