One That Got Away – Over the course of an 82-game regular season schedule, there are going to be some games and some points that slip away. Such was the case for the Washington Capitals on Monday night in Tampa.
The Caps had a 3-1 lead over the Lightning late in the second period, but were guilty of sitting back and of opening up some self-inflicted wounds with a pair of bench minors for too many men on the ice late in the game. The last 25 minutes of the contest belonged to Tampa Bay, and the Lightning scored three unanswered goals during that stretch to skate off with a 4-3 overtime win over Washington.
Washington can count itself fortunate that it was able to come away from Monday’s game with a single point, and it should thank goaltender Philipp Grubauer for that. Grubauer was brilliant, making 36 saves on the night. He was continually under siege late in the contest, especially during the first of those too many men violations. Tampa teed up a total of 11 shots on net during that two-minute span, including seven on net. Grubauer answered them all.
At 1:21 of the extra session, the Caps were guilty of a slow change during the three-on-three format, and they were assessed another bench minor. This time, the Lightning took advantage and scored the game-winner on a Brayden Point deflection of a Nikita Kucherov shot from the left circle. The game-winner came with just 14 seconds remaining on the penalty, and it was the first power-play goal the Caps have surrendered this season.
“He was great,” says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom of Grubauer. “In the third there, they were just shooting on him a lot. It’s really nice to see him step up and make some huge saves. He hasn’t played in a while, so I thought it was perfect for him. It’s obviously a good sign when you’ve got two good goalies.”
With Monday’s loss to the Bolts the Caps are now 114-3-6 when leading after two periods of play during the Trotz administration.
Sitting Back – The Caps carved out their 3-1 lead with a Backstrom goal at even strength and a pair of power-play goals from T.J. Oshie. But once they established that lead, they sat back too much, with too much time remaining and against too good of a team.
“It’s a mental part of the game that I feel is just natural once you get up,” observes Oshie. “You feel like you’re doing a good job by sitting back and trying not to give them anything. But when a team is as fast as the Lightning are, and as dynamic as a couple of their players are, it just gives them too much time and space.
“Early in the season here, that’s a learning moment for us. I feel like every year you kind of get that same thing. Once you get a lead, you start sitting back. So we’ll get that out of our game.”
Trotz was not all in disagreement.
“They had a real good push in the third,” says Trotz of the Lightning. “I felt that they had a number of good chances. But we sat back a little bit too much, trying to protect it rather than going after it. It’s early in the season and you’ll see that around the league, then home teams or teams will have different pushes.”
Heavy Duty – Grubauer faced 40 shots in Monday’s games, five shy of his career high of 45 which occurred in his first start in the league on March 9, 2013. Grubauer has faced 40 or more shots on six occasions in his NHL career. The first four of those came in 19 games during the Adam Oates coaching era in DC. Grubauer has faced as many as 40 shots just twice in 48 appearances since Trotz took over at the start of 2014-15.
“It was a tough game,” says Grubauer. “They came out in the last period and we gave them a little bit too much – simple mistakes that cost us. But overall, we did a lot of good things tonight. Our PK was pretty sharp tonight.”
Climbing The Ladder – Backstrom’s goal on Monday was his first of the season and the 189
th of his NHL and Capitals career. With that goal, Backstrom moves one ahead of Bobby Carpenter (188) for sole possession of eighth place on Washington’s all-time goals ledger.
Several more former Caps are within easy striking distance for Backstrom on that list. Dave Christian (193) is seventh, Bengt Gustafsson is sixth (196) and Alexander Semin is fifth (197).
Power Surge – Oshie netted seven power-play goals for the Capitals last season, and he had a career high of 11 in 2015-16, in his first season in Washington. Over the course of his 594-game NHL career, Oshie now has 43 power-play goals. Monday night in Tampa marks the first time in those 594 games that Oshie has had two power-play goals in the same game.
By The Numbers – Dmitry Orlov led the Caps with 27:33 in ice time and 5:56 in shorthanded ice time … For the second time in three games this season, all four of Washington’s top four defensemen logged upwards of 22 minutes in Monday’s game … John Carlson led Washington with six shots on net and eight shot attempts … Orlov, Oshie Brooks Orpik and Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with two hits each … Orpik led the Caps with four blocked shots … Lars Eller won 10 of 13 face-offs (77%).