Caps out of gas on short turn­around

PREDA­TORS 5, CAPITALS 2

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY IS­ABELLE KHURSHUDYAN

nashville — The Wash­ing­ton Capitals en­tered Saturday’s game at Bridge­stone Arena without four reg­u­lars be­cause of in­jury. As the game went on, Coach Barry Trotz felt his num­bers were even more de­pleted.

“I thought we had maybe five for­wards and three de­fense­men tonight go­ing,” Trotz said. “The rest, we were very av­er­age.”

Health is­sues cou­pled with the fact that the Capitals were play­ing their sec­ond game in less than 24 hours led to an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally sloppy 5-2 loss to the Nashville Preda­tors, Wash­ing­ton’s most lop­sided de­feat in more than a month. The re­sult also left Trotz stuck on 699 ca­reer wins.

“We know we have way bet­ter, ” de­fense­man Karl Alzner said. “This was just a tough matchup for us tonight, tak­ing ev­ery­thing into con­sid­er­a­tion. But we could’ve played a lit­tle bit bet­ter.”

The sched­ule didn’t do the Capitals any fa­vors en­ter­ing this week­end’s back-to-back. Play­ing Capitals at Rangers Tues­day, 7 p.m., CSN Plus

two games in two nights is al­ready a chal­lenge, but fol­low­ing a 7 p.m. puck drop in Wash­ing­ton on Fri­day night, com­ing back to face the Preda­tors in Nashville just 22 hours later marked the short­est turn­around the Capitals have had this sea­son.

Wash­ing­ton was also without reg­u­lars An­dre Bu­rakovsky (on in­jured re­serve with a hand in­jury) and T.J. Oshie, Matt Niska­nen and Brooks Or­pik (undis­closed in­juries). Oshie and Or­pik didn’t travel to Nashville with the team, and it’s un­clear whether they’ll join the Capitals in New York be­fore Wash­ing­ton meets the Rangers on Tues­day.

In­juries not­with­stand­ing, the team had a 1-0 lead in the first pe­riod af­ter Tom Wil­son’s third goal in six games. But then the Capitals started the sec­ond pe­riod without a shot for the first eight min­utes. They were down 3-1 by the time the pe­riod was over.

Two Nashville goals came off turnovers, and the third was on a power play af­ter Alex Ovechkin was called for hold­ing in the of­fen­sive zone. Wash­ing­ton’s penalty-kill unit has been among the league’s best, but it al­lowed two power-play goals in the game.

“We can’t give teams chances on home ice, es­pe­cially on backto-backs,” goal­tender Philipp Grubauer said. “We’ve got to play smart, and we were miss­ing some key guys, some bod­ies there. It’s not an ex­cuse, but ev­ery­body’s got to step up.”

Trotz then cut the ice time of some play­ers in the third pe­riod. Daniel Win­nik and Ri­ley Barber had just three third-pe­riod shifts and Jay Bea­gle had four as Trotz shuf­fled the for­ward trios.

“Some guys, a lit­tle bit of a mes­sage that we needed you to be bet­ter,” Trotz said. “For some, the guys that were go­ing, I was just try­ing to sup­ple­ment them with other guys to see if we could change our for­tunes a lit­tle bit.”

The Capitals nearly made it a one-goal game early in the third pe­riod when Ovechkin scored, but then the Preda­tors chal­lenged, believing the play was off­side. Video re­view showed Ovechkin’s skate over the blue line be­fore the puck en­tered the zone. Ovechkin fin­ished the game without a shot on goal, the third time that’s hap­pened in the past seven games. Be­fore that, Ovechkin had a streak of 315 games with at least one shot in each.

Af­ter Ovechkin’s goal was over­turned, Ro­man Josi scored his sec­ond goal of the game to make it a three-goal deficit. Filip Fors­berg, a for­mer Capitals prospect whom the or­ga­ni­za­tion traded away in 2013, fin­ished the game with a goal and two as­sists.

For first-place Wash­ing­ton, re­turn­ing to the locker room af­ter a loss has been rare this sea­son. In this case, it wasn’t en­tirely un­ex­pected, con­sid­er­ing the travel dif­fi­cul­ties and re­cent in­juries.

“We kind of take it the same way we do ev­ery loss,” Alzner said. “It doesn’t really mat­ter how it hap­pens; a loss is a loss. That’s kind of been one of the strengths of this team, is to be able to bounce back pretty good and not really worry about those kind of things.”

MARK HUMPHREY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ro­man Josi scores as Daniel Win­nik (26) and Philipp Grubauer dive.

MARK HUMPHREY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Capitals’ Mar­cus Jo­hans­son is trapped by Preda­tors de­fense­men Ro­man Josi, left, and Ryan El­lis.

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