Power play fails Caps in setback
WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals had their opportunity with seven minutes remaining. All three goals had been scored on the power play, and with Washington down a goal and about to have a man-advantage, the crowdcheeredin recognition of the moment. But Alex Ovechkin’s shot missed, Matt Niskanen’s was saved and then T.J. Oshie’s went wide, too. ACapitals power play in the last minute went just as poorly.
On a night when special teams and goaltending owned the spotlight, the Capitals’ top-ranked power play wasupstaged bythe ColumbusBlueJackets’ unit in a 2-1 loss at Capital One Arena. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was the best player on the ice with 33 saves, and Washington’s leaky penalty kill allowed two goals on three Columbus power plays.
“Right now, we just can’t seem to kill a penalty,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “In a tight game, that hurts.”
What had been an even match in all facets of the game tipped in Columbus’s favor when defenseman Dmitry Orlov was called for roughing 4:04 into the third period with the game tied. Niskanen’s stick broke, and a puck played off the end boards landed on the stick of Anthony Duclair beside the net. With Niskanen unable to obstruct him, Duclair scored from the tight angle, his goal holding up for the balance of the game. Duclair’s was the Blue Jackets’ second power-play goal; Columbus entered the game with the league’s worst power play, scoring just 11.9 percent of the time. Washington has allowed four power-play goals in the past three games.
“It seems like we’re giving up a goal or two almost every game,” center Lars Eller said.
“We have taken a little bit more of an aggressive approach,” Niskanen said. “We’ve disrupted a lot of plays up ice. On entries, I think we’re doing a good job there. We’re not spending a ton of time in-zone. It’s the broken plays that are turning into a really good chance and then just burying us. Whenit’s kind of a 50-50 puck, a battle in the corner, you’re downaman, so somebody’s open, but we’ve just got to bear down and be harder on it. If you can’t get it all the way downthe ice, then maybe you’ve just got to eat a few more and continue to battle and wait for help. But it seems like the broken plays are getting us right now, not the tic-tac-toe.”
As coach Todd Reirden has opted to make very few changes to the team’s structure, the Capitals’ shorthanded play is an area he overhauled. Washington introduced newpersonnelthere, andit’s also hadtoplay the first 15 games without forward Tom Wilson, who’s serving a 20-game suspension for an illegal check to the head and typically logs a lot of shorthanded minutes. Sunday, 5 p.m. TV: NBCSWA Radio: 106.7 FM