Positives and Negatives: Takeaways from Caps' Game 3 loss

Chris Russell
May 16, 2018 - 11:13 am
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Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

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There weren't many positive moments for the Capitals in a disappointing, back-to-reality, 4-2 loss Tuesday night in Game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference Final.

Here’s the short list:

1 – Evgeny Kuznetsov had a wicked shot that went top shelf, far-side from along the goal line nearly from the corner as the Caps made it 4-2.

Kuznetsov had 12 shots-on-goal in the loss.

2 – Brett Connolly scored (again) against his former team, on a nice one-timer feed from Chandler Stephenson for the first goal of the game for the Capitals, who were already down 3-0. Matt Niskanen made a terrific play at the point and along the boards to set up the play.

3 – T. J. Oshie was all over the ice pretty much from start to finish and appeared to have the best jump. He fought for pucks constantly, winning tight battles and used his body well. He set up a few scoring chances and had an assist on Kuznetsov's goal but only two shots on Andrei Vasilevskiy.

That’s about it for the Caps, who took far too many penalties, had several breakdowns and were denied any opportunity to really get their transition game going, as they did throughout much of the Pittsburgh series and in the first two games.

Here’s the bad, in a nutshell:

1 – The Caps had to kill five minor penalties and allowed two power play goals on the night. That’s five on the series and the Lightning are now (5-for-12) with the extra-man in the first three games. They entered the series one of the best power play units in the NHL and they are making the Caps pay for their sins. Badly.

2 -  As it was in the Columbus series, when your top penalty killers have to sit in the box, it makes things extra dicey. The Caps are already without Nick Backstrom, their best overall player from a complete skill set package and top penalty killer, and Lars Eller took two crucial back-to-back penalties along with an offsetting minor later in the game. The Lightning scored their second goal of the game with the extra-man :16 into Eller’s first penalty.

Because Eller was in the box so often, he only played 1:49 shorthanded, with the Lightning having a man-up for a total of 7:12.

3 – Braden Holtby has been terrific, but he’d probably like to have Brayden Point’s goal back. It was a killer fourth score for the Lightning and sapped all the momentum the Caps had built. Holtby seemed surprised by the short-side shot and after the game said he would have to review the tape before he knew if it was a bad goal or not. It was. There’s no tape needed.

4 – The Caps lost only 56 percent of the total face-offs in the game, per NHL statistics, but Kuznetsov really struggled losing 4-of-16, or 75 percent, on the night. Through two periods, the Caps had lost every face-off on special teams (power play and penalty kill) out of seven draws but wound up finishing losing 9-of-15 in those combined situations.

This is where Backstrom’s absence for a fourth straight game, plus part of the Game 5 win over Pittsburgh, hurts them the most.

5- The Caps continue to struggle miserably at home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not only this year, where they are (3-4). Last year against Toronto and Pittsburgh, they were also (3-4) for a two-year running total of (6-8).

It's pretty hard to win the Stanley Cup that way.

Per Emily Kaplan of ESPN, home teams are now (33-39) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2018. Simply terrible.