Second thoughts: Penalties doom Caps

Second thoughts: Penalties doom Caps
November 10, 2013, 8:30 am
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Capitals know there is room for improvement

Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals [9-7-1] try to put to rest Saturday night’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes and turn their attention to tonight’s visit to the Pepsi Center against the 13-2-0 Colorado Avalanche [8 p.m. CSN]:

How it happened: After building a 3-1 lead on goals by Troy Brouwer, John Carlson, and Joel Ward, the Capitals saw the Coyotes tie the score with two goals in the final 3:26 of regulation to send the game into overtime. In the shootout, Mikkel Boedker [wrister] and Antoine Vermette [sick forehand-to-backhand move] beat Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth and Mikhail Grabovski [wrister] and Alex Ovehckin [backhand] missed the net against Mike Smith.

What it means: Although it felt like a loss, the Caps picked up a point in their fifth straight games [4-0-1] and remain in second place in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of the third-place Rangers and three behind the first-place Penguins.

Shootout streak ends: The shootout loss was the first under the Capitals coach Adam Oates, who on Thursday said “the tide will turn at some point’ after seeing his team improve to 7-0 in shootouts over parts of two seasons.      

Bad clears: The forward pair of Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer had a rough third period. Laich’s failed clear along the boards led to Lauri Korpikoski’s even-strength goal with 3:26 remaining in regulation and Brouwer’s diving attempt to clear the puck while shorthanded was intercepted at the blue line by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who fed Shane Doan for the game-tying goal with 1:46 to play.

Too many penalties: The Caps have been playing with fire lately on the penalty kill and it burned them against Phoenix when they allowed two goals on six power-plays. The toughest penalty came when defenseman Nate Schmidt took a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass with 2:01 to play. "Tough break for Nate putting it in the stands, but that's probably a product of the course of the game," Oates told reporters after the game. "Too many penalties just in general. It takes the wind out of your sails." The Caps fell one spot in the NHL’s penalty kill standings with an 88.2 percent success rate, just below top-ranked Vancouver [89.1 percent]. One reason? They’ve been shorthanded for 112 minutes, 47 seconds, fifth most in the NHL.

Power play: The Caps went 2-for-7 on the power play and have now scored nine times in the past five games. But that didn’t stop them from kicking themselves for a failed 5-on-3 in the third period and a failed 4-on-3 in overtime, when Mike Smith covered up a Mike Green rebound just before Nicklas Backstrom could get to it. Still, the Caps improved their No. 1-ranked power play to 28.2 percent, well ahead of second-ranked Minnesota [23.9 percent].

Look ahead: Look for goaltender Braden Holtby [7-5-0] to return to the nets tonight for the Caps as they try to upend the high-flying Colorado Avalanche, who beat them 5-1 in Washington on Oct. 12.