Saturday night’s game between the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals was billed as a sparkling goaltending matchup, featuring Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price for the Habs and Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby for the Caps. Unfortunately for Washington, Price sat idle in his net for large stretches of the game. The Capitals managed just 21 shots on goal in 60 minutes of play, losing 2-1 in regulation.
“We were close enough to get a point, but not good enough to win a hockey game,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters after the game. The loss ended Washington’s six-game winning streak. The Capitals had scored at least three goals in each of those wins.
The Canadiens defense was strong against Washington, keeping them to the perimeter and away from the most dangerous areas of the ice. Still, hockey is a game that often relies on deflections and bounces. The Capitals failed to force the issue against Price, even from a distance. For over 15 minutes of play, they failed to get a shot through to Price. The Habs ended up with as many blocked shots, 21, as the Caps had shots on goal.
“We just couldn’t seem to get it through,” Trotz said.
”They were defending pretty well,” the coach added. “Sometimes the other team is playing really well and they force you to get some of those dirty goals or garbage goals, whatever, and you have to make it hard on them. And we didn’t make it hard enough on them.”
Remarkably, the Capitals had just five shots on goal in the third period, a frame in which they trailed the entire time. Even the six-on-five man-advantage Washington mustered after pulling Holtby late in the game failed to generate offense. When the Capitals had the puck, they often opted to pass rather than shoot.
“They had a lot of urgency in their game,” forward Lars Eller, who came over to the Capitals in a trade from the Canadiens this offseason, said. “They battled hard. We had the puck a lot. We had a lot of zone time but we failed to sort of get bodies inside and get the puck inside at the same time. It was too easy a night for Price. Didn’t get shots. Didn’t get secondary [scoring chances]. We just failed to get our nose dirty and get the puck in there. That was the step we were missing.”
Washington’s special teams were not immune to the offensive struggles. Despite receiving four power plays, the Caps managed just three shots on the PP. Nicklas Backstrom scored Washington’s lone goal of the game on a five-on-three advantage.
“We just gotta try to leave this game behind,” Backstrom said.
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