The Washington Capitals had an uncharacteristic performance in the back end of their back-to-back Wednesday against the Flyers, suffering only their third loss in eight back-end games (5-2-1).
The Capitals went scoreless on five powerplay attempts — they have the worst powerplay percentage in the NHL since December 1 — and gave up a shorthanded goal in the second period to Kevin Hayes which ended up being the game-winning goal.
But beyond the special teams woes, Capitals head coach Todd Reirden was most disappointed by the lack of execution and discipline by certain individuals.
The Capitals fell behind early, 3:24 into the first period. Defenseman Nick Jensen made a great spin move out of the corner, but after some indecision about where to go with the puck next, he turned the biscuit over to Sean Couturier along the boards. Couturier fed Travis Konecny wide open in front of the net for an easy goal against Braden Holtby.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 9, 2020
“You have players that aren’t executing properly to start a game,” Reirden said of Jensen. “You have to sit them. Now you gotta go down to five defensemen for the rest of the first period. It’s things like that – there were some good lessons that have been explained to our team.”
Jensen hit the pine for several shifts after the goal and received 3:22 of ice time total in the first period. According to the Capitals’ Mike Vogel, Jensen’s 13:04 TOI on the evening was his second-lowest all season.
Then there was Richard Panik’s 10-minute misconduct with 2:51 remaining in the first period. Panik took the misconduct at the same time Lars Eller was given a two-minute minor for tripping.
“He shot a puck after the penalty and had a verbal exchange with the referee,” Reirden said. “And that was the 10-minute there. That was something that is another area for me. We need everybody. We don’t need to be going down missing a player, overplaying guys, so when you do get your powerplays in a back-to-back situation, you get your guys fresh. So now we have to play 10 minutes without them.”
The Capitals would kill off the penalty but, nine seconds later, Robert Hagg scored a goal in the final minute of the first period.
“It’s just keys to how you can have success in back-to-back games,” Reirden said. “Tonight we didn’t properly execute. So you have a gameplan going into back-to-back games and certain key things have given us success all year, one of them’s been goals in the first or last minute of games. We give up a goal so they get some momentum at the end of the first. So that’s important.
“In their building, we could have left with a 2-1 lead there,” Reirden added. “And then special teams is always important and we give up a shorthanded goal. Those two things coupled with the unforced error on their first goal. We were fighting against it tonight. Disappointed in those areas of our game.”
Reirden hoped the loss would serve as a good learning experience.
“Sitting here with 30 wins, we’re doing a lot of good things, games like this you have to make sure you take the proper messages and get better,” he said. “We’re still a team looking to grow and get better.”
Headline photo: @Capitals
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