The Washington Capitals looked out of sorts against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, falling to the bottom-dwelling Western Conference team 4-3 in the shootout. The Blackhawks scored first in the opening stanza. The Capitals eventually fought back to take a 3-2 lead 57 seconds into the third period, but gave up a goal to Seth Jones with 9:04 remaining and lost in the skills competition.
Evgeny Kuznetsov was asked if the Capitals’ third-period collapse against the Florida Panthers two nights prior had anything to do with the team’s uninspired performance. The Capitals entered that final stanza against the Panthers leading 4-1, only to surrender four goals and fall 5-4.
“It’s 82 games, man,” Kuznetsov said per The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir. “Sometimes you play seven (games) in 11, you know? If you gonna (get) stuck there, you f***ed.”
Kuzy appears to be saying that spells of poor play are going to happen for whatever reason and if the team dwells on it too much, they’ll be unable to move past it.
The consecutive collapses have been uncharacteristic for the 2021-22 Capitals despite major injuries to core players up and down the lineup.
Fourth-line center Nic Dowd, who is now playing on the third line due to injuries, had an interesting hypothesis for why the Capitals struggle while leading sometimes: they’re only charged up to play their top game when they’re trailing. Protecting a lead is less motivating for them.
We had given up a goal with under 10 minutes left in the third with the lead in your own building. That hurts right? I think we had a bad start, good middle, there wasn’t really a lot going on.
I think that’s what we have to learn how to do. In our building being up by one with less than 10 minutes to go, don’t allow Grade A [chances]. We don’t need to score another goal, right? Lavy’s preaching that all the time. So we’re up one, we’re in a great spot and then we have to continue to learn.
It’s the same thing in Florida. We’re up three and the same thing. The last two games mistakes in the third when we didn’t need to as a team. We need to tighten that up and realize we don’t need to score another goal. Continue to play good defense, get pucks out, and give up Grade A’s but it happens.
I think we have had some times in the past where we’ve sat back a little bit. I hate to say our team gets bored but when we’re up by three goals in Florida. I think the biggest thing is we have to play with jam throughout the entire game.
You’ll see us turn it on if we’re down a goal, right? And then all of a sudden, plays with more jam. Ovi has a big hit. We score a big goal. We’re into it. The crowd’s into it. We have to learn how to be precise the entire game and finish through with that.
The Capitals will look to bounce back from their two-game losing streak against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. Dowd will not play due to being put in COVID-19 protocol earlier in the day. The Capitals may get veteran forwards TJ Oshie and Conor Sheary back, but John Carlson, Garnet Hathaway, and Carl Hagelin took maintenance days and are nursing their own minor injuries.
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