Capital Moments that Matter: Ryan Callahan's Backbreaking Goal

Greg Fiume

Less than two minutes after the Rangers took the lead on a four-on-four goal, the Capitals went down by two when some sloppy defensive coverage gave Ryan Callahan an open shot on top of the crease. Let's take a closer look...

Last night the Caps played the New York Rangers tightly (well, on the scoreboard, at least) for about 58 minutes, but a two minute span in the middle frame put the Caps in a hole from which they could not dig out. The Rangers's top line had possession in the Caps zone, but the Caps were able to keep the puck to the outside, away from danger. However, when Ryan Callahan reversed the puck from the left wing boards back behind the net, things went south for the Caps very quickly.

Callahan_goal_medium

John Carlson chased Callahan all the way out to the boards, but was unable to prevent Callahan from making a play on the puck. Then, Carlson was unable to react quickly enough when Callahan made a beeline for the front of the net. It's a cardinal sin for a defenseman to get beat to the front of the net from the corner, but that's exactly what happened here. After attempting to initiate contact, Carlson turns up the boards, taking his momentum away from his man and opening separation between the two. Carlson hustles to the front of the net, but Callahan beats him there. Alex Ovechkin sees Callahan breaking to the net, but could not (or did not) get down to the top of the crease in time to prevent the pass to Callahan or hinder the shot attempt.

At the same time, Nicklas Backstrom was unable to win body position behind the net to prevent Derick Brassard from relaying the puck to Brad Richards. Alexander Urbom, originally covering the front of the net, was too slow to react to the puck movement and could not get out to challenge Richards and was also unable to take away the passing lane. The result was a pretty routine pass from Richards to Callahan, with the latter slamming the puck past Holtby just on top of the crease.

Call it a mental letdown. Call it sloppy coverage. Call it a lack of urgency. Whatever it was, it was an egregious error to make in a tightly contested game. While the game wasn't over at that point, Caps fans knew that it was going to be a long shot to get three pucks past the Rangers defense and Henrik Lundqvist, no matter what their early-season numbers look like. The little defensive lapses are becoming no less frequent over time, and the Caps have given up several easy goals already on this young season. No matter how good the power play is, the Caps are going to have to figure out how to keep the puck out of their net at some point, or it'll be another early end to the season.

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