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After a rough schedule that had the Caps racking up the frequent flyer miles, this stretch of five games at home was supposed to be a chance for them to get back on track. So far it's been anything but, despite the relatively slow-paced schedule and a series of opponents playing their second of back-to-back games. The Caps stumbled and sputtered their way through a lopsided loss against the Stars, failing to generate much of anything in the way of offense or defense en route to a 4-2 loss.
First, here's Friday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Justin Peters. Hard to fault Braden Holtby on most of the goals he gave up, but it was probably a good move to give him the hook after the Stars' fourth goal - which meant it was Peters' turn to step in front of the firing squad. He settled in just fine, making a good save shortly after replacing Holtby, and turning aside all nine shots he faced.
- Minus: The penalty kill. There were a lot of minuses in this one - in general and on the scoresheet - but the Caps took some bad penalties and then were simply unable to kill them off, and that was the difference in the game. They gave up three power-play goals, the first time they'd ceded that many in a single outing since December 2, which is just...yikes.
Ten more notes on the game:
- By now, everyone knows the Caps' record when they score the first goal... and their record when giving up the first goal. Numbers aside, though, the Caps needed to get that first goal to set the tone for a game on home ice, against a tired opponent. Instead, they took a bench minor for too many men on the ice less than three minutes into the game; a minute later, they were trailing by one.
- The Caps' penalty kill has been so good lately. In fact, coming into tonight's game the Caps hadn't given up a power-play goal in their last four, and had given up just four power-play goals total in their last 13 games... a mark they nearly matched tonight with the three extra-man tallies picked up by the Stars. Dallas doesn't exactly have a world-beating power play, either (although the return of Tyler Seguin certainly helps), hovering around the bottom third of the League in that department.
- Of course, the Stars don't even get the chance to score three power-play goals if the Caps aren't so undisciplined and sloppy over the course of the game. Too many men to start the game, a double-minor for high-sticking to Joel Ward, an unnecessary goaltender interference penalty by Tom Wilson, all cost the Caps as they paraded to the penalty box and Dallas made them pay.
- Seguin has a hell of a shot in his arsenal, and he put it to good use on his goal... but let's be honest, of the four goals given up by Holtby tonight, that was probably the one he should have stopped. Other than that? A deflection, a vicious screen by his teammates and just a nifty play (and lax defense), none of which he had much of a chance on. It's easy to look at four goals on 21 shots and say he had a rough night, but this one is not on him.
- We've noted recently that Brooks Orpik has been very good over the last month or so, and his absence was actually noticeable tonight, particularly as the Stars consistently walked into the Caps' zone relatively unchallenged. The lone even-strength Dallas goal is a perfect example of where he's missed, as Colton Sceviour was allowed to simply skate around the zone freely before eventually taking advantage of a screen in front of Holtby to put the Stars up by two. On the ice at the time? Orpik's defensive partner, John Carlson.
- Hard not to think that the absence of Jay Beagle hurt the penalty kill, as well. And the offense, of course, because all Jay Beagle does is score goals.
- How about Curtis Glencross, kids? There hasn't been a lot to like about the Caps over the last two weeks or so, but Glencross has really settled in nicely with the Caps, and has been producing perhaps more than expected. Nice work tonight to follow up his own rebound, crashing the net and tapping it past Lehtonen for his third goal (and fifth point) in five games since arriving in DC. Right on, new guy.
- Someday someone will have to explain why Kari Lehtonen does so well against the Caps... right now the top theories are voodoo or a pact with Satan.
- That said, there's no reason for the Caps to only manage 20 shots on the other team's net, regardless of who is in it. There's even less of a reason to have such a low shot total against a supposedly tired team playing the second of back-to-back games on the road.
- Some good work by Evgeny Kuznetsov tonight, as he picked up a goal and an assist in a pretty decent effort (amid a sea of less-than-decent efforts among his teammates). No one put more shots on net than Kuznetsov, and all of them actually hit the net - with one getting in late in the game to cut the lead to two.
So the Caps continue to stumble a bit on home ice, following up a much better (but still disappointing) loss to the Rangers on Wednesday with a pretty lackluster outing against Dallas tonight. And hopefully it is just that, a stumble, because they're losing ground fast on the teams they'd worked so hard to catch - and now have to look over their shoulder at their next opponent, the big, bad Boston Bruins.