The Caps gave New York's top line a chance, and they capitalized. (CBS)
The Washington Capitals came crashing back to earth on Saturday, getting beat down by the New York Islanders in Uniondale by a 5-2 score. The Caps tied the game twice after the Isles took the lead – on goals from Joel Ward and Nicklas Backstrom, respectively, - but fell apart after Backstrom’s goal and were outscored by three goals in the final ten minutes of the game. Phllipp Grubauer made 40 saves on 45 shots during his first NHL start, but his excellent play was not enough as Washington fell to 10-12-1.
Washington took themselves out of this game in depressing fashion today. After tying the game in the third period on a great goal from Backstrom, they took back-to-back double minors, which crushed their momentum and allowed John Tavares and his power play to rack up quality chance after quality chance. The numbers speak for themselves – Washington has not lost a game this year in which they are perfect on the penalty kill, and giving a great player and a great power play continuous chances while a defenseman short is not a way to win hockey games. Not the smartest sixty minutes for these boys in white Saturday.
A rather good game from Grubauer today during his first NHL start. The Caps’ newest hot goaltending prospect was clearly nervous early, but settled down brilliantly in the second period to hold his team in the game against pressure from the Isles. The young German made some big saves in that middle frame and later in the third before the game got out of hand to give the squad a chance, despite the result, and could not be blamed for this loss. His performance has once again shown that the Capitals have an embarrassment of riches in their organization at the goaltending position, and he deserved better.
Mike Ribeiro has been excellent for the Capitals this season; he has been their best player. But he has now been assessed penalties for yelling at the officials three times this year, and today it may have cost his team a valuable point or two. His reputation as a person who gets in the grill of officials is well known throughout the League, and plays like his extra minor on top of a high sticking minor only reinforce that and keep the referees from giving him the benefit of the doubt. You take the good with the bad, but that was a really bad time for the bad.
Bad penalties aside – today was a sloppy game from the Caps that they did not deserve to win. They turned the puck over regularly, their best players – most notably Ribiero and Alex Ovechkin – were not their best players, and they relied on a great performance from Grubauer to keep them in the game. You knew a game like this was coming, but you also hoped that it wouldn’t be in a game that was a legitimate chance at two points. Now, a home date with the Rangers looms large for Sunday – DC needs to start picking up points again. With the way they started, you really can’t afford to give games away, and that’s exactly what the Caps did today.
The Capitals are right back in action Sunday afternoon, facing the New York Rangers on NBC’s game of the week at 12:30 PM.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.