Strong defense not enough for Caps in loss to Rangers originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Capitals saw their winning streak halted at two on Saturday as they fell to the New York Rangers 4-1. Dmitry Orlov recorded the lone-goal for Washington, his first point of the season.
The Caps are now 0-2-0 against the Rangers this season.
Here are four reasons why Washington lost.
Two first period penalties
The Caps won their past two games with a strong, five-man defensive game and that continued into the first period on Saturday.
Through the first 20 minutes, Washington held the Rangers to six shots on goal and only four at 5-on-5. And yet, the score was 1-0 New York. Why? Penalties.
The Caps were called for two penalties in the second half of the first period and that changed the trajectory of the game.
For a team working on its defensive acumen, penalties are huge. Washington was putting together another strong performance, but the two penalties allowed the Rangers to get some offense and to get on the board.
Two familiar issues
Vitek Vanecek needs to improve on rebound control and tracking the puck through screens. Obviously, those are both difficult aspects of goaltending, but both resulted in goals for New York on Saturday.
On a first-period power play, Artemi Panarin one-timed a shot that Vanecek stopped with the pad, but he did it in a way that left the puck basically sitting on the doorstep and Chris Kreider was there for the slam dunk. In the second period, Dylan Strome made the score 3-0 when he wristed a shot from the blue line through several bodies that managed to hit the back of the net. Vanecek was screened on the play by Justin Schultz and Kreider who battled in front of the net, plus Nicklas Backstrom who came out to challenge Strome. Vanecek did not react until the puck was already behind him.
Great pass, great hands
New York has been collecting skill throughout its rebuild and that was on display in their second goal
Late in the second, Alexis Lafreniere found himself open in front of the net. Panarin had the puck and Brenden Dillon tried to split between him and Lafreniere to cut off the passing lane. Panarin was able to feather the pass right to Lafreniere. When the rookie got the puck, he made one quick move to go from forehand to backhand, then he lifted it over the pad of Vanecek for the goal. It was a lightning-quick move by Lafreniere for the goal.
As well as the team looked defensively prior to Saturday's game, Peter Laviolette lamented the team's lack of offensive push. That continued again on Saturday as Washington made life far too easy for Rangers netminder Igor Shesterkin.
The Caps managed 28 shots on goal, but there were too many missed passes that slowed the team's breakouts and Washington also struggled to get into high-danger areas.
It looks like there was a wall in front of Shesterkin that the Caps just could not get past.
Washington is capable of scoring from everywhere on the ice, but you have to get pressure in front of the net. You can't always rely on shots from distance to win, especially when you are trailing by two in the third period and need to rally.