Right from the jump of Wednesday’s game, it was obvious which team had their legs under them and which team didn’t.
The Capitals were dominated in the first 10 minutes of their game against the Sharks, but in a 4-1 loss, the tone was set with an early goal from Noah Gregor as the Sharks jumped ahead and never looked back. Trapped in their own zone in the opening minutes, the Capitals were reduced to playing catchup for the remainder of the night.
The loss dropped the Capitals to 3-6-2 in January, as offensive questions persist about what’s the reasoning behind their lack of output.
“We’ve got to wake up, not the start we wanted,” Daniel Sprong said. “After the first 10, I thought we had some pretty good looks and started playing our game. But we’ve got to be better in the first 10. That kind of changed momentum after that.”
San Jose owned a 12-2 shot advantage in the first few minutes of the opening period and by that point, it had a lead that wouldn’t be given up.
“Listen, there’s no excuses for that,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “They were quicker. They were more battle-ready. We have to be more prepared than that at the start of the game.”
In total that period, the Capitals were out-chanced 27-22, outshot 14-8, allowed eight high-danger chances to just three of their own and came out of the first half of the period in a hole both on the scoreboard and in how the game unfolded.
For a team that’s struggled to score goals this month, getting hemmed in their own zone wasn’t the solution.
“They were a lot better than us to start the game, no doubt, in every area,” center Lars Eller said. “We turned over a lot of pucks in the neutral zone and fed their offense. They were just better than us in the start, plain and simple. We got our emotion into it and a little more speed, a little more attitude in the last 10 minutes of the first. I think, in the second, too."
At five-on-five, the Capitals allowed a season-worst 16 high-danger chances per Natural Stat Trick. Half of those chances came in the first period alone.
With Ilya Samsonov back in the Capitals’ net, he had a decent night and stopped 26-of-29 shots sent his way. But the slow start, paired with the continued slow stretch from the offense, left them defeated at both ends of the ice.
“I think our speed wasn't there from the start,” defenseman Michal Kempny said. “We just got to be ready from the drop. It just wasn't ready from the first minute.”