It took the Panthers just 84 seconds to open the scoring when Christian Djoos gave up the puck behind the Capitals’ net, Jamie McCann picking it up for the Cats and feeding Connor Brickley for a point blank shot that beat goalie Philipp Grubauer. It was all the scoring until the last minute when the Panthers doubled their lead, the goal coming on a power play. Vincent Trocheck carried the puck down the right wing wall into the Caps’ zone. From the edge of the right wing circle he fed Jonathan Huberdeau in the middle, and Huberdeau fed the puck to Evgenii Dadonov steaming down the middle. Dadonov had room to take a couple of strides, get a better shooting angle, and ripped a shot past Grubauer to make it 2-0 going to the first intermission
Penalties killed the Caps in the first dozen minutes of the first period. They took four penalties in the first 12:20, the middle two giving the Panthers a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:45. Florida scored on the two-man advantage when Vincent Trocheck one-timed feed from Aleksander Barkov over Grubauer’s left shoulder, and it was 3-0, 8:58 into the period.
The Caps got one back late in the period when Chritian Djoos walked the puck across the high slot, found a space in the Panther defense, and ripped a shot over goalie James Reimer’s left shoulder just under the crossbar to make it 3-1 at the 15:23 mark. The goal seemed to give the Caps a spark, but they could not solve Reimer for a second goal before intermission.
The Caps had their chances late in the period, Evgeny Kunetsov and Brett Connolly both having good looks from deep to Reimer’s left, but both were turned away. Then, with the Caps having pulled Philipp Grubauer for an extra skater, they drew a penalty on Ian McCoshen with 1:51 left in regiulation. But with the Caps with a 6-4 man advantage, Barkov scooped up a loose puck in the high slot and backhanded it the length of the ice into the empty net for the final 4-1 margin.
-- The Caps out-shot the Panthers, 16-7, in the first period (13-2 at even strength) and still trailed 2-0. Nine of the 18 skaters had at least one shot.
-- Andre Burakovsky had a golden chance late in the second period to get the Caps within a goal when a rebound trickled off the left pad of James Reimer and slid to Burakovsky. The puck got caught up in Burakovsky’s skates, leaving Burakovsky with only an attempt to backhand the puck back between his skates to the empty side of the net with Reimer down, but Burakovsky could not get his stick on the puck, and it was cleared out of danger.
-- Nicklas Backstrom had five shots on goal over the first 40 minutes, at that point already being his high in shots on goal for any game this season. He finished with six shots on goal.
-- The shorthanded goal by Aleksander Barkov was the third time in four games the Caps allowed a shorthanded goal and their fourth allowed in nine games so far.
-- The Caps out-shot the Panthers, 34-9, at even strength, 42-23 overall for the game. They had almost as many shots on goal (42) as Florida had attempts (47).
-- Every Capital skater but Brooks Orpik recorded a shot on goal. John Carlson led the team with seven. He also led the club with 11 shot attempts.
-- This was the fifth time in nine games that the Caps allowed an opponent five or more power play opportunities (Florida had six). Only once this season in nine games have the Caps had more power play chances than their opponent (3-2 against Detroit on Friday night).
-- The Caps did not lose consecutive games on home ice all of last season. This game was their third straight loss on Capital One Arena ice. Change the name back.
-- Philipp Grubauer’s record dropped to 0-2-1, but it is not as if he’s had a lot of support. The Caps have a total of six goals in front of him in three games, half of them coming in his 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
-- The Caps were sluggish in offensive zone draws, winning just 17 of 37 (45.9 percent).
In the end…
Again, it seems if the top six forwards aren’t scoring, the Caps aren’t winning. And the well-worn route to the penalty box made the task just that much more difficult. The Caps have a lot to work on and six days to do it before they visit the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. They had better spend their time well. This is a team spinning its wheels at the moment.