Thursday, May 05, 2022

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal -- Game 2: Panthers 5 - Capitals 1

The Washington Capitals faced off against the Florida Panthers hoping to sweep the first two games in Florida before returning to DC for Games 3 and 4.  Washington won Game 1, 4-2.  Game 2 did not end as happily for the Caps, for whom the combination of lack of finish and iffy goaltending conspired to allow the Panthers to tie the series at a game apiece with a 5-1 win.

First Period…

Washington dominated possession in the first half of the period, but they went a man down 10:15 into the period when Nicklas Backstrom was called for hooking. The Caps killed the penalty without allowing a Panther shot on goal.

The Panthers did break through to open the scoring late in the period when an Aaron Ekblad drive hit Martin Fehervary, who was trying to block the shot, and bounced over the right shoulder of goalie Vitek Vanecek at the 16:20 mark. They would double their lead less than two minutes later when Jonathan Huberdeau worked the puck around Nicklas Backstrom in the right wing circle and found Aleksander Barkov cutting to the far post for a tap-in past Vanecek’s right pad to make it 2-0, 17:58 into the period.

The wheels were in danger of coming off when Anthon Mantha was called for pitching the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty at 18:06 of the period.  The Caps excape further damage in the 1:54 of the penalty that ran off, but they went to the locker room down, 2-0, with a brief carryover of the remainder of the penalty to start the second period.

-- Washington outshot Florida, 11-6, and out-attempted them, 19-14.

-- Conor Sheary led the Caps with three shots on goal and four shot attempts.

-- The Caps were just 7-for-19 on faceoffs.  No Capital taking more than one draw reached 50 percent; the top three centers (Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and Lars Eller) were a combined 4-for-15.

-- The Caps had 14 of 18 skaters credited with hits in the period; Anthony Mantha and John Carlson led the team with three apiece.

Second Period…

The Caps killed off the remainder of the penalty that carried over from the first period.  That was followed up with the teams getting coincidental minors just 38 seconds into the period with Radko Gudas for Florida and Garnet Hathaway for the Caps going off for roughing minors.  Shortly thereafter, the Caps got their first power play when Anton Lundell was boxed for holding at the 2:07 mark.  The Caps converted when the worked the puck left to right around the perimeter when it ended up on Nicklas Backstrom’s stick, and Backstrom, from below the right wing circle, fired it short side past Sergei Bobrovsky to make it 2-1 at the 2:44 mark.

The one-goal deficit lasted all of 27 seconds.  Florida restored their two goal lead when Mason Marchment finished a four-man passing play with a snap shot that beat Vanecek between the pads to make it 3-1, 3:11 into the period.  The goal – the Panthers’ third – came on just their seventh shot of the game and first of the second period.

Washington had a chance to get back into the game when Marchment was called for two separate penalties, roughing and slashing, at the 5:58 mark to give the Caps a four-minute man advantage.  The Caps failed to convert either end of the double minor despite getting four shots on goal, three by Alex Ovechkin.

Florida upped the lead to three when the Caps failed to get the puck out of their end, and the Panthers ended up with a 2-on-0 in deep, Lundell finishing the play by taking a pass from Sam Reinhart at the post to Vanecek’s right and getting the tap-in at the 15:24 mark.

The competitive portion of the evening apparently ended barely two minutes later when Florida added a fifth goal, Carter Verhaeghe doing the damage with a shot from distance that Vanecek seemed to have a good look at as it passed by, hit off the post, and banked in at 17:32 of the period.  The 5-1 score would hold up through two periods.

-- The Caps outshot Florida, 13-12 in the period and out-attempted them, 22-21.

-- Peter Laviolette appeared to shorten his bench in the period. The fourth line of Nic Dowd, Brett Leason, and Johan Larsson had 11, 10, and nine shifts, respectively through 40 minutes.

-- The teams combined for 71 “hits” through two periods, the Caps with 41 and the Panthers with 30.  Only Dowd and Evgeny Kuznetsov had not been credited with a hit for the Caps.

-- Lars Eller had the only takeaway credited to the Caps through two periods

Third Period…

Ilya Samsonov relieved Vanecek to start the third period.  He was sharp, although given the context there might not be much to read into that.  The Caps went down a man when Hathaway was sent off for boarding at 9:54 of the period.  Washington skated off the penalty, but the clock was more important, another two minutes run off by the Panthers.

Florida got its fourth power play of the game when Nic Dowd was penalized for slashing at the 15:44 mark.  They did not score, but the cherry on top of this (rhymes with "spit") sundae was Hathaway getting a ten-minute misconduct penalty at 17:40 of the period.  It would be the last, sad entry for the Caps in this contest, Florida tying the series at a game apiece with the 5-1 win.

Other stuff…

-- The Panthers outshot the Caps, 17-3 in the third period, winning the overall shots on goal duel, 36-27.  Florida out-attempted the Caps for the game, 68-50.

-- Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with five shots on goal and nine attempts.  Johan Larsson, Martin Fehervary, and Brett Leason all finished the game without a shot attempt.

-- Vitek Vanecek allowed five goals on 18 shots.  A .722 save percentage.  A bad time to have his second-worst game save percentage of the season (he stopped one of two shots (.500) in 6:43 in a 4-3 Caps win on February 1st).

-- In relief, Ilya Samsonov stopped all 17 shots he faced.

-- The Caps finished the game with 60 hits credited to them, the Panthers with 39…another 99-hit game, matching the combined total for both teams from Game 1.  Every Caps skater had at least one hit credited to his record.  Garnet Hathaway led the team with nine.

-- The Caps went 33-for-70 on faceoffs; Larsson was the only Capital over 50 percent (2-for-2/100.0 percent).

-- Washington was charged with 21 giveaways; three Caps – Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Evgeny Kuznetsov – were charged with three apiece.

-- Nick Jensen led the Caps with 22:42 in ice time; Brett Leason had the least (8:17).

-- Washington was credited with only three takeaways – Lars Eller, John Carlson, and T.J. Oshie all with one apiece.

-- This was the first time the Caps allowed five goals in a playoff game on the road since they dropped a 5-2 decision in Carolina to the Hurricanes in Game 6 of the 2019 Eastern Conference first round series.  The Caps went on to lose that series at home in double overtime.

In the end…

The Caps “outplayed” the Panthers for 40 minutes…right up until they had to actually produce.  And then, despite Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky looking shaky at times, they couldn’t finish.  The four-minute power play was the game in a microcosm.  You could tell when they failed to convert that opportunity that this was not going to end well for the Caps.  But the attention will now turn to goaltending, as it seems to have been the case all season.  While Ilya Samsonov did stop all 18 shots he faced, it had the look of pyrite – fool’s gold – more than a 24-karat performance.  Whoever is in goal in Game 3, it will be the most important game of their short playoff career to date.  And given the Caps poor record at home this season (19-22, six of the losses in extra time), things do not look nearly as rosy as they did after Game 1.