To kick off the playoffs, the Washington Capitals couldn’t seem to find their rhythm against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1. They lost the lead two times due to an influx of penalties at critical moments, and inevitably lost the game 4-3 in overtime.
“I mean, you have a lead there, you gotta be smart, doesn’t matter what it is, what you did,” goaltender Philipp Grubauer said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot again, but it’s one game.”
Heading into Game 2, the Capitals reflected on their Game 1 performance and said they hope to clean up their game and tie the series at one come Sunday as they look to improve and ready for what they hope will still be a deep playoff run.
Capitals on Picking Their Battles
A flurry of penalties in the second and third period led to Columbus getting one too many chances on the power play. It was Tom Wilson’s charging penalty and hit on Alexander Weinberg that led to Thomas Vanek tying the game at 2, and a late third-period tripping penalty against Andre Burakovsky that helped Seth Jones tie the game on the man advantage.
“We took three penalties in the third period and that ended up putting us in a position where we’re going to overtime,” Trotz said.
Wilson later reflected on the hit that led to that penalty, saying that he needs to be more aware of his hits and when it’s time to make physical plays, especially during the postseason, which should help the team pick its battles and avoid costly calls.
“Essentially that cost us the game, that’s a critical moment, so y’know I gotta be better and maybe pass up on that, and we got the lead there and I think a big hit isn’t needed.”
He also added that the Capitals need to try to maintain their momentum and play a full 60 minutes, while also making wise decisions and not giving up so many opportunities.
“There’s definitely certain kind of times, but you gotta be smarter,” Wilson said. “That’s playoff hockey, that’s what it’s all about is momentum and not giving the other team life in crucial moments of the game. There are some situations out there we can obviously manage better.”
Capitals Look to Learn from Mistakes
Captain Alex Ovechkin said prior to the playoffs that the series wouldn’t be simple; both teams are top competitors and have strong areas that make this series difficult. Despite Washington’s overtime loss, Ovechkin said that it’s still early, and that one game won’t stop Washington from rebounding and coming out stronger as they look ahead to the next game.
“It’s Game 1,” Ovechkin said. “Y’know, it’s not gonna be easy, it’s not gonna be right away. You’re not going to win four in a row. It’s going to be a tough series and we forget about it and move forward.
When it comes to what they can improve on, defenseman Brooks Orpik said it was too early to think much about it, but that video and rewatching parts from the game may help.
“Sometimes after games, once you regroup [the next game], watch the video sometimes you have a different outlook on things,” Orpik said.
Washington will face off again on home ice against the Blue Jackets, ready to rectify the errors they made in Game 1 and to tweak a few things to improve their overall game. However, they may have to do it without Michal Kempny, who suffered an upper-body injury after he was on the receiving end of a hit from Josh Anderson, apparently taking a shot to the head.
Ultimately, though, Ovechkin has faith that the Capitals are going to bounce back sooner rather than later.
“Couple mistakes to correct, and we’ll be fine,” Ovechkin said. “If we even win the game, we’ll forget about it and move forward and it’s not going to be easy. They’re going to fight and we’re going to fight.”
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.