The St. Louis Blues brought a youth laden lineup with them to Washington for Friday night's NHL exhibition game with the Capitals at Capital One Arena. The kids were more than all right, they were excellent, and St. Louis left town with a convincing 4-0 whitewashing of the Caps.
Goaltender Ville Husso went the distance for St. Louis, stopping all 27 shots he faced - 13 of them in the third period - to earn the shutout. Robert Thomas - the first of two St. Louis first-rounders in the 2017 NHL Draft - scored twice to pace the attack, and fellow 2017 first-rounder Klim Kostin also tallied for the Blues.
"It was pretty simple," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "We didn't have a lot of skin in the game there. I just thought we got outworked, got outplayed, lost races. We didn't invest enough in the game. You're not going to win any game turning pucks over."
Video: Coach Trotz talks after #CapsBlues
Thomas put the Blues on the board first at 14:40 of the first period, scoring from the top of the paint on a second effort tap-in. Just 39 seconds later, Connor Bleackley doubled the Blues' lead to 2-0 when he picked up and deposited the loose change from a Wade Megan shot.
After a scoreless middle frame, the Caps showed a bit more fire in the third, especially after St. Louis forward Dmitrij Jaskin challenged Caps winger Tom Wilson to a fight, the former taking exception to the latter's hit on Thomas in front of the Blues' bench early in the final period.
Thomas scored his second of the night on a St. Louis power play at 12:22 of the third, seconds after the Caps couldn't quite make good on an excellent shorthanded scoring opportunity.
Kostin tallied at 16:28 to close out the scoring.
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As for the Capitals, the biggest positive was the play of forward Tyler Graovac, obtained from Minnesota in a trade this past June. Graovac showed well in his preseason debut with the Caps on Monday in New Jersey, but the 24-year-old Brampton, Ont. native took it to another level on Friday against the Blues.
Graovac was the most noticeable player in a red sweater all night long. He skated quickly and effortlessly, was quick on pucks, involved in several of the Caps' best scoring chances, strong on the face-off dot and excellent in the face-off circle.
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | 9/22
"Our goalies were good," says Trotz. "We had a couple of players who made a real good stand for themselves - obviously, Graovac was one. Our goalies were both doing really well, but after that you're getting [few and far] between.
"That's not the standard that we want. We pride ourselves on being a team that will work, and we've got to get back to it. Let's call it what it is. We were way too arrogant with the puck sometimes, and we've got to get back to working. We've scored one five-on-five goal in three games."
The Caps won't have to stew too long over this one. They're right back at it on Saturday night when the Carolina Hurricanes pay a visit to the District.