Washington's six-game winning streak came to a screeching halt on Friday night in Arizona where they suffered a 6-3 setback to the Coyotes. The Caps surrendered three five-on-five goals in the first to fall into a three-goal ditch, and two Arizona power-play goals late in the second short-circuited a Washington comeback bid after the Caps closed to within a goal.
Louis Domingue stopped a single-game career high 45 shots and Christian Dvorak scored twice to help lead Arizona to victory just six nights after the Caps downed the Coyotes by a 4-1 score back in Washington.
"They jumped on us and we weren't committed," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "We had no execution, I thought we were soft on plays, and we turned pucks over. As I said to the group, that might have been our worst period since I've been here.
Video: Condensed Game: Capitals @ Coyotes
"They had 11 scoring chances and I thought they had eight grade A's. And some games you don't even have that. And that is on the whole group - us, me, everybody."
For just the second time in 76 games this season, the Caps were dented for three goals in the first frame of the game on Friday. Asked what went wrong for Washington in the game's first 20 minutes, Caps right wing Justin Williams summed it up in three words: "Everything sounds good."
Video: Caps players talk after a 6-3 loss to Arizona
Dvorak started the scoring at 7:26 of the first, netting an unassisted goal on a brilliant individual effort. Dvorak blocked an Andre Burakovsky shot at the Washington line, then took off toward the Washington end with Burakovsky in close pursuit. He went wide initially, cut back to the middle and then snapped a shot from the slot that beat Caps goalie Braden Holtby to put the Coyotes up, 1-0.
Less than two minutes later, a Kevin Shattenkirk pass missed its mark and went instead to Arizona defenseman Alex Goligoski at the left half wall in Washington ice. From there, Goligoski fed Josh Jooris down low at the near post, and Jooris tucked it behind Holtby for a 2-0 Arizona lead at 9:05 of the first.
Arizona forechecked its way to a third goal at 13:12 - scoring its third goal in less than five minutes - to take a 3-0 lead. Lawson Crouse and Shane Doan did the dirty work down low and Doan fed Alexander Burmistrov in the slot, and Burmistroy whipped a shot past Holtby's waving glove hand.
Trotz removed Holtby in favor of Philipp Grubauer at this point of the game, but reinstalled him at the start of the second. Holtby made several big stops to keep the score from getting worse.
"He's been the rock for us all season long," says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner of Holtby. "I don't think there have been too many games like this where we haven't supported him like the start of this game. That can't be good for anybody's head when they a team comes out and peppers you the way they did.
Video: WSH@ARI: Holtby slides out to deny Holland
"We also talked about the fact that it could have been 6-0 after the first period. It was on us to help the guy out. He's won enough games for us this year that we can't do that to him."
Washington's best scoring chances in the first both went by the wayside. Evgeny Kuznetsov's bid off the rush hit the far post, and his centering feed to Justin Williams in the slot bounced over the latter's stick while Coyotes' netminder Louis Domingue was out of position and the net was open.
"I don't think we did things that put us in a position to win," says Caps left wing Daniel Winnik. "We brought too many pucks back in that [first] period. It's kind of a redundant saying in hockey, but 'keep the puck going north,' and I thought that would have given us a better opportunity in the first period.
Video: WSH@ARI: Backstrom slams home Oshie's set up for PPG
The Caps showed signs of crawling out of the ditch in the second, out-possessing the Coyotes and scoring twice to cut the lead to 3-2. First, Nicklas Backstrom finished with authority on a Washington power play at 1:59 of the second, with a key bump from T.J. Oshie to put it on a tee for him.
Just past the midway point of the middle stanza, Winnik made it 3-2 when he netted his career-high 12th goal of the season. Winnik picked up a fortuitous rebound of a Tom Wilson shot that hit the post and scored into a vacant Arizona cage at 11:04, pulling the Caps to within a goal.
Video: WSH@ARI: Winnik's tally pulls the Caps within a goal
But the Coyotes erupted for a pair of power-play tallies in the back half of the second period to restore that three-goal cushion. Dvorak netted his second of the night when too many Caps were caught on the wrong side of the puck when Jay Beagle's low-to-high pass in the Arizona end missed its mark and went instead to Dvorak. The Arizona rookie glided into Washington ice and ripped a shot high to the glove side behind Holtby, making it a 4-2 game at 13:28.
Burmistrov notched the first two-goal game of his NHL career when he got behind the Caps defense on the rush, took a feed from Max Domi and roofed a backhander high to the glove side with 2:08 remaining in the second.
Arizona expanded its lead in the third when Peter Holland executed a swipe and snipe, picking Williams' pocket at the Washington line and beating Holtby for Arizona's third unassisted goal of the game at 10:17 of the third.
Williams got that goal back for Washington just 20 seconds later, deflecting Matt Niskanen's center point shot past Domingue to account for the 6-3 final.
Video: Coach Trotz talks after a 6-3 loss to Arizona
"We dug ourselves a hole," says Trotz, "and in the second we tried to dig ourselves out of it but we kept self-inflicting ourselves. I thought everything was self-inflicted, but it all started with the first period. We weren't ready to go.
"The Coyotes deserved to win. We had some push, we put a lot of pucks on net, and we had some good chances. But I thought we lost the game in the first period."