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Caps Fall to Blues, 4-3

Caps can't sustain quick start, lose for first time in five exhibitions

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

The Caps got off to a quick start on Friday night against the Blues in St. Louis, but the home team bounced back for four unanswered goals and skated off with a 4-3 win. Jaden Schwartz enjoyed a four-point night for the Blues, scoring the first St. Louis goal and dishing out the primary assist on each of the Blues' next three goals.

"When you go through this process of training camp, we talk about it and you have certain ideas of how you want things to go," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "At the end of the day, the players are going to make the decisions for you. I think some guys tonight did that, and some guys didn't do that. So we'll do some different things the next couple of days here to lighten our roster, and get closer to what we want to have opening night."

Washington grabbed an early lead when Shane Gersich and Travis Boyd combined to force a Jay Bouwmeester turnover in neutral ice. Evgeny Kuznetsov quickly collected the puck and sent Boyd into St. Louis ice. From the right dot, Boyd beat Blues goalie Ville Husso with a wrist shot at 3:40 of the first.

Just past the midpoint of the initial period, Lars Eller collected a loose puck in neutral ice and floated a perfect saucer pass to Carl Hagelin, who was cruising down the right side, his off side. From the top of the right circle, Hagelin beat Husso to make it 2-0 at 10:11.

The Blues began their rally late in the first, halving Washington's early two-goal lead on a Schwartz goal at 15:37.

Video: Schwartz helps Blues take down Capitals, 4-3

Early in the second, St. Louis struck for a pair of early goals to take a lead it would not relinquish. Schwartz set up Schenn at 1:24 after the Blues had the Caps chasing the puck around their own end for a spell. A mere 23 seconds later, Schwartz and Schenn combined to set up Vladimir Tarasenko. The go-ahead goal came off the rush, and Schwartz made a nifty play, passing out of the slot to the lethal Tarasenko who scored from just off the paint on the right side.

St. Louis notched a fourth unanswered goal just six seconds into its first power play opportunity of the evening. Schwartz put it on a tee for Tyler Bozak, whose one-timer beat Braden Holtby at 13:08, making it a 4-2 game.

Early in the third, the Caps managed to navigate their way safely through 90 seconds worth of a 5-on-3 St. Louis power play. Seconds after that achievement, they had a man advantage of their own, and closed to within a goal just as the penalty expired. From center point, Christian Djoos fed Michael Sgarbossa on the left half wall. Sgarbossa sent a perfect feed to Chandler Stephenson at the back door, and he chipped it under the bar at 5:04.

Washington forward Liam O'Brien left and did not return after some second-period fisticuffs with Blues forward Jordan Nolan, and Caps defenseman Martin Fehervary didn't play the last five minutes or so of Friday's game.

"He'll continue to get evaluated," says Reirden of O'Brien. "He does a really important team thing there to try to change the momentum of the game, and there was no sense in putting him back out there just to make sure everything is fine."

As for Fehervary, Reirden says, "He'll be fine."

Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | September 27

Washington has one preseason game remaining, a Sunday matinee against the Hurricanes in Raleigh. The Caps will conduct a Saturday afternoon practice at MedStar, and their roster could be trimmed by the time they hit the ice for that session.

"We'll talk about it with the coaches here," says Reirden, "and just make sure on injuries and all of that stuff. But the plan would be for us to have a few guys go to Hershey here in the next couple of days."

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