The Capitals lost their fourth straight preseason game on Friday night in Raleigh, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Caps fell to 1-5 on the preseason, and they've now scored just eight goals in the six games. Washington scored four of those eight goals in its lone victory of the exhibition season, a 4-2 win over the Canadiens in Montreal on Sept. 22.
"I think it's a different situation, just based on personnel," says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen of the team's preseason performance to date. "At the end of the day -looking ahead two, three months from now - is it going to matter if we didn't have a good preseason, wins and losses wise? No. But we need to start playing better, and I think tonight was a step in the right direction.
"We got a little bit better in some areas and competed harder. We were in the fight tonight, so that was a good sign. There might be some growing pains with new people coming into the lineup and stuff, so we've just got to keep working and try to keep a good attitude, and be consistent every day in our approach."
Video: Coach Trotz talks after #CapsCanes
Nothing But Blue - All four goals in Friday's game came off the sticks of defensemen. Niskanen scored Washington's lone goal of the contest, converting a pretty feed from Devante Smith-Pelly, and the Hurricanes scored once in each period, with each tally coming from a blueliner.
Midway through the first, Carolina's Justin Faulk scored on a seeing-eye floater from the right point with traffic in front. Early in the second, Noah Hanifin scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal on a Hurricanes power play. Hanifin was able to slide the rebound of his own shot underneath Caps goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
Carolina's third goal came in the third period when a Trevor van Riemsdyk shot from the right half-wall glanced off the stick of Caps forward Tyler Graovac.
Video: WSH Recap: Niskanen scores in 3-1 loss to Hurricanes
Bright Spot - Caps goaltender Philipp Grubauer started and went the distance on Friday against the Hurricanes, getting his first 60-minute assignment of the preseason. He stopped 28 of 31 shots he faced on the night and generally looked sharp in what will be his final preseason tune-up.
"I think he had a really good game," says Niskanen of Grubauer. "The third one, that happens. It ramps up and goes in off a guy's stick. It's a good defensive play to get your stick in there and deflect it. Sometimes - one out of a hundred - it goes into the net. Nothing you can do about that one, but other than that he was really sharp. I thought he really battled. There were a couple of times the puck was rattling around in the crease, and he had to fight for a second and third save. Good job by him."
Video: Niskanen, Smith-Pelly and Grubauer talk after game
Early Killing - The Caps went to the penalty kill early in Friday's game against the Canes as Niskanen was sent off just 24 seconds after opening puck drop. Washington has yet to get thru the first period of a game this fall without facing an opposition power play, and in four of its six games it has not managed to get even two and a half minutes into the game before needing to deploy its penalty killing unit.
Taking a penalty and putting your penalty-killing unit on the ice before you're able to cycle through your four forward lines at the start of a game is not optimal. But it's not the worst thing, either, as Grubauer reminds us.
"It almost is the opposite," says the Washington goaltender, "because you're into the game right away. Not that it's a good thing for us, but usually you get to see a bunch of shots right away, and feel good. But we want to stay out of the box. We don't want to get a penalty to get me into the game or the team into the game."
Video: WSH@CAR: Niskanen fires wrister past Darling
By The Numbers - Dmitry Orlov led the Caps with 23:09 in ice time … Niskanen and Aaron Ness led the Caps with three shots on net each … Niskanen and Madison Bowey led Washington with five shot attempts each … Nathan Walker paced the Capitals with five hits … Taylor Chorney and Tom Wilson led the Caps with two blocked shots each … Lars Eller won eight of 10 draws (80%) and Nicklas Backstrom won six of nine (67%).