The Caps have been a fairly dominant team at their big barn on F St. over the years, limiting losses to a single digit total in eight of their seasons here, including each of the last two. But on Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, they suffered a fate that hasn't befallen them in more than two and a half years.
The Leafs blanked the Caps 2-0 behind Frederik Andersen's 30-save efforts in goal, handing Washington a second straight regulation loss on home ice. It marks the first time since March 11-13, 2015 that the Capitals have lost consecutive home games in regulation.
Coming off an unsightly 8-2 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia on Saturday, the Caps were much more sound defensively in Tuesday's game. But they didn't generate much in the way of scoring chances against Toronto, particularly at five-on-five.
Washington and Toronto surprised many by playing a scoreless first 40 minutes on Tuesday, but the Leafs broke through first on Connor Brown's goal at 5:53 of the third period. The Caps weren't able to summon a reply, and Toronto put the two points on ice with Nazem Kadri's empty-netter in the waning seconds.
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | October 17
"I thought it was pretty tight there for the first two periods," says Caps winger Brett Connolly. "And then [the Leafs] get that one off a rebound and then we're chasing, and we just couldn't tie it up. I thought defensively we were obviously better than in Philly, but we're going to need to score some goals. It's a step in the right direction defensively, but we weren't scoring tonight. That's how it works; you've got to bring both elements of the game to win, and we didn't do that tonight."
Tuesday's loss leaves the Caps with four losses in their last five games (1-3-1) as they face a weekend set of back-to-back-games against Atlantic Division opponents. The Caps travel to Detroit to take on the Red Wings on Friday, and they'll return home on Saturday to host the Florida Panthers.
Washington posted a combined home ice record of 61-15-6 during the regular season of the last two campaigns. But after going 3-4 at home in the playoffs last spring and losing all three home preseason games this fall, the Caps have won only four of the last 13 games (and one of the last seven) they've played in the building, and they've been shutout in three of those contests.
Video: WSH Recap: Holtby makes 28 saves in 2-0 loss to Leafs
Men Down - Washington center Lars Eller missed Monday's practice because of illness, and he also left Tuesday's morning skate early for the same reason. So it was no surprise when Eller was left out of the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Leafs.
The Caps inserted Tyler Graovac into the lineup in Eller's stead, putting the big-bodied forward on a line with Connolly and Tom Wilson. Alas, Graovac left Tuesday's game with an upper body injury before the first period was halfway over. The Washington center absorbed a hit from Toronto forward Matt Martin on the last of his five shifts in the game, and he did not return. According to the Caps, Graovac has an upper body injury and will be sidelined for a while.
"I'll have a better idea for you [Wednesday]," says Caps coach Barry Trotz when queried as to Gravoac's condition, "but he is going to miss a little bit of time here."
Graovac made the Caps' opening night roster on the strength of an excellent training camp showing. Listed as a center, he had been playing primarily on the wing throughout camp and in his limited action early in the regular season. Eller's illness had given Graovac a chance to showcase himself at his best position, but the opportunity was short-lived, and the hole left the Caps mixing and matching the rest of the way.
"We had to juggle things a little bit," says Trotz, of being down to 11 forwards midway through the first. "Obviously with [Nicklas Backstrom] we had certain match-ups tonight against [Toronto's Auston] Matthews line as much as we could, and [Leafs coach Mike Babcock] was trying to get Kadri's line out against certain guys. It made it a little more difficult, and obviously you want to get some people back in [to the lineup].
"But we're fortunate we've got a few centers, and we'll get Lars back next game and he'll go right in there and we'll be back to normal. It's too bad for Gravo; I thought it was a real good opportunity for him tonight to jump in. I thought the few shifts he was in (five of them), he looked pretty good actually. It's just been a tough start for him."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | October 17
First For Frederik - Andersen became the first Toronto goaltender to shutout the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday. Leafs goalies have combined for a total of just four shutouts in the 43 seasons the Caps and Leafs have shared in the league, and Andersen's is the first shutout for Toronto over Washington in more than a decade, regardless of venue.
* Mike Palmateer (10-0) on Feb. 12, 1977 at Maple Leaf Gardens
* Gord McRae (4-0) on Feb. 25, 1978 at Maple Leafs Gardens
* Andrew Raycroft (3-0) on March 6, 2007 at Air Canada Center
* Frederik Andersen (2-0) on Oct. 17, 2017 at Capital One Arena
Andersen's blanking of the Capitals in Washington marks the second time he has done so. While with Anaheim, Andersen shutout the Caps in Washington's regular season home finale on April 10, 2016. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Andersen's two road shutouts against the Caps ties him with Martin Jones, Kari Lehtonen, Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo for the most among active NHL netminders.
By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 27:33 in ice time … Andre Burakovsky and Alex Ovechkin led the Capitals with four shots on net each, and Carlson, Burakovsky and Ovechkin led the Caps with seven shot attempts each … T.J. Oshie led the Caps with four hits … Brooks Orpik led the Caps with four blocked shots … Jay Beagle won nine of 13 draws (69%).