The San Jose Sharks downed the Capitals by a 4-2 count at SAP Cent on Thursday night in the first game of Washington's three-game California road trip. The Caps scored first and started strong, but in what's become a familiar refrain, they weren't able to contain the Sharks' best players.
Washington conducted a morning skate prior to Thursday's game, and afterwards Caps coach Barry Trotz was asked about the star power on the ice for both sides in the game.
Video: Barry Trotz talks after a 4-2 loss to the Sharks
"There are a number of quality people," said Trotz, in a portion of his reply. "There are going to be a few [Hockey] Hall of Famers on the ice today. They might not be in the Hall right now, but they will be in time."
San Jose's best players have been a thorn in the Capitals' collective side for years, and that was the case once again in Thursday's Sharks victory. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski each had a goal and an assist. Logan Couture scored twice, and Brent Burns fueled the San Jose attack with his dominant point shot, producing three primary assists.
The Sharks have now won four straight games over the Capitals, outscoring Washington by a combined total of 17-4 in the process. Thornton and Burns have seven points in those four games, Pavelski has six and Couture three. The San Jose quartet has produced 10 of the team's 17 goals in those last four games against the Capitals.
On the other side of the coin, the six forwards in Washington's current top six have combined for two goals and five points in the team's four games against San Jose, although both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom played in only three of the four contests.
Video: WSH Recap: Winnik, Connolly score in 4-2 loss
"Well, they just found the scoresheet," says Trotz of the San Jose stars. "You look at the guys they've got, Burns had a couple [of points], and Couture had a couple and Joe had one [both Joes had two, actually], so those are the keys for them, they stepped up for them and found the back of the net for them."
Special Struggles - Special teams were the different in Thursday' loss to the Sharks. San Jose scored a pair of power play goals and netted another at the exact second of the expiration of a double minor to Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik.
It's rare for the Caps to surrender two power-play goals in a game; they did so on Thursday for the sixth time in 66 games this season, and Washington actually managed to win two of those games. Last season, the Caps permitted two power-play goals in the same game just twice in 82 regular season contests.
It's been nearly two years since Washington was dented for three extra-man tallies in the same game; that happened in a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars at Verizon Center on March 13, 2015.
The second San Jose goal of the game - a Pavelski deflection of a Burns point shot - came just as Orpik was being freed, and it's the one that nagged at Caps goalie Braden Holtby afterwards.
Video: Caps players talk after a 4-2 loss in San Jose
"Obviously it's a bit frustrating," says Holtby. "Their second goal is one that I've worked a lot on the last few years to not give up. I got a little wide and a little low trying to find it, and I opened up a little bit against a guy that I knew tips a lot of pucks there."
For the Capitals, the frustrating aspect of giving up the two actual power play goals - one later in the second period and another in the third, both off Couture's stick - is that they came on bread and butter San Jose plays that Washington penalty killers were made aware of beforehand.
"We know they shoot for a lot of sticks," says Caps forward Daniel Winnik, "and that was two goals where they were just shooting for sticks at the side of the net and stuff."
"The other two power-play goals," says Holtby, "it's frustrating because those are two goals that we know they do, that we know they run and to get beat on that, that's on us to prepare a little better that way, take what the coaches give us and do it. But in the end, it's that second goal that could have kept the game a little closer and give us a better chance."
Biting The Hand That Once Fed Him - Winnik netted his ninth goal of the season early in the first period of Thursday's game, scoring against one of his six former NHL employers for the second time this season. Winnik also netted a goal in Washington's 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 11 at Verizon Center.
Video: WSH@SJS: Winnik flips in a backhand for early lead
Secondary Stuff - Washington scored the game's first goal on Thursday, doing so for the 46th time in 66 games this season. Winnik's goal was the first of the game, marking the 21st time a Caps bottom six forward has scored the game's first goal this season.
Washington fourth-liners have supplied the game's first goal 10 times this season. Winnik and Jay Beagle have each done so four times while Tom Wilson has tallied the first goal of the game on two occasions.
Video: WSH@SJS: Connolly nets give-and-go with Shattenkirk
By The Numbers - Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with 21:26 in ice time on Thursday … Kevin Shattenkirk led Washington with five shots on net and T.J. Oshie paced the Caps with seven shot attempts … Wilson led the Capitals with eight hits … Oshie led the Caps with three blocked shots … Lars Eller won eight of 13 draws (62%).