With their convincing 5-2 win over the Oilers in Edmonton on Saturday, the Capitals put themselves in a position to forge a winning Western Canada road trip and a winning month of October on Sunday against the Flames in Calgary. But facing another team that was also desperate for standings points, the Caps again were unable to muster much of an attack on the second night of back-to-back games. The Caps never led, and ended up the night on the short end of a 2-1 score.
Sean Monahan's goal at 9:09 of the third period broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Flames the lead for good, but the Caps committed several unforced errors from that point onward, errors that blunted any chance Washington might have had at stealing a point on this night.
Monahan's goal saddled Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer with the loss, which was unfortunate, because Grubauer's excellence right from the opening puck drop was the reason the Caps had a chance to scrape something out of this game. Starting the second game of a back-to-back for a third weekend in a row, Grubauer again received little in the way of offensive support, and for the third straight start he went through all 60 minutes without owning a lead at any juncture of the contest.
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | October 29
"You block it out," says Grubauer. "You go shot-by-shot, and if they score or if we score, it doesn't matter. The score is always 0-0. You look forward to the next shot, and you focus on the next shot and the next entry they have, the next puck. If they go out of the zone, take a deep breath. And if they come back in, here we go again."
Grubauer made several great stops early in the game when it was scoreless. He saw seven shots before the game was five minutes old; five of those shots came from top six Calgary forwards, and four of them came from inside of 25 feet away. But Grubauer had the answer for all 14 shots he saw in the first frame.
Playing their third game in four nights and the second of back-to-backs, the Caps were probably pleased to get out of the first all even. Washington had a carryover power play to start the second, but the Caps weren't able to do anything with either of their two extra man chances in the first, which turned out to be the only two they'd have all night.
Video: WSH Recap: Grubauer shines in 2-1 loss to Flames
A minute after completing that second kill, the Flames took a 1-0 lead. Brett Kulak took what appeared to be an innocent looking floater of a shot from center point. But Micheal Ferland got a stick on the puck, redirecting it behind Grubauer at 2:08 of the second period.
The Capitals had some scoring chances, but the good ones were too few and far between. While the Caps' infrequent chances were scattered here and there, the Flames were able to sustain more offensive zone time than the weary Caps.
Washington persisted, and the Caps were able to pull even on a significant break when a Calgary clearing bid hit an official and stayed in the Flames' zone. T.J. Oshie scooped up the puck and fed Jakub Vrana, whose shot from the left circle just bled thru Flames goaltender Mike Smith, barely getting over the line to make it a 1-1 game at 4:19 of the third.
Grubauer made yet another huge save soon after Vrana's tying tally. Calgary managed a four-on-one rush, and Flames captain Mark Giordano tried to finish from in tight, from the middle of the ice. But Grubauer flashed the glove to deny him.
Washington wasn't able to successfully manage the late stages of the game. At the end of a long shift, Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov carried out of his own end and tried to juke his way past a defender at the Calgary line. But Giordano poke-checked Orlov, sending Johnny Gaudreau on a two-on-one rush in the other direction as the Caps chased to catch up. Gaudreau pulled up and waited, and Monahan went to the back door for a sharp feed and an easy tap-in at 9:09.
Just over a minute later, Caps center Lars Eller took an offensive zone slashing call, Washington's first penalty of the night. The Caps killed it off, but it also cost them a couple minutes of precious time. With 2:34 left, Washington was guilty of having too many men on the ice, and that was basically the game. Calgary's power play snapped the puck around the Washington end for most of the ensuing man advantage, whittling time off the clock. The Flames prevailed, ending a four-game home ice skid during which they'd been outscored by a combined total of 14-4.
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | October 29
"I thought we were okay in the third," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "We got some good saves - actually both goaltenders made some good saves. Grubi gave us a real good chance to win. We got it tied up, and I felt like we were going to get a point out of it, but we turned the puck over. We had way too many turnovers tonight, especially the second half of the game."
The Caps head home for yet another in their season-starting string of six one-game homestands. Washington hosts the New York Islanders on Thursday in the fifth of that series of six one-game homestands.