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Capitals do too much wrong again in Game 2 loss to Blue Jackets

Face daunting task after dropping first two of Eastern series at home

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals waited on their bench, desperate for a reprieve.

A video review initiated by the NHL Situation Room was looking at whether Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert was offside before scoring 12:22 into overtime, but the way the Capitals' night was going, they weren't optimistic.

"We were sort of hoping and praying it was [offside], but I didn't feel good about it," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.

 

[RELATED: Blue Jackets top Capitals in overtime again | Complete Capitals vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]

 

Referee Brian Pochmara made it official; the call on the ice was upheld, giving the Blue Jackets a 5-4 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Capital One Arena on Sunday.

The Capitals trail 2-0 in the best-of-7 series. Game 3 is at Columbus on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, FS-O, NBCSWA).

As in their 4-3 overtime loss in Game 1 on Thursday, the Capitals did enough things wrong to find a way to lose Game 2. The Blue Jackets again did enough things right to find a way to win.

"You're right now in a hard position," said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored two power-play goals. "But it's going to be fun when we bounce back and [we're] going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home."

Video: NHL Tonight on the Blue Jackets Game 2 win over Caps

Game 5, if the Capitals can force one, would be at Washington on Saturday. But to get that far, they're going to have to improve in a lot of areas, beginning with goaltending.

Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 54 saves on Sunday, including 20 in the third period when the Capitals were furiously fighting to tie the game and finally did with T.J. Oshie's power-play goal with 3:35 left.

At the other end, the Capitals haven't gotten nearly enough timely saves.

Trotz's decision to start backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer in the first two games over Braden Holtby, the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner and a finalist again last season, hasn't worked. Grubauer allowed four goals on 22 shots in the first two periods Sunday before Holtby replaced him to begin the third. Grubauer gave up four goals on 27 shots in Game 1.

"You look at the two sides, and (Bobrovsky) was the difference today for them," Trotz said. "He was on his game, and we just needed that one save. We just needed that one save, and we weren't able to get it."

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm2: Bobrovsky uses blocker to rob Ovechkin

Grubauer understood Trotz's decision to pull him, saying, "I don't think I played that good." He specifically mentioned that he should have stopped Zach Werenski's power-play goal, which gave the Blue Jackets a 4-3 lead with 1:08 left in the second period.

Werenski's wrist shot from the point sailed past Boone Jenner's screen and Grubauer's glove. It was the fifth goal the Blue Jackets scored on Grubauer's glove side of the eight he's allowed in the series.

But Grubauer wasn't the only Capital at fault. As in Game 1, when they let leads of 2-0 and 3-2 slip away, the Capitals took undisciplined penalties and had breakdowns that helped the Blue Jackets battle back from 2-0 and 3-1.

After Ovechkin's second power-play goal of the game gave the Capitals a 3-1 lead 4:09 into the second period, forward Brett Connolly fell down in the offensive zone, which led to a 5-on-2 Blue Jackets rush the other way. Josh Anderson finished it off from the right circle to bring Columbus within 3-2 at 8:49.

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm2: Anderson snaps shot past Grubauer

Then, forward Tom Wilson wrestled Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones to the ice during an after-the-whistle scrum, resulting in a roughing penalty and a Blue Jackets power play at 10:36. Artemi Panarin set up Cam Atkinson for a power-play goal from the right face-off circle that tied the game 3-3 at 11:13.

Trotz wouldn't say which goaltender will start Game 3. Whether it's Grubauer or Holtby, the Capitals will need better goaltending than they've got thus far to come back in this series. But their problems extend beyond that.

"This is not on our goaltending, this is on the whole group, everybody," Trotz said. "We win and lose as a group, and we've got to go forward."

In NHL history, teams that lose the first two games at home in a best-of-7 series have come back to win 19 of 89 times, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Capitals also lost the first two games at home in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and were able to battle back to force a Game 7, which they lost 2-0.

Despite the ending, the Capitals are pointing to that series as reason for optimism.

"There's a lot of character in our room," Trotz said. "That's one of the things I think our team, maybe it's underappreciated sometimes. Our group has a lot of fight in it, and we're not going away. We're not going away. We're going to be around, and you're going to see us dig in. And you're going to see us fight. And you're going to see us make something happen here.

"I really believe in the group, and I'm excited to get to Columbus and I'm excited for Game 3."

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