“Capitals were plagued by “egregious mistakes” in overtime loss to Florida

The Washington Capitals have had a crash course in comebacks – both their own and those of their opponents – in the first month of the season. When they hosted the Florida Panthers at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night, the Capitals had to draw on everything they learned from their volatile games earlier in the season, and it still wasn’t enough for a win.

In a back-and-forth game that failed to find resolution after 60 minutes, neither team established a dominant advantage in puck possession or shots on goal. But Sam Reinhart scored the game-winning goal for the Panthers on the first shift of overtime, rounding Evgeny Kuznetsov on the way to the net, giving the Capitals a 4-3 loss.

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves on 25 shots for the Capitals. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 of 28 for the Panthers.

“We made some glaring mistakes with the puck that you just can’t make against a team like this,” Capitals coach Spencer Carbery said. “Especially against their best guys, who are all feeling it tonight and are buzzing around. We just made some really amazing plays with the puck, decisions with the puck and positional issues in the second and third periods.”

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Playing with a lead has been a rarity for these Capitals, even though they have won four of their last six; One of those wins was a shootout, while two others came from behind.

But against Florida, Washington took the lead at 10:42 of the first period on a goal by Anthony Mantha. The Panthers quickly hit back and were ahead 2-1 after 20 minutes. The Capitals were the better team in the first 10 minutes, but it didn’t take long for Florida, last year’s Eastern Conference champions, to gain momentum.

Before the game, Carbery stressed the importance of quick breakthroughs against a team like Florida, which can gain momentum by allowing extended shifts in the offensive zone. And in Florida’s first extended offensive transition, aided by a turnover behind the net that allowed the Panthers to keep possession, Oliver Ekman-Larsson found a way to beat Kuemper from the point. Less than four minutes later, Aleksander Barkov gave Florida the lead with a wrist shot from the left circle.

“The dynamic changes after a few turnovers after our breakout,” Carbery said. “We fumble one and then it turns into a couple of momentum changes and they end up scoring twice.”

In a twist to their trend of struggling in the second half, the Capitals used the midframe to pull back forward.

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Mantha benefited from some puck luck for his first goal of the game – his central shot bounced off Anton Lundell’s left skate and deceived Bobrovsky to give the Capitals the lead – but his second goal was a picture-perfect scoring display. Mantha raced up the ice in a two-on-one duel alongside center Connor McMichael, receiving a backhand saucer pass from McMichael before quickly moving the puck to his forehand and flicking a shot over Bobrovsky’s shoulder for a shot to give Washington a 3-2 lead.

McMichael, who had scored 2-2 while outnumbered, jumped into Mantha’s arms to celebrate the starting shot. The Capitals (5-4-2) appeared to have taken the lead early in the period when Sonny Milano pushed a rebound past Bobrovsky, but the Panthers (7-4-1) made up for the goal, believing that Tom Wilson’s entry was offside in the zone. After a review, Florida’s suspicions were confirmed and the goal was disallowed – it was the Capitals’ fifth disallowed goal in 11 games.

Mantha’s second goal gave the Capitals the lead, but just like his first goal, the lead didn’t last long. Evan Rodrigues tied the score at 3:33 of the third period. He beat defender Alexander Alexeyev to the back post and scored the goal; After that, Alexeyev stopped working shifts.

“As the game progresses, there will be mistakes, mishandled pucks and so on,” Carbery said. “You just can’t make serious mistakes. And these are examples of that. You just can’t lose a guy on the back end and forego a backdoor intervention.”

Midway through the third period, Mantha appeared to deflect a puck to the side of his head. He skated off the ice with help and did not return to the game. The Capitals did not update his status afterward.

The Capitals had several power play opportunities in the third period, but were unable to solve Bobrovsky – neither on the power play nor at any other point in the final 20 minutes.

They didn’t register a shot in overtime before Reinhart scored the game-winner just 15 seconds into the three-on-three game.

Note: Washington recalled forward Mike Sgarbossa from Hershey of the American Hockey League and placed center Nicklas Backstrom on long-term injured reserve before Wednesday’s game. Kuznetsov was questionable after missing the final two days of training due to illness; That forced the Capitals to bring Sgarbossa in as an insurance policy, but Kuznetsov was good enough to play. Sgarbossa gives the Capitals something they didn’t have while center Nic Dowd, who last played on Oct. 16, was off the roster because of an upper-body injury: an additional forward.

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Ian Walker

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