Capitals attribute long-range goals by Islanders, Wild to traffic in front

Caps attribute long-range goals vs. Wild to traffic in front originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON — The Capitals went into the second intermission Tuesday in the exact same spot they were the day before. On Monday, they entered the third period trailing 3-2 and pulled off an overtime victory over the New York Islanders. This time, however, they couldn’t engineer a comeback as the Wild hung on for a 4-2 win iced by an empty netter.

Even as the Capitals played the second leg of a back-to-back and moved several players around in their lineup, creating chances wasn’t the problem. Washington outshot Minnesota 36-22 and controlled puck possession in the five-on-five for most of the game. While one or two bounces their way would’ve changed the result, the Capitals’ downfall proved to be on the other end.

The Wild scored each of their three second-period goals from beyond the circle including two from 58 feet away or farther. A physical team that stacked up bodies in the low slot, Minnesota made it difficult for Capitals goaltender Charlie Lindgren to keep his eyes on the puck.

“They took my eyes away on those goals, but I thought we again played well enough to win,” Lindgren said after the game.

“It’s really frustrating. Again, I thought we did a lot of good things as a team tonight. I thought we easily could have won that hockey game. For them to score three goals like that, that hurts. It doesn’t feel good.”

Though masked by the overtime win, the trend began Monday in Long Island. The Islanders scored two similar goals by setting up screens in front of Darcy Kuemper. They scored one from 53 feet away and the other saw winger Matt Martin nail a redirect off a shot from the point while serving as a blocker up front.

“The saying, ‘Throw pucks at the net and good things will happen,’ so you know, pucks going to the net, people going to the net,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “Last night, you see the redirects and tonight, too, just the screens. I mean, they had a heavy screen in front of [Lindgren]. There was a guy standing right there, so even though the shots came from a distance, if you’ve got somebody that’s planted right in front of your goalie, it makes it a little bit more challenging than just what it might appear to be.”

Minnesota wasn’t throwing high-chance pucks at the net, but their physical play in the slot created enough havoc to keep Lindgren guessing. Those goals tend to be the result of extended shifts in the offensive zone where the defense starts to tire out and that’s exactly what the Wild did on their second and third tallies for the brief period when they took control of possession.

On a night when the Capitals couldn’t convert even with the number of high-danger chances titled heavily in their favor, a few well-placed screens and prayers from deep sent them into their upcoming three-game road trip on a loss. After the Islanders found success employing the same tactic, the Capitals are hoping for some better bounces next time out.

“There was probably just two or three shifts in the second period where they had extended zone time and still kept it to the outside for the most part and their shots had eyes tonight and ours didn’t,” Laviolette said. “They found the back of the net and we couldn’t.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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