The Capitals have gotten far too accustomed to finishing a game with five defensemen over the past month. But Friday night might’ve been the most difficult loss of all, as John Carlson left in the second period with an undisclosed injury.
Carlson, who went leg-to-leg on Lightning forward Nate Thompson on a semi-breakaway with about 5:31 left in the second, limped off the ice and was in pain on the bench. Soon after he walked down the tunnel and took just a 36-second shift in the third period. The young defenseman could be seen limping in the hallway after the game, though it was unclear if the injury was in his lower body.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau termed Carlson day-to-day and said he’s “hoping he can go Sunday.” If he can’t, it’s a major loss.
“When you lose John, you lose pretty well half of your offensive defensemen – him and Mike [Green],” Boudreau said. “The other guys are really good defending but they’re not known for their offensive prowess.”
Without Carlson down the stretch in this one, the Caps rotated five defensemen and were unable to get any sort of sustained offense against Tampa Bay’s patient neutral zone defense. Washington had two third-period power plays without him and couldn’t cash in on either chance.
“We miss him. He’s a real key on the power play and he does a real good job of getting shots through,” fellow defenseman Jeff Schultz said “I’m sure he’ll rest up and be ready to go for Sunday.”
The Caps attempted to keep going at the same pace, but Green was forced to play a team-high 27:05 in Carlson’s absence – including an amazing 11:25 in the third.
“Anytime you lose a guy that plays the right side, he’s been playing a lot of key minutes for us, it’s tough,” defenseman Scott Hannan said.