- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2019

It would be easy to say the Washington Capitals had a case of the Mondays, if it weren’t for the fact that Monday’s game looked very similar to Saturday’s in many ways except the score.

A spurt of three goals in a five-minute span in the second period gave the St. Louis Blues the edge to beat the Capitals 4-1 Monday night at Capital One Arena.

Neither the Capitals’ offense nor defense mustered anything after the first period to keep them competitive against the Western Conference opponent. Alex Ovechkin scored Washington’s only goal, his league-leading 33rd of the season, on a power play. Pheonix Copley had 33 saves against his former team.

The Blues had four different goal scorers and outshot Washington, 37-29.

The Capitals (27-13-5) lost their second game in a row after a 2-1 OT loss to Columbus Saturday. Players were left to ask how things went wrong against the Blues, a less skilled team than the Blue Jackets.

“I don’t know, we just didn’t seem as desperate as they did for some reason,” Brooks Orpik said. “Kinda seemed like we were second to the puck on a lot of loose pucks. … There were lucky bounces, but they were carrying the play for the most part. It was frustrating.”

“In the second we weren’t as sharp as they were and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities,” coach Todd Reirden said. “We had a chance to make it 2-0. We didn’t. I just thought they were a lot sharper in most areas than we were tonight.”

Ovechkin wristed home his goal in the latter half of the Capitals’ first power play, getting assists from Dmitry Orlov and Travis Boyd.

Washington struggled with individual matchups and defensive assignments on St. Louis’ second-period goals. First, Ivan Barbashev beat John Carlson for a puck behind Washington’s net, and Barbashev squeezed it between the pipe and Copley’s pad to tie the game.

The middle goal was more of a fluke than the others. St. Louis third-pair defenseman Vince Dunn fired a puck on net, and it both ricocheted off the tip of Orlov’s stick and glanced off Brayden Schenn in front of the crease on its way past a confused Copley.

Not three minutes later, most of the Capitals on the ice missed David Perron wide open in the Blues’ offensive zone. He received a pass and backhanded the puck in, tying their team lead with 16 goals on the season.

All was quiet until midway through the third period, when Ovechkin was penalized for delay of game for letting a puck flip over the glass. Vladimir Tarasenko wristed in a power-play goal that grazed off a corner of the pipe.

The Capitals failed to score at even strength on just 24 shots on goal.

“We have to get in front of the net a little bit more and get more shots,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “We used to crash the net a little bit more. Everyone has to take responsibility for that, maybe.”

Since the puck wasn’t spending time in Washington’s zone, St. Louis took advantage in the possession time category.

“We give them too much time in our D-zone, and like I said, you can’t play like that,” Ovechkin said.

The Blues swept the season series with Washington 2-0 after the two sides had some run-ins during preseason, which ultimately led to Tom Wilson picking up the longest suspension of his career. Wilson got into a quick shoving match with Pat Maroon after a play on Monday, but it only earned them matching roughing minors.

It was the first day of a home-and-away back-to-back for the Capitals. They visit the Nashville Predators Tuesday.

Monday was also Orpik’s 1,000th career NHL game, which will be further celebrated with a pre-game ceremony at the Capitals’ next home game Friday.

But as Orpik put it, “There won’t be too much celebrating on the plane tonight.”

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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