The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Capitals’ offense dries up during 3-0 loss in St. Louis

Blues 3, Capitals 0

Capitals goaltender Charlie Lindgren collects his thoughts after giving up a goal to the Blues' Brayden Schenn during the second period Saturday night in St. Louis. (Jeff Roberson/AP)
5 min

ST. LOUIS — Twice in the past eight days, the Washington Capitals faced the same team in consecutive games. Last weekend, they beat the New York Rangers at home Saturday but went to Madison Square Garden and lost Sunday.

After defeating the St. Louis Blues at home Thursday, the Capitals headed to Enterprise Center on Saturday knowing — just as they knew in the second game against the Rangers — they wouldn’t be gift-wrapped another win.

The Blues jumped into the lead on their first shot on goal and didn’t look back on their way to a 3-0 win. Capitals goaltender Charlie Lindgren, making his fourth start in five games, stopped 26 shots. Jordan Binnington made 18 saves for the Blues (22-20-2), who handed the Capitals (22-16-6) their fifth goalless outing of the season.

“It was just super sloppy tonight,” winger T.J. Oshie said. “That’s probably not being mentally ready, and that falls on the leadership to have the guys ready for a game like this. We knew how it was going to be, and we seemed like we were a little surprised by it. That’s really the main issue with tonight.”

Washington scored two power-play goals Thursday, and a penalty on the Blues’ Adam Gaudette for high-sticking just 2:15 into Saturday’s game provided an opportunity to build on that momentum. Instead, St. Louis grabbed control with a shorthanded goal.

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Oshie and Dylan Strome appeared to have won a puck battle along the wall, but Blues defenseman Colton Parayko batted down Oshie’s centering pass, corralled the puck and raced out of the defensive zone on a two-on-one with Robert Thomas. Parayko looked toward Thomas as if he was going to pass, then fired a wrist shot over Lindgren’s glove at 2:37.

“It wasn’t our best start tonight, obviously,” said Lindgren, a former Blues goalie. “It’s never easy, too, when they score on the first shot — [that] gets us behind early, and then we’re just trying to play catch-up the rest of the way. We knew it was going to be a lot tougher, coming into their building. It’s always a really tough place to play. I felt like we kind of got it going a little bit in the second, maybe spurts in the third. But I think we all know that we can all be better.”

Lindgren settled in after Parayko’s goal — and the Capitals needed him. He faced 11 more shots in the period and stopped them all, smothering multiple dangerous chances for the Blues’ Pavel Buchnevich.

Washington’s passing and puck possession were sloppy and inconsistent, and that kept the Capitals from putting significant pressure on the Blues. Nearly every clean breakout or promising scoring chance was interrupted or flubbed, and against a team that has as much speed as St. Louis does, that inability to control the puck spelled trouble. When the Blues intercepted a pass or blocked a shot, it often turned into a rush opportunity the other way, keeping Washington on its heels.

“A lot. A lot,” Capitals Coach Spencer Carbery said when asked what went wrong offensively. “Didn’t get nearly enough activity near Binnington. Puck play was as bad it’s been all year, in terms of stringing passes together tape-to-tape. ... Really struggled to just simply handle pucks tonight and be able to make anything happen offensively. Frankly, to be able to get to that part of our game, it wasn’t even close.”

Brayden Schenn doubled the Blues’ lead at 7:44 of the second period with a one-timer from the right faceoff circle. The goal came amid a delayed penalty call on center Nic Dowd; Schenn found a shooting lane as Washington collapsed toward Lindgren.

The first time the Capitals built any sort of offensive momentum was on a power play late in the period, but several highlight-reel saves by Binnington kept Washington off the scoreboard — and the man advantage ended with St. Louis threatening to extend its lead.

“We just weren’t crisp at all, for really any of the 60 minutes,” Oshie said. “We had one power play that we were working around pretty good and had about three pretty Grade A’s. You pop one of those, I think it’s a little bit different game. But they were definitely the better team tonight. We knew they were going to come out hard, and we didn’t respond.”

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Washington mustered just 14 shots on goal through two periods. While the Blues were only slightly ahead at 18, the gap in effectiveness was evident. Early in the third period, captain Alex Ovechkin tried to hit a streaking Max Pacioretty on a breakaway, but his pass sailed well out of Pacioretty’s reach.

St. Louis salted away the final period and added an insurance goal by Jake Neighbours on the power play with 4:09 left. The Capitals recorded just four shots on goal in the third, coming up well short of staging any kind of comeback as its two-game winning streak ended.

“Collectively as a team, we’ve got to simplify,” Carbery said. “We’ve got to do a lot of things because our five-on-five [play] has been a problem all year. It continues to be a problem. We have to find ways to generate just simply a shot. I know that sounds pretty elementary, but that’s the point of our five-on-five scoring. We have to change it from trying to score to just try to register a shot. Try to get some activity towards the net because it’s a serious issue.”

Note: Defenseman Joel Edmundson, who missed Thursday’s win with an upper-body injury, and winger Beck Malenstyn, who didn’t play while awaiting the birth of his first child, returned to the lineup Saturday. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and forward Hendrix Lapierre were scratched.