Caps’ playoff hopes dealt devastating blow in loss to Blues

With Jordan Binnington suspended two games for acting like a crazy person, the St. Louis Blues turned to 22-year-old goalie Joel Hofer. The emergency call-up responded by stopping 32 of 34 shots in his season debut and dealt the Washington Capitals a demoralizing 5-2 loss on St. Patrick’s Day.

While Hofer was clearing seizing the moment on one end of the ice, the Capitals too often hung their veteran netminder, Darcy Kuemper, out to dry on the opposite side of the rink. Washington allowed a goal on the first shot attempt allowed, less than two minutes into the contest and never recovered. Amazingly, the Caps have now allowed a goal on the first shot they’ve faced in three-straight games.

The team’s struggles aren’t just about starting slowly, however. Thanks to a bevy of missed assignments, defensive miscues and breakaways allowed, St. Louis jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the second period concluded, all but killing any lingering hopes of sneaking into the postseason. Defenseman Rasmus Sandin, who has looked great offensively and has provided a spark on the power play since joining the Capitals at the trade deadline, was on the ice for four Blues goals on the night.

Third-period goals from defenseman Martin Fehervary and center Nicklas Backstrom made the final score line look closer than the game actually was, and the Caps now finds themselves in a situation where they need to essentially win their final 12 games of the regular season to have any real chance to qualify for the playoffs.

That sobering reality killed the buzz in what should have been a festive atmosphere at Capital One Arena. Even the most optimistic fans are going to have trouble keeping the faith after this loss.

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