Postgame Notebook, 11-21-07
Multiplying Woes – Throughout most of Washington’s current tailspin (3-14-1 in its last 18 games) started, an acute lack of scoring was the team’s most significant problem. That problem remains (the Caps have scored more than three goals only three times in 21 games this season) and there hasn’t been much in the way of improvement in that area, but now other areas of the Capitals’ game are starting to spring leaks.
The team’s penalty killing unit was nicked for a couple more goals in Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss at Verizon Center, and defensive breakdowns led to another couple of goals. After playing a solid first period and grabbing the game’s first goal early in the second, the Capitals unraveled. A turnover led to a penalty which led to a power play goal. An egregious defensive breakdown led to another Atlanta goal in the final minute of the second, giving the Thrashers a 3-1 lead.
Washington has not been able to come back from a two-goal deficit this season,
First Blood – Washington is just 1-10-1 when it allows the game’s first goal, the worst record in the NHL. The Caps changed it up on Wednesday, getting on the board first when Alex Ovechkin tallied a power play goal at 2:27 of the second period. But that would be the lone Washington goal of the game, and Atlanta would follow with five unanswered strikes. The Capitals are now 5-4 when they score the game’s first goal.
Ovie and Kovy – Two of the league’s top young players and top young Russian players were on display on Wednesday at Verizon Center. Both Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk entered the game with 111 goals since the lockout, tied for the most in the NHL during that span. Kovalchuk pulled ahead of the Caps’ sniper with a pair of goals on Wednesday, and he also added two assists. Ovechkin notched his 112th on a second period power play.
Kovalchuk’s third period power play goal was his 50th since the lockout, the most in the NHL during that period, Ovechkin has 43 to rank fourth in the league over that span.
Wait a Minute – For the second consecutive game, the caps surrendered a goal in the final minute of a period. Tonight’s was a back-breaker; it was the difference between being down 2-1 vs. being down 3-1 going into the third period. It also came while the Caps had the Thrashers outnumbered with four players in the defensive zone to Atlanta’s two. Defenseman Niclas Havelid hopped off the bench and became the third player in the zone, just in time to convert a perfect feed from Kovalchuk with 33 seconds left in the second frame.
Washington has now been outscored 6-1 in the final minute of periods this season.
House of Pain – Washington’s 2-7 record on home ice is the worst in the NHL and the worst by any Capitals team in the last quarter century. The 1981-82 Caps went 1-7-1 in their first nine home games before reeling off six straight wins on the old Capital Centre ice to pull back to .500.
At 6-14-1, the Caps are off to their poorest start since the 1981-82 club posted a 5-14-2 mark (12 points) after 21 games. The ’81-82 team started 1-14-1 before going on a 7-1-1 run.
Sweet Swedes – Both Atlanta and Washington feature fine Swedish rookies. Thrashers defenseman Tobias Enstrom had three assists on Wednesday. Heading into the game, Enstrom and Washington rookie Nicklas Backstrom were tied for third in the league among all NHL rookies with eight assists. Enstrom has pulled ahead of Backstrom, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on Friday.
First Fight – Caps rookie center Dave Steckel dropped the gloves for his first NHL fight in the third period, tangling with Atlanta’s Chris Thorburn. The bout was Thorburn’s 13th in the NHL.
Steckel’s most recent tilt before Wednesday came when he was still a member of the Hershey Bears on Feb. 11, 2006. Steckel fought Cole Jarrett of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Giant Center in that contest.
Unlucky Seven – Heading into Wednesday night’s game, goaltender Olie Kolzig was tied with Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff for the league lead with six losses in the month of November. Kolzig absorbed his seventh loss of the month on Wednesday while Kiprusoff and the Flames were idle.
MVP? – We’re only a quarter of the way through the season, but Kovalchuk is making quite a case for himself as the league’s MVP. Kovalchuk leads the NHL with 19 goals and is second in the NHL with 33 points. He leads the league with seven game-tying goals, 11 lead-changing goals and 11 third period goals. He leads the league with 17 third period points. He has 21 points in November, tied with Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier for most in the league this month. Kovalchuk has 76 career third period goals, exactly twice as many as any other Thrasher in history.
Hot Hedberg – Standing in for injured Atlanta netminder Kari Lehtonen, backup goalie Johan Hedberg has been on a roll of late. In his last seven games, Hedberg is 6-0 with a 2.12 goals against average and a .925 save pct.
Down on the Farm -- Hershey won its fourth straight game, a 2-1 decision over Bridgeport at Giant Center. Joe Motzko and Chris Bourque scored for the Bears, and goaltender Frederic Cassivi stopped 38 of 39 shots he faced. Hershey is now 8-7 and has lifted itself into third place in the East Division standings.