Ouch – Seeking to sweep their home-and-home set with the New Jersey Devils after Friday night’s 3-1 win in Newark, the Washington Capitals came out and played a strong first period in their own F Street barn on Saturday night.
With goals from Troy Brouwer and Jason Chimera, the Caps forged a 2-0 lead in the first. But they were never able to build on that advantage and the Devils lulled their way back into the contest, ultimately skating off with a 3-2 win that came by way of the skills session.
“They made it tough for us to get through the neutral zone,” says Caps forward-turned-defenseman Brooks Laich. “I also thought their defensemen did a great job winning battles when we dumped it in. the strength of our team should be our forecheck and we weren’t able to establish that tonight.”
Washington launched nine shots on goal in those first 20 minutes, and that turned out to be more than half of their total for the night. The Devils tightened the screws defensively – as they did in the first period of Friday night’s game between the two teams – and limited the Caps to a meager total of eight shots over the game’s final 45 minutes.
Neither the Caps nor the Devils was able to manage as many as 20 shots on net for the game, even with the five-minute overtime tacked onto the end.
The two teams combined for 17 shots on goal in the first period, and 19 shots over the final 45 minutes of play.
From the time Chimera scored at 16:10 of the first to put the Caps up 2-0 until the seventh minute of the third period, the Capitals had two shots on net in a span of 30 minutes and 15 seconds of playing time.
Meanwhile, the Devils also did their best to not remind anyone of the 1980s Edmonton Oilers.
In the middle of last week, the hockey world got into a bit of a social media – and later, “regular” media – uproar over the languid and lethargic nature of the Philadelphia-Tampa Bay game, a contest that culminated in a 2-1 Lightning win in overtime.
At least in that game, the game was won while the “hockey game” was still in session. And for all the griping about the lack of offense and forechecking attempted in that one, the Flyers and Lightning still managed to combine for 39 shots on goal in 62:30 of playing time compared to the Caps and Devils’ 36 shots in 65 minutes.
“When the shots are 17-19 and both teams have six power plays,” begins Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “there’s not a lot going on offensively. I thought both teams checked really hard. Sometimes you look at a score, and I think defensively there weren’t a lot of breakdowns.
“I know we only had two shots in the second period, but the first shot in the third period was [Jeff] Halpern’s breakaway. [Devils goalie Johan Hedberg] had to make a pretty good save on that and then he had to make a couple other pretty good saves. And [Michal Neuvirth] had to be really sharp early to keep it 2-2. I thought everybody was really engaged in the game.”
Opportunity Lost – Washington let a 2-0 first-period lead turn into a loss for the second time in four games. Last Saturday night on Long Island, the Caps owned a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes only to fall 5-3 to the New York Islanders.
“It’s disappointing to have this outcome,” says Laich. “Teams are good and a two-goal lead is not safe. You have to push for that third one, try to get that third one and I think if you can get that one, then you are in control of the game.”
Iron Man – Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman skated 27:11 against the Devils in New Jersey on Friday night, the most ice logged by any Caps skater in any of the team’s games this season.
With injuries to fellow blueliners Mike Green, John Erskine and Roman Hamrlik since the start of Friday night’s game, Wideman was required to log 33:52 on Saturday.
“I was starting to get a little tuckered at the end,” admits Wideman. “But I think when stuff like that happens when there’s injuries you just have to try not to push it too much, to try not to get out of position, try not to get caught and conserve where you can.”
“Back to back nights, it’s tough when you’re shorthanded,” says Laich of the injuries on defense. “Last night, Dennis played 27 minutes and tonight he would have been up there again. It’s tough to really push the play and join the attack when you’re down to four defensemen. You play more safe defensively.”
Hamrlik received a cross-check during the game and is listed as “day-to-day.” Erskine is also day-to-day with an undisclosed ailment.
Jack Of All Trades – Because of all the injuries on the backline, Laich started the game as a defenseman, and skated a regular shift there most of the night while also assuming pivot duties while the Caps were shorthanded. He finished the night with 23:26 in ice time, the second most minutes he has logged in a single game this season.
“Just to keep it simple. I knew what the neutral zone re-groups were and the D-to-D [passes]. I wanted to get the puck and get it up as soon as I could. When it was chipped in, hustle back for it and get it up to the forwards and not overcomplicate things.”
The first time I can remember Laich drawing a regular shift on defense was at the end of a lengthy Western road trip three years ago this month. The Caps were in Minnesota on Nov. 24, 2008 for the final stop of that tour, and when the game started they were without forwards Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov and defenseman Mike Green, all of whom were watching from upstairs because of various injuries.
During the course of the game, Jeff Schultz suffered a broken finger and John Erskine a concussion, Boyd Gordon left with back spasms and Chris Clark departed with a groin. Those ailments left Washington with 10 forwards and four defensemen available on the bench.
To make matters worse, the Caps were facing a 4-0 deficit early in the third. They came back to make it a 4-3 game before heading home and recalling a slew of players from AHL Hershey prior to the next game.
Icing Matters – In Friday night’s game, the Caps scored their first goal of the game in the second period after winning an offensive zone draw that immediately followed a New Jersey icing infraction.
Tonight, the Devils returned the favor. New Jersey netted its first goal of the game in the second period after the Caps were guilty of icing the puck and Washington was beaten cleanly on the ensuing face-off.
By The Numbers – Alex Ovechkin took 11 shots, and got two on net. He had eight shots blocked and missed once … Chimera and Laich led the Caps with three shots on goal each … Ovechkin led the Caps with 11 hits, the highest single-game total for any Washington player this season … Laich led the Caps with four blocked shots … Mark Fayne led the Devils with eight blocked shots … New Jersey’s Zach Parise led all forwards on both sides with 27:11 in ice time … Anton Volchenkov led the Devils with five hits.