From Torrid To Tepid – Thursday night’s game against the Jets in Winnipeg marked the third straight contest in which the Capitals scored the game’s first goal. It also marked the Capitals’ third straight setback.
Alexander Semin’s fourth goal of the season came at 3:53 of the first frame, staking the Caps to an early 1-0 lead. But that was as good as it got for the visitors on this night. Evander Kane evened it up for the Jets less that four minutes later, and Kane’s second of the night touched off a Winnipeg scoring spree in the second period that put the Caps away.
The final was 4-1.
“I thought the first five minutes was okay,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “But then we started giving them the game. Every chance they got we gave them. And then it started to unravel from there.”
Giving teams chances because of poor defensive zone play is becoming a disturbing pattern for Washington. That’s how the Caps coughed up a late 1-0 lead on Tuesday in Nashville and it’s what has led to previous losses this season as well; setbacks in Vancouver and Long Island come immediately to mind in that regard.
Washington had a chance to climb back into Thrusday’s contest with a 5-on-3 manpower advantage for 1:01 in the latter half of the second frame. Boudreau shuffled goaltenders in and out twice during that stretch to buy his power play unit some extra time; he had already burned the Caps’ timeout earlier in the period in an effort to quell Winnipeg’s budding momentum.
“The best way to stop a crowd from cheering is not making stupid mistakes in your own zone and giving them opportunities to score,” laments Boudreau.
The Caps couldn’t get anything done with the two-man advantage or with a third-period power play chance.
After a swift 7-0 start to the season, Washington now has won just three of 10 tilts since. The Capitals have just one victory in their last six games (1-4-1).
“I think we had a pretty good start,” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “The last couple of games, we had a pretty good start, we get the lead and … we have to score another one for our confidence.
“We made two mistakes in our zone. The third goal, when we didn’t score the goal shorthanded it was again a mistake. We gave them the chances. If we give them chances, they are going to use them.”
The Caps didn't wait until the third period to let this one get away. Tonight’s loss marked just the second time in the team’s seven setbacks that Washington was not tied with its foe heading into the third period. The Caps were down three goals heading into the final 20 minutes against Winnipeg on Thursday, their largest deficit after 40 minutes all season.
Turning Point – Tonight’s tilt turned on a sequence of events near the middle of the second period. With Washington blueliner John Erskine in the box for interference, Caps center Brooks Laich won a defensive zone draw. Seconds later, teammate Jeff Halpern corralled a loose puck high in the neutral zone and scooted off with Laich on a 2-on-0 breakaway.
Laich fired from the slot, but the puck went high and wide. It ringed around the glass and rolled out high in the Winnipeg end where the Jets collected it and fed into the Washington zone. Blake Wheeler outraced Caps defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Schultz to the puck, cut toward the net and beat Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth. Exactly 10 seconds after Laich’s shot missed, Wheeler’s didn’t and the Jets were up 3-1.
Instead of Washington being even and having scored its second shorthanded goal of the season, the Jets owned a two-goal lead and all the momentum of the contest.
“It was a big point, there’s no doubt,” says Boudreau. “We have a 2-on-0, and they come right back down to score 10 seconds later to make it 3-1. It’s a definite turning point.
“The other turning point is we had the 5-on-3 [power play] for [1:01]. We could have began taking the momentum back, but I don’t know if we got a shot on goal.”
Although Halpern agrees that the shorthanded 2-on-0 was a turning point, he doesn’t believe it’s necessarily the reason why Washington lost this game.
“Obviously it’s in our favor if we score that goal,” sys Halpern. “But they played well and we didn’t have a response. We just stopped doing things that we’re supposed to do and we draw up on the board. We made it difficult on ourselves all night by doing something like that.
“It’s an easy game when you do those things, when you play together and when you go to those spots where you know your teammates are supposed to be. We had guys who had good games and did that. But myself included, it’s a lot easier to play when you’re sticking to the game plan and going to the spots where you’re supposed to go to.”
When Winnipeg’s Kyle Wellwood tacked on another power play goal, the Jets had their third goal in a span of just 4:16 and a three-goal lead over their division rivals.
Radar Off – In their three previous games, the Caps missed the net a combined total of 22 times. Tonight, they missed a single-game season high 24 times, including 11 in the second period alone.
“If we have a chance to shoot the puck, we shoot it,” says Ovechkin. “But we don’t have guys in front who find the rebound and make some traffic. We talk about it all the time, we do it in practice but we don’t do it in the games. Sometimes we have an opportunity to shoot the puck, we try to make some fancy plays and it doesn’t work.”
Killed On The Kill – Heading into Thursday’s game in Winnipeg, the Capitals’ penalty killing corps had been getting the job done consistently. The Caps had killed 22 of 23 (95.7%) penalties against them in the previous six games, and they hadn’t allowed multiple power-play goals against in any of their previous seven games.
That went by the wayside tonight when Washington was dinged for a pair of power play strikes in a span of just 2:23 in the middle of the second period.
Road Woes – Washington has now dropped five of its last seven road games. The Caps have managed just a single goal in three of those last five road setbacks.
Washington is 2-for-19 (10.5%) on the power play and 15-for-22 (68.2%) on the penalty kill in its last five road losses. The Caps have surrendered multiple power-play goals in three of those five losses.
Offensive Outage – The Caps have gone six straight games without scoring more than three goals, and they are 1-4-1 during that stretch.
Late last winter, Washington went nine straight games without scoring more than three goals. But the Caps were playing consistently sound defense during that nine-game run from Feb. 17-March 7, 2011. As a result, they posted a 7-2 record in those nine games.
No-Hitter – The tabulation of hits is a somewhat subjective procedure from building to building around the NHL, and the Winnipeg building is the newest in the NHL.
Thursday marked the seventh time in as many home games that the Jets outhit their opponents. And it marked the fourth time in those seven games that the Winnipeg foe that night was credited with fewer than 10 hits in the game. So, these numbers should be taken with at least a grain of salt.
That said, it is interesting that for a span of 45:45 – from 7:09 of the first period until 12:54 of the third – the Capitals weren’t credited with a single hit. They finished the night with five, three early in the first period and two late in the third. Winnipeg was credited with nine hits on the night. For the season, the Jets have been credited with 145 home ice hits to just 89 for their foes.
Back In The Peg – Thursday’s game was the Capitals’ first in Winnipeg since Dec. 10, 1995. The Caps downed the old Winnipeg Jets at the old Winnipeg Arena by a 6-1 count in that game.
The Green (in the) House Effect – Washington is 8-0 when defenseman Mike Green is in the lineup this season. But Green has appeared in just one of Washington’s last 10 games, and the Caps are 2-6-1 when Green is not in the lineup.
Old Foes – Thursday’s game pitted Boudreau and Jets coach Claude Noel behind their teams’ respective benches. Boudreau and Noel have played against each other at various levels over the years, and the two coached against each other in the 2006 Calder Cup final series.
Boudreau came out on top in that 2006 AHL championship series when his Hershey Bears took down Noel’s Milwaukee Admirals in a six-game series.
Still The Same – Semin scored the first goal of his NHL career against the Atlanta Thrashers and has consistently produced against the franchise since. Including his goal tonight, he now has 18 goals and 35 points in 32 career games against the Winnipeg franchise.
Ondrej On The Beam – Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec allowed just one goal in Thursday’s game, and that goal shouldn’t have counted. Caps winger Jason Chimera was a stride offside on the play that led to Semin’s goal, but the linesmen missed the call and the tally stood.
Even with that blemish, Pavelec has dominated the Caps since the start of last season. In his last six appearances (five starts) against Washington, Pavelec is 4-1 with two shutouts, a 0.65 GAA and a .981 save pct.
Razing Kane – Kane has now scored seven of his 41 career goals (17.1%) in the 10 games he has played against Washington during his career.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 25:06 in ice time … Laich (5:57), Ovechkin (5:50), Wideman (5;19) and Nicklas Backstrom (4:55) all skated for more than half of the 8:39 in which Washington held the man-advantage on the night … Backstrom was the Caps’ top face-off man with 15 wins in 23 draws (65%) … Zach Bogosian led the Jets with 27:29 in ice time … Dustin Byfuglien skated 7:32 of the 8:56 in which Winnipeg was on the power play.