Bookends – Washington brought a 7-2 record into the month of November, and it hosted the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 1 to start the season’s second month. After digging a 3-0 hole in that contest, the Caps roared back for a 5-4 win, getting a game-tying tally from Nicklas Backstrom with the goaltender pulled for an extra skater in the final minute of regulation and a game-winning Backstrom marker in overtime.
The Caps followed that up with a convincing 5-1 road win over the Hurricanes in Raleigh on Nov. 4.
On Tuesday, the Caps closed the November portion of their schedule with a 2-1 home ice loss to the St. Louis Blues in the NHL head coaching debut of Dale Hunter. The setback gives the Caps consecutive home ice losses in regulation for the first time in a span of 19 games, since they dropped three in a row at home last February.
The Caps had goaltender Tomas Vokoun pulled in favor of an extra skater in the game’s final minute again tonight, but this time they were unable to get the equalizer. Backstrom, who scored Washington’s only goal on the night, had the Caps’ only shot on goal in the final minute; it was also the team’s lone shot on net in the final four-plus minutes.
Washington fired a total of 68 shot attempts in that Nov. 1 game against Anaheim, getting 40 of them on goal. The Caps managed a mere 30 shot attempts in Tuesday’s game against St. Louis, getting 19 of them on net.
A loss is a loss, and there are no moral victories in sports. Still, for a team had had been bleeding goals against for the better part of the month (45 allowed in its previous 11 games coming in), limiting the Blues to two goals on the night was a step in the right direction for the Capitals.
“We didn’t give up odd man rushes tonight,” says Hunter. “There were no two-on-ones and three-on-twos and they competed. We played smart, but [St. Louis is] a good team and we’ve got to give them credit too.”
Washington is 5-10-1 in its last 16 games after a 7-0 start to the season. The Capitals were 5-8-1 in November.
Power Outage – The Caps drew just two minor penalties in Tuesday’s game, and the first of those was drawn by Backstrom while the Caps were two men short in the second period, so it merely put Washington down just one man in the short term.
The second penalty the Capitals drew came in the waning seconds of the contest, accounting for the meager total of 20 seconds worth of power play time Washington enjoyed on the night.
Down Time -- Unlike the Anaheim game, Caps captain Alex Ovechkin was one of the six skaters on the ice for Washington in the game’s final minute tonight. Ovechkin finished the night with just 16:46 in ice time, the lowest total he has recorded in a Washington loss since he skated 16 minutes in a 7-0 trouncing at the hands of the New York Rangers last Dec. 12.
Tonight’s ice time total was the second-lowest of Ovechkin’s career in any one-goal Washington loss. He skated 7:43 in a 5-4 loss to Columbus on Nov. 1, 2009, a game in which he departed with an injury that kept him on the sideline for the next several games. A major factor in tonight’s low ice time total was Washington’s lack of power play time (just 20 seconds) on the night.
Helping Hand -- Tomas Vokoun assisted on Backstrom’s goal for his first assist since Dec. 20, 2010 against Philadelphia while with Florida. It was the first point by a Washington goaltender in 2011-12 and the first assist by a Caps goaltender since Braden Holtby’s helper on March 15 of last season in a 4-2 win against Montreal.
Stingy in St. Louis – Entering Tuesday night’s tilt, the Blues had been the league’s stingiest team in terms of shots on goal allowed with an average of just 25.9 shots against per game. That number will improve after the Blues limited Washington to just 19 shots on Tuesday. The Caps only attempted 30 shots; six were blocked and five missed the net.
The Blues also came into the contest having allowed just 2.04 goals per game, the fewest in the NHL. That’s another figure that’s headed south after the Blues’ date with the Capitals.
St. Louis has now surrendered two or fewer goals in 10 of its last 11 games and is 8-1-2 in those games, which mark the bench tenure of head coach Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock was hired to replace Davis Payne behind the St. Louis bench on Nov. 6.
Beam Me Up, Scotty – Tuesday marked the 43rd anniversary of the first NHL coaching win for Hockey Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman. St. Louis beat the L.A. Kings 3-2 to end a franchise record seven-game losing streak on Nov. 29, 1967.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears were on the road on Tuesday, facing the Connecticut Whale in Hartford. Hershey ended up on the short end of a 4-2 score.
Chris Bourque and Graham Mink supplied the Bears offense and Braden Holtby made 19 saves in a losing effort.
Hershey (9-6-3-2) is third in the AHL’s East Division, four points behind Norfolk and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
By The Numbers – John Carlson paced the Capitals with 23:30 in ice time … Karl Alzner led the Caps with 3:19 in shorthanded ice time … Brooks Laich led Washington forwards with 19:33 in ice time … Ovechkin and Jason Chimera led the way for Washington with four hits each … Roman Hamrlik paced the Capitals with six blocked shots … Kris Russell led the Blues with 24:45 in ice time … David Backes and Alexander Steen led the Blues with five shots on goal each … Seventeen of the 18 skaters dressed for the Blues registered at least one hit on the night … Ryan Reaves and Chris Porter led St. Louis with four hits each; Reaves needed just 4:28 in ice time to record his four.