October 12 vs. New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m. and Two-Man Advantage Live Pre-Game video show at 5:45 p.m., both on www.washingtoncaps.com
New Jersey Devils (2-2)
Washington Capitals (2-2-1)
Without a win (0-2-1) in their last three games, the Capitals will see if some home cooking can cure what ails them. Washington opens a three-game homestand on Monday night when the New Jersey Devils pay their first visit of the season to Verizon Center.
The Caps went 1-1-1 in three tough road buildings – Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit – to start the season. Weaved into those games were a home ice win over Toronto and a home ice loss to the New York Rangers.
Most recently, the Caps suffered a 3-2 setback to the Red Wings on Saturday night in Motown. Down a goal headed into the third period, the Caps got an early equalizer on Brendan Morrison’s power play goal in the second minute of the final frame. But Washington took an ill-advised penalty of its own late in the game, and the Detroit power play – the best in the business last season – cashed in for the game-winner with just under seven minutes remaining.
“I thought we played a heck of a game against a team that played a heck of a game,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after the loss in Detroit. “And arguably always the best team in the league. Special teams, it comes down to it in the end and special teams made the difference tonight.”
Although the Caps have notched at least one power play goal in each of their five games this season and are 6-for-24 (25%) overall with the extra man, they’ve also surrendered third period power play goals in each of the last three games that have cost them at least a point in each case and a regulation victory in two of the three games.
Caps penalty killers were perfect in the team’s first two games this season, but they’ve surrendered six power play goals in 19 shorthanded situations for a dismal kill rate of 68.4% during the team’s current three-game winless streak.
In addition to the difficulty they’ve been having on the penalty kill, the Caps have compounded the problem by taking too many penalties, taking bad penalties, taking penalties late in close games and taking multiple penalties in short succession.
“It’s a downfall for our team,” said Boudreau after the Red Wings game. “If we hadn’t taken penalties [at the wrong time] not only this game but other games we could very easily be 5-0 and now we’re .500.”
Washington has held the lead in each of its five games this season and it has scored the game’s first goal in four of them.
Brent Sutter posted a 97-56-11 record in two seasons as the Devils’ head coach, but New Jersey did not get past the first round in either of those two seasons. The Devils let Sutter out of the final year of his deal so he could take the Calgary job, and New Jersey turned to a familiar face as his replacement.
Jacques Lemaire piloted the Devils to the first of their three Stanley Cup championships in 1995. He departed after the 1997-98 campaign, and until this season he was the only coach the Minnesota Wild ever had. Lemaire ran the Wild bench for eight seasons, and now the two-time Jack Adams Award winner is back behind the bench in New Jersey.
More than a quarter-century after taking his first head coaching job in the league with Montreal, Lemaire has 542 career wins. He is tied with Billy Reay for eighth place on the league’s all-time coaching wins list. Lemaire is third among active coaches on that ledger, trailing only Pat Quinn (659) and Ron Wilson (552).
Former Caps defenseman and Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Stevens is assisting Lemaire. Stevens played on three Cup-winning teams for the Devils and is in his first season as an assistant coach.
New Jersey is off to a 2-0 start under Lemaire in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. The Devils are in the middle of a stretch in which they face each of the five Southeast Division teams. The only other time in franchise history that the Devils played five straight games against all five teams from any division was a five-game run against the Southeast nine years ago this month (Oct. 17-27, 2000).
After opening the season with consecutive losses to fellow Atlantic Division denizens Philadelphia and the New York Rangers, the Devils have won each of their first two tilts with Southeast opponents. New Jersey defeated Tampa Bay on Thursday and Florida on Saturday, winning each game by a single goal. Each of those victories came on the road; New Jersey concludes a three-game road trip with its visit to the District.
The Caps have always had a great deal of difficulty with New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur, who has started and gone the distance in each of the Devils’ first four games this season. Brodeur is 33-12-4 with a 2.12 career GAA, a .913 save pct. and half a dozen shutouts.
Brodeur was 7-2-1 with a 1.95 GAA, a .924 save pct. and two shutouts at the old USAir Arena. He is 9-5-2 with a 2.49 GAA, a .903 save pct. and one whitewash at Verizon Center.
Brodeur was in goal for only one of the four meetings between the two teams last season, a 4-3 New Jersey shootout win on Oct. 18.
Notes: The Capitals have been outshot in each of their last four games, the first time that has occurred since a four-game run from Nov. 4-10, 2008 … The Caps are 4-0-3 in their last seven meetings with the Devils, their longest run without a loss to New Jersey in more than 20 years. The Capitals won eight straight from the Devils from Nov. 30, 1985 to Dec. 9, 1986, back when both clubs populated the old Patrick Division.