Couldn’t Give the Devils Their Due – Nursing a 2-1 lead into the third period, the Caps had a chance to salt the game away when the usually disciplined Devils ran into some penalty trouble early in the frame.
The Caps were unable to take advantage of New Jersey’s largesse, and it cost them in the end. Coming into Saturday’s game, the Devils had allowed one even-strength goal (excluding empty-netters) in four games but had allowed four power play strikes.
The Devils pressured the Caps along the wall during Washington’s third period power play chances, leaving the Caps’ point men virtually unattended. But the Caps were unable (or unwilling) to get the puck back to their point men to get that most basic of power play elements, the low and hard point blast. They did not score on the power play, and the score stayed 2-1.
“If the point is there, we do have [Brooks Laich] in front of the net and I’m in front of the net sometimes,” said Caps captain Chris Clark afterwards. “If the shot is there, we have guys who are coming in and converging. So when we do have teams that do that, that give us the point shot, we should take it.”
Still leading 2-1 and having just enjoyed two overlapping power plays, the Caps had to know that New Jersey still had at least one power play in its future in this game. It came at 10:01 of the third when Clark was sent off for holding. The Devils needed just 33 seconds to cash in. Some broken coverage on the Caps’ part left Zach Parise all alone on the goal line to Brent Johnson’s left and the New Jersey winger scored to even the game at 2-2.
The Caps had another late power play chance with the game tied at 3-3 but were unable to muster as much as a shot on goal with that extra-man opportunity.
All in all, Washington had three power plays for a total of 5:02 in extra-man time in the third period. Included in that stretch was a 58-second stretch during which Washington had a two-man advantage. The only power play shot the Caps managed during that span was Michael Nylander’s in-tight bid (during the 5-on-3) in which he was unable to lift the puck over a sprawling Brodeur.
Net Duel – Yeah, Marty Brodeur is a great goaltender, arguably the best of all time. Yeah, he’s a longtime Capitals nemesis (33-12-4 lifetime vs. Washington). And finally yeah, he made some nice stops in a tight game on Saturday. But to these eyes, the Caps’ Brent Johnson outdueled Brodeur on this night.
Johnson earned his second start in five games, and he saw more rubber (14 shots) in the first period against New Jersey than he did in the entire game (10 shots) in his most recent start against Vancouver on Monday night. Johnson stopped 34 of 37 shots he faced in regulation and overtime on Saturday, and several of them were stellar.
Just before Mike Green’s 5-on-3 power play goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead midway through the second period, Johnson made a series of great saves that kept the Caps close. Seconds after Brooks Laich went off for hooking at 9:12 of the second period, Johnson made six saves in a span of just 1:26, accounting for half a dozen of New Jersey’s total of nine second period shots on goal.
Included in that bunch were a pair of strong stops in quick succession on Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrik Elias at the beginning of the power play, and a brilliant stop to rob Travis Zajac’s backhand bid.
Brodeur made strong stops in tight on Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Nylander at various points of the game, but the veteran Devils netminder was aided by the Caps’ inability to lift the puck over his prone body each time.
The Caps also had a 3-on-1 break while they were shorthanded, but Backstrom attempted a pass to the one guy (Green) who was covered on the break, and nothing came of it.
On this night, Johnson made more saves than the master and he made better saves.
Johnson had not faced as many shots since he stopped 36 of 40 in a 4-0 Washington loss at Montreal last Jan. 29.
A Long One – The shift immediately following a goal is always important, but the importance of such shifts is magnified in the late minutes of tight games.
The Devils tied Saturday’s game on Parise’s power play goal at 10:34 of the third, and the Caps put out the line of Boyd Gordon with Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann and the defensive duo of Shaone Morrisonn and Green.
Fleischmann had a shot blocked, and then the Caps found themselves in their own end of the ice and needing a line change. They were unable to get one. The Devils worked the puck around down low, running the Caps around a bit. Andy Greene gave his team the lead when he floated a shot netward, a shot that hit Fehr and changed directions. The Caps’ skaters had been on the ice for 1:08 at that point.
Power Pressure – With the Caps still on the power play for the next 1:11 after Green’s 5-on-3 strike put them ahead 2-1, Washington coach Bruce Boudreau went for the knockout punch. He put five forwards (Fleischmann, Nylander, Clark, Sergei Fedorov and Chris Bourque) on the ice in a bid to put the Caps up by a pair. The Caps were unable to get a shot on net during the remainder of that power play sequence.
Semin Streaking – With a pair of goals, Alexander Semin has collected at least a point in each of Washington’s first five games this season. He has six goals and 10 points overall.
Go Deep, I'll Look For You -- Fedorov's home run stretch pass to Semin for Washington's first goal of the game was a thing of beauty. Washington nearly connected on another similar play in overtime, but Laich was unable to complete the reception of a long Green pass that might have given the Caps an OT win.
Stifled – Tonight’s game marked the first time in five games that Washington did not score as many as four goals in a game. It was also the first time in five games the Capitals were outshot.
Powering Up – Green’s power play goal was his fourth of the season; he holds the lead among all NHL defensemen in that category. All of Green’s goals this season have come on the power play, and he is the only Cap to score a power play goal with his teammates on the ice this season. Nylander has Washington’s only other power play goal, but it came on a penalty shot.
All Aboard – Caps defensemen John Erskine and Shaone Morrisonn both picked up assists on this night, collecting their first points of the season in the process. Each of the 20 skaters on Washington’s opening night roster has now recorded at least one point on the season.
Leading into the Third – Last season, Washington was 26-1-2 when it lead going into the third period. Saturday night’s loss drops the Caps to 1-0-1 when leading after two periods this season.
Bourque Back to Bears – Bourque was reassigned to AHL Hershey after tonight’s game with the Devils. Bourque skated 11:25 (including 2:59 on the power play) and had two shots and a hit in his first NHL action of 2008-09.
First Game, First Goal – New Jersey’s Petr Vrana collected his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on Saturday. He deflected Patrik Elias’ shot past Johnson at 12:48 of the first period to even the game at 1-1.
Franchise Record – With his assist on Vrana’s goal, Elias moved past Scott Niedermayer and into sole possession of the top spot on New Jersey’s all-time assists list with 365 assists.
The 400 Club – Ex-Cap Dainius Zubrus picked up the 400th point of his NHL career on Parise’s third period power play goal.
Doubling Up – New Jersey’s two-goal third period outburst marked the first time in 15 periods this season that the Devils had netted more than one goal in a single stanza.
Not Your Dad’s Devils – As they’ve done for the better part of the last two decades, the Devils do a great job of limiting chances and keeping teams from establishing a consistent forecheck in the New Jersey zone. But this year’s Devils are not a boring offensive hockey team.
New Jersey has outshot its opponent in each of its first five games this season, and this game had a good bit of back-and-forth to it. There wasn’t nearly as much neutral zone slogging as you’d see in Devils games in seasons past.
New Jersey may lack a little finish, however. The Devils entered Saturday’s game with an average of 35 shots on goal per game this season, third most in the league. They fired 37 at the Caps on Saturday to push that average up a shade. But with nine goals on 177 shots, they’ve got an anemic 5.1% shooting pct.
Down On The Farm – After starting the season with a perfect 4-0 road trip, the Hershey Bears gassed the Syracuse Crunch 7-1 in their home opener on Saturday night at Giant Center.
Alexandre Giroux scored twice for Hershey, and Andrew Gordon, Graham Mink, Keith Aucoin, Francois Bouchard and Sami Lepisto supplied single strikes to fuel the Hershey attack. Gordon, Aucoin, Giroux and Mink all enjoyed three-point nights while Lepisto had a pair of points.
Every Bear was plus or even on the night; Lepisto led the way at plus-4. Aucoin, Giroux and Mink were all plus-3.
Daren Machesney stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced in goal for the Bears to run his record to 3-0 on the season.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays opened their 2008-09 regular season slate on Saturday night when they hosted the Augusta Lynx at North Charleston Coliseum. Caps goaltending prospect Michal Neuvirth arrived in town last night, sent to South Carolina just to get some work in before the Caps find him a more long-term destination.
Neuvirth stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced in his pro debut on Saturday, helping the Stingrays to a 5-3 win over Augusta. Paul Kelly, Sasha Pokulok, Tommy Maxwell, Pierre-Luc O’Brien and Michael Dubuc scored for South Carolina. O’Brien also had two assists for a three-point night. Pokulok was plus-2 and was the game’s first star.
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie