Seen This Movie Before – Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to Edmonton was Washington’s third straight setback, matching its season high losing streak. The Capitals have lost only four of their last 16 games, but in three of those defeats (against Philadelphia on Dec. 20, Columbus on Jan. 9 and Edmonton tonight) they dominated the play territorially in the first period only to come up empty-handed – and behind, even – on the scoreboard.
In those three losses, the Caps have outshot the opposition by a combined total of 62-19 but have been on the short end of the score in the same three games, 4-0.
On this night, however, Washington’s 19 first period shots might have been a bit on the misleading side. There weren’t many red sweaters in front of Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson, and he stopped all 19 with relative ease.
“We had 19 shots in the first period,” observed Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after the game, “but I don’t think he had more than one or two tough ones. Everything was [from the] perimeter. From the bench you could see [Roloson] catching everything between his pads. There was no traffic in front, and that was something we really dwelled on before the game. We dwelled on it.
“When it gets to a point where everybody wants to be the scorer but nobody wants to be the mucker, you’re not going to do anything. Everybody is waiting, and when you put a skilled lineup together – and I think we’ve got a fairly skilled lineup – but nobody wants to do the grunt work. Until we get that happening, we’re not going to score a lot of goals.”
Weak Against the West – Washington has dropped 14 games in regulation time this season, and eight of those have come at the hands of Western Conference opponents. The Capitals are now 6-8 against Western Conference foes (with four games remaining against them) and they are 21-6-3 against the more familiar Eastern Conference.
Holding Ground, Losing Ground – While the Caps were getting drilled by the Oilers, Carolina was on the business end of a 5-1 beating from the Senators in Ottawa. So the Caps maintain their 10-point lead in the Southeast Division standings.
Among Washington’s closest pursuers in the Eastern Conference standings, Philadelphia and Montreal lost while the New York Rangers won.
With 57 points, Washington still holds second place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Caps now trail front-running Boston by 11 points, and the Bruins even have a game in hand. The Caps are just one point ahead of both Montreal and New York, and they’re two points ahead of Philadelphia.
Flash – Coming into the 2008-09 NHL season, Caps left wing Tomas Fleischmann had 14 goals in 118 NHL games. Fleischmann potted one of Washington’s two goals on this night, giving him 14 goals in just 35 games this season.
He’s Got a Rap Sheet Now – Caps defenseman Karl Alzner received a delay of game (puck over the glass) minor late in the second period of tonight’s game against Edmonton, the first penalty of his NHL career. The infraction came in Alzner’s 22nd NHL contest. Ironically, he committed just one minor penalty in 20 games for the AHL Hershey Bears earlier this season. That penalty was also for delay of game (puck over the glass).
Big Bad John – Caps defenseman John Erskine returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 24. He missed about six weeks because of a concussion. Erskine skated 17:30 on the night and was even on the plus/minus scale. He registered seven hits on the night, more than double the total of any other skater on either side.
On a night when almost every guy in a red sweater had what could charitably be called a “subpar night,” Erskine came in for some positive notice.
“I though John Erskine competed really hard,” noted Boudreau.
Century City – Mike Green’s assist on Fleischmann’s second period goal was the 100th point of the defenseman’s NHL career.
First Woes – Tuesday’s game marked the first time since the Caps’ home opener against Chicago on Oct. 11 that Washington has surrendered multiple goals in the first period of a home game this season.
Drawing Blanks – Fleischmann’s goal at 7:40 of the second period was the Caps’ first on Verizon Center ice since Nicklas Backstrom scored the team’s first (and only) goal of the game last Tuesday against Philadelphia. In between, the Capitals went 150:30 without scoring a goal on their home ice sheet. Washington launched 98 futile shots on goal in between the Backstrom and Fleischmann goals.
Long Time – The Caps have now dropped two straight home games in regulation for the first time in more than a year. The last time the Capitals lost successive home games in regulation was Dec. 14 and 20, 2007 with setbacks to Buffalo and Montreal, respectively.
Hat Tricking – Erik Cole’s hat trick was the first by an Oiler against the Caps in Washington since Jarri Kurri turned the trick on Nov. 9, 1984. It was Cole’s second hat trick against the Caps; he recorded one as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes also on Nov. 9, but in 2006.
Active Defense – Coming into Tuesday’s game, Edmonton was the only team in the league that had four defensemen among its top nine scorers. The Oilers and the San Jose Sharks are the only two teams with four defensemen residing among the league’s top 45 scoring blueliners this season.
Each of the Oilers’ four top scoring defensemen – Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Denis Grebeshkov and Tom Gilbert – picked up an assist in Tuesday’s win over Washington.
Another East Killer – Roloson is now 4-0-1 against Eastern Conference opponents this season. The Blue Jackets’ Steve Mason – who blanked the Caps on Friday to start Washington’s three-game losing skid – ran his record against the East to 6-0 with his shutout against the Caps last Friday.
Trending Up? – Oilers center Gilbert Brule was the Blue Jackets’ first choice (sixth overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut against the Caps on Oct. 5, 2005, picking up his first NHL point (an assist) in the same game in which the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin netted his first two NHL goals in his first game in the league.
Brule has had some ups and downs since.
He spent most of the rest of that 2005-06 season with his junior team, the WHL Vancouver Giants. Brule spent all of 2006-07 with the Jackets, putting up modest totals of nine goals and 19 points.
Brule really struggled with Columbus last season, managing just one goal in 61 games. The Jackets gave up on Brule over the summer, swapping him to Edmonton for Raffi Torres, who went fifth overall (to the Islanders) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
Brule has been up and down between the Oilers and their AHL Springfield farm team, but he recorded a two-point night (goal, assist) for Edmonton on Tuesday. The goal was his second of the season. It came in his seventh game, giving him one more tally than he had all of last season.
For the 22-year-old Brule, it was the sixth multiple-point game of his NHL career and his first as a member of the Oilers.
These Hands – Edmonton’s Steve MacIntyre’s hands are used more for mayhem than for magic, but he managed to put a puck through a screen and past Jose Theodore on Tuesday. The goal was the first of MacIntyre’s NHL career.
In his previous game, MacIntyre had more penalty minutes (two) than he had minutes on the ice (one minute, 35 seconds).
He has 26 PIM in 13 NHL games. He has three goals and 420 PIM in 92 AHL games. He has 669 PIM and five goals in 168 ECHL games. He has 447 PIM and four goals in 100 UHL games. And he has 68 PIM and one goal in 10 QSPHL games.
Tuesday was his 13th NHL game. The shot that beat Theodore was MacIntyre’s first shot on goal in the NHL, so he now holds a perfect 100.0 shooting percentage.
It can only go down from here.
Streak Stopper – Edmonton’s win on Tuesday night was its first ever at Verizon Center. The last time the Oilers won on the road against the Capitals was a 3-1 win over Washington on Jan. 26, 1997 at USAir Arena. The Oilers were 0-5-1 on their previous six visits to the U.S. capital city.
Happy Birthday – To Ex-Caps goaltender Mike Palmateer, born on this date in 1954.
On This Date in NHL History – Former Caps assistant coach and current Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle netted his first NHL goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Cleveland Barons on this date in 1978. Carlyle also holds the distinction of assisting on Bruce Boudreau’s first NHL goal.