Turn Back The Clock – Verizon Center felt funny on Tuesday; it wasn’t full and the home team didn’t play well. The Caps went down to a second straight defeat by a margin of three or more goals, and didn’t seem to have much energy in a 5-2 loss to Carolina.
On Sunday, the Caps surrendered six unanswered goals in a 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. Tonight, they were nicked for five unanswered goals against the Hurricanes. Washington proved to be an equal-opportunity goal giver-upper tonight; it allowed a penalty shot goal, a pair of shorthanded goals, a power play goal and an even-strength strike.
It was a reminder of the days when the crowds were more sparse and less crimson, and the hockey was routinely not as crisp as that to which we have grown accustomed to seeing at Verizon Center over the past year. Excluding empty-netters and shootout goals that don’t count anyway, the last time the Caps surrendered five or more goals in consecutive home games was nearly three years ago: a 5-2 loss to Ottawa on March 12, 2006 and a 6-4 loss to Buffalo two days later.
It was also the second game in a row that Washington faced and lost to a Southeast Division team coming off a difficult road loss and fighting for postseason positioning.
“The other teams that we’re playing are still NHL teams that are fighting for their lives,” said Caps forward Brooks Laich. “You look at Florida and you look at Carolina, they’re two teams that are on the bubble trying to get into the playoffs; and we were there last year. We know how desperate you can be when you’re in that situation.
“There are no excuses in here; we have to look at each other. I’m not blaming anyone else on the team; I took two bad penalties tonight. I didn’t do my job. I have to blame myself and then just make sure that tomorrow I’m better, and then be prepared for Thursday’s game.”
By the time Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs rolls around, the NHL’s trade deadline will be in the rear-view. The deadline is at 3 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.
“We’re going through this funk right now that I think every team … goes through,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “We’ve lost games before. It looked [like] there’s a complete lack of energy on the bench. I wish I could put my finger on it right now. I don’t know if it’s because of tomorrow and people are worried when they hear rumors.”
Streaks Stopped – Washington’s run of sellout crowds came to a halt tonight. The Capitals streak of 16 straight games with at least one first-period goal also came to an end. Finally, Washington’s stretch of five straight games in which it scored a goal on its first power play chance of the evening also ended here against the Canes tonight.
Late Scratches – Two key Capitals cogs were late scratches for Tuesday’s game. Defenseman Tom Poti came out for warm-ups but left the ice soon thereafter, sparking some buzz that he might have been pulled because of his possible involvement in a pending deal. Realists among us know that the idea is to add to what Poti brings on the blueline, not to move him out. A re-aggravation of the groin ailment seemed to be the most plausible explanation for his sudden absence, even on the night before the trade deadline.
We were told after Tuesday morning’s skate that Theodore would get the start against Carolina, but he became ill later in the day and wasn’t able to answer the bell. Twenty-year-old rookie Michal Neuvirth was installed between the pipes, told later in the day that he’d be getting his third NHL start. Neuvirth won his first two starts, but he was not at his best tonight.
“Poor Michal [Neuvirth] didn’t know that he was playing until he got here tonight,” said Boudreau. “Maybe that had some bearing on his ineffectiveness.”
The Caps kept the Canes away from the net for most of the first period, but Shaone Morrisonn hauled down Carolina’s Eric Staal in the final minute of the first. Staal was awarded a penalty shot, and he cashed in with a lethal wrister.
Washington gave up two quick short-handed goals early in the second and that was that.
“I think we kind of left him hanging a little bit,” said Caps center Sergei Fedorov. “We were a little bit loose defensively. We didn’t give him a chance to really show what he can do for us. I guess we’re not playing overall well enough to help ourselves but we have to do that and turn around this thing very quickly.”
Southeast Circuit – Tonight was Neuvirth’s fourth career appearance in the NHL, and his fourth career appearance against a Southeast Division opponent. He defeated Tampa Bay in his first NHL start and bested Atlanta in his second start. Neuvirth came on in relief of Theodore on Sunday against Florida and started tonight against Carolina.
Century City –Alexander Semin scored the 100th goal of his NHL career on Tuesday night against the Canes, getting help from countrymen Alex Ovechkin and Sergei Fedorov on the goal. The tally came on Semin’s 25th birthday.
Penalty Shots – Tuesday marked the second straight game in which the Caps faced a penalty shot. Theodore stopped Florida’s David Booth on Sunday, but Staal beat Neuvirth tonight. It was the first penalty shot goal allowed by Washington this season; Brent Johnson stopped a pair of penalty shot bids earlier in the campaign.
The only previous time the Caps faced penalty shots in consecutive contests was Jan. 19-21, 2006 when Olie Kolzig stopped the Blues’ Mike Sillinger and surrendered a penalty shot goal to Carolina’s Erik Cole, respectively.
Cherry Hammer – Staal, normally known as a good Canadian boy, stepped out of character tonight when he chest-bumped the glass after scoring on the penalty shot. We’ll be expecting a full and vitriolic beatdown from Reverend Cherry on the Coach’s Corner this Saturday.
Happy Birthday – To Semin, who turns 25 today. To former Capitals stalwart Kelly Miller, who turns 46 today. And to the Times’ Corey Masisak, who also celebrated a birthday today. Corey did it up right, staying home and missing this one.
On This Date In NHL History – Ex-Caps defenseman and current Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville scored his first NHL goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Philadelphia Flyers on this date in 1979.
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