Late Power – For the third consecutive game, the Capitals went into the third period trailing by a goal. For the third consecutive game, the Caps rallied to at least knot the score. And for the third consecutive game, a late power play goal helped the opposition come away with a victory.
Washington dropped a 3-2 decision to the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday night. The Wings’ Tomas Holmstrom supplied the game-winner on a Detroit power play with 6:53 left in the third. Washington’s Mike Green was off for hooking at the time, his second minor of the game. Holmstrom had just one goal in the third period all of 2008-09. He matched that total tonight.
“I think Holmstrom is probably the best in the business,” said Caps goaltender Jose Theodore, when asked about presence in front of the net. “A lot of saves I was making I was always receiving a little push before so I was kind of off-balance. I was able to save it but it makes my job tougher. You could see on two of their goals they’re really good at hitting the late guy walking down and then screening the net. That’s how they scored their last two goals.’
The Caps got a power play goal from Brendan Morrison at 1:25 of the third period to even the game at 2-2, and Washington went on the power play again just over a minute later when Detroit’s Derek Meech mashed Quintin Laing into the boards in front of the benches.
Washington came up empty on what would prove to be its final power play of the night, failing to register a shot after firing a total of seven in its first 3:39 with the extra man on Saturday. The Capitals managed just eight shots in the game’s final 32:31, and only four in the entire third period as the Wings went into shutdown mode.
“They’re the best team in the league for the last five years for a reason,” states Caps defenseman Brian Pothier. “They’re very good. They know where to be and when to play passive and when to be aggressive. They did a great job of giving us no opportunities in the third and really shutting up the neutral zone and making it real difficult for us to get through.”
The Capitals killed off the first three Detroit power plays without incident, but gave up a power play goal to Jason Williams while Alexander Semin was in the box in the second and Holmstrom’s game-winner in the third.
“You just take those dumb penalties and they’re going to cost you in the end,” laments Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau. “And they did. The last two goals were obviously power play goals. You can kill the first two or three, [but] I knew that when we got the fourth one – because it was a bad penalty – that it was going to cost us.
“We played a hell of a game tonight. We take two bad penalties and it costs us.”
The Caps did play a strong game, certainly their best 60-minute effort since last Thursday’s 4-1 win in Boston in the season opener. But after starting the season 2-0, Washington is 0-2-1 since.
“We have some kinks to work out,” says Pothier. “We have some things we need to address. I don’t think anybody’s hit the panic button, but there are things we need to address and it’s good that we identify them this early so we can address them.”
“They’re a good team,’ says Theodore. “They’re so consistent in their system. They play good defense and they create a lot of offense. I thought we worked really hard. [There were] a couple of penalties that were costly; they have a good power play. It was a tight hockey game. I thought it could have went either way.”
Busy Night – Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin was a ball of energy on Saturday. He assisted on Morrison’s goal, fired nine shots on net (all in the first two periods) and was credited with a whopping total of 10 hits. The Caps as a team notched 31 bodychecks on the night.
Ovechkin was robbed on a prime scoring chance on a power play late in the first period. Green set him up in the high slot after a give-and-go, and Ovechkin launched a shot from that spot, but Wings goaltender Chris Osgood kicked it aside.
Tough Road – The Capitals went 1-1-1 in their first three road games, a stretch that included visits to Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit. Each of those three teams finished the 2008-09 season with at least 99 points.
No Hardhat – There is no hardhat for workmanlike effort issued for games the Caps lose, but both Theodore and right wing Matt Bradley would have merited consideration had the Caps somehow pulled this one out.
Theodore endured a 37-shot barrage and plenty of traffic in tight throughout the evening. Bradley made the most of his 10:35 on the ice, blocking a shot at the tail end of a penalty kill in the first period and drawing the Caps’ first power play late in the same frame.
Secondary Stuff – Bradley became the first Capital beyond the team’s top six forwards to score a goal this season when he scored the game’s first goal at 3:58 of the first period.
Bradley now has two goals and four points in seven career games at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
May Day – For the last few seasons, Detroit has been among the league trailers in fighting majors. The Wings had 11 fighting majors last season, fewest in the NHL. Earlier this week the Wings signed veteran tough guy Brad May to a one-year contract to help keep order in the Motor City.
May has had 143 fights in his NHL career, and he had seven last season. Among all active NHL players, May’s total of 2,154 penalty minutes is second only to ex-Capital Donald Brashear.
Sporting sweater No. 24 formerly worn in the Motor City by Bob Probert and Chris Chelios, May led the Wings with five hits in just 6:57 of ice time in Saturday’s game against Washington.
After wearing No. 20 in his Wings debut on Thursday vs. Chicago, May sought and received Chelios’ approval for a number switch.
Outta Synch – The Wings didn’t look much like the Wings of nine straight 100-point seasons for most of the first period. Detroit was whistled for a pair of icing infractions and four offside violations within a span of just 6:15 of the first period. After testing Theodore with a shot just nine seconds into the first frame, the Wings mustered just four more shots on goal over the next 13:22, a span that included Detroit’s first power play of the night.
But then the Wings woke up. Detroit fired nine shots on Theodore in the next six and a half minutes. The Caps netminder made a great stop on Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who was all alone on Theodore’s glove side. Kronwall cruised to between the tops of the circles and let a wrister fly, only to see Theodore snare it with his glove.
By The Numbers –Brooks Laich led all Caps with 7:29 in first period ice time, followed closely by Mike Green (7:20) and Tyler Sloan (7:17) … The Caps won two-thirds (14 of 21) of their second-period face-offs … Eric Fehr skated 8:15 in his first action of the 2009-10 season after recovering from dual off-season shoulder surgeries … Ovechkin was on the ice for 5:30 and Green for 5:25 of Washington’s total of 5:39 of man-advantage time … The Caps were shorthanded for a total of 8:09, and Tom Poti was on the ice for 5:08 of that time … Washington blocked 20 Detroit shots with Green and Brian Pothier leading the way at four each.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears played the middle match of their three-games-in-three-nights weekend slate on Saturday, heading up to Binghamton for a contest with the Senators.
The Bears gave the Sens a good thrashing, taking an 8-1 decision to run their record to a perfect 3-0 on the young season.
After 20-year-old rookie Braden Holtby won the Bears’ first two games of the season – including a 38-save shutout of the Baby Pens in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night – with 61 saves on 62 shots faced, Jason Bacashihua made his Bears debut on Saturday against the Sens.
Alexandre Giroux potted a pair of first frame goals for the Bears, after Denis Hamel’s early tally had given the Senators a 1-0 lead. Andrew Joudrey scored his first of the season midway through the second period, and that opened the floodgates for the visitors. Hershey ran it to six unanswered goals by scoring four times in the final 8:09 of the middle period. Steve Pinnizotto (shorthanded), Darren Reid, and Kyle Wilson followed Joudrey with second-period strikes for the Bears.
Andrew Gordon and Wilson both scored in the third to close out the scoring. Gordon’s goal gave him a Gordie Howe hat trick; Gordon finished the night with a goal (his fourth of the season), two assists and a fight.