Four Straight – Washington won its first two games of the 2009-10 season, but it remains winless since. The Caps came up on the short end of a 3-2 shootout setback against the Devils at Verizon Center on Monday night.
The Caps dented longtime nemesis Marty Brodeur for two goals in a span of 5:12 in the first period but were never able to add to their lead. Mike Green notched his first of the season and Mike Knuble scored in his first game playing with new linemates Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
The plucky Devils – looking to run the table and finish up 3-0 on a three-game road trip – chipped away and kept the Caps at bay.
New Jersey's Rob Niedermayer made a nice play to set up Brian Rolston for a second-period one-timer, and David Clarkson tied it when he and his linemates turned in a doggedly determined shift in the game’s 54th minute.
“We had one bad shift in the third period, I thought,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “And they scored on it. We couldn’t get the puck [out]. We were getting it deep, we were doing all the right things and that one shift where they kept it in their zone for about a minute … everybody on the bench and in the building knew that something bad was going to happen here. But I was actually quite pleased with our resilience after that because it has happened four times in a row now and it’s easy to drop your head and say, ‘Woe is me, here we go again.’”
Goaltending heroics by Jose Theodore helped kill off a late Washington penalty and another in overtime, but New Jersey scored on all three of its shootout tries to skate off with the two points.
In three of its last four games, Washington has held a third-period lead. In the other game, it rallied to tie the game early in the third. But the Caps went 0-2-2 in those four games. The Caps have allowed 10 goals in the third period and overtime thus far this season.
“Third periods are where good teams become great teams where they win those games no matter what,” states Caps captain Chris Clark. “It’s automatic. For us to be a great team, we’ve got to get to that point. I don’t know how many games now we have been leading going into the third period. Even the games we won, we’ve let up goals in the third period.
“It’s something where we want to become one of the best teams in the league. We have to make sure we keep that lead in the third.”
Washington is now winless in four straight games (0-2-2), matching its longest winless streak of the Bruce Boudreau era. The Caps went 0-3-1 in the first week of March, 2009.
Two-Man Trouble – Boudreau called his timeout after Brooks Laich took the business end of Brodeur’s paddle upside the head at 5:12 of the third. That infraction gave the Caps a two-man advantage lasting 53 seconds. With Washington leading by a goal at that point, it was an opportunity for the Caps to get a key insurance goal and put a chokehold on the Devils, who were finishing up a three-game road trip.
As is so often the case, that sequence loomed large later. Washington failed to seize the opportunity and New Jersey went on to tie the game and win it in a shootout.
“In other games it has been the PK that stung us,” says Knuble, who had a goal and an assist to notch his first multiple-point game as a Capital. “and now that power play there, the 5-on-3 in the third, that’s where you’ve got to finish a team off. We know what we’re trying to do; it’s just a question of executing it.”
There was no dry-erase board nearby, but Knuble then launched into a thorough illustration of what the Caps need to do to score with a two-man advantage.
“It doesn’t have to be fancy,” he says. “Couple passes here and there, maybe a little rotation, and start shooting the puck. You’re going to get your chances once you get shots and things start to open up. When everybody is standing around looking at you, you’re not going to get your chances. You’re not just going to thread needles all night. That’s not there all the time.
“So you’ve got to get a shot, get everybody spinning around a little bit, get things circulating a little bit. Then you’re going to get your seams and your real glorious chances 5-on-3.”
The Capitals have now had three 5-on-3 advantages totaling 2:26 in duration this season, but they have yet to capitalize on any of them.
Fast Firsts – The first period has been the Capitrals’ best period all season, and tonight was no exception. Washington forged a 2-0 first frame lead tonight and has now outscored the opposition 8-1 in the first period of games this season.
Theodore has stopped 37 of the 38 first-period shots he has faced this season for a save pct. of .974 in the game’s first frame. He has a .930 save pct. in his four starts this season.
Dozen/Half-Dozen – Washington had a dozen shots on goal in the second period, and six of those came on the power play while the Devils’ Johnny Oduya was off for holding.
Erskine Out – Caps defenseman John Erskine left the game early in the second period after blocking a shot and suffering an upper body injury. He is listed as day-to-day.
Even with the bench already short after Erskine’s injury, Boudreau elected to sit blueliner Brian Pothier after the aforementioned shift that resulted in Clarkson’s goal. Pothier had a chance to collect the puck out of the corner and move it early in that shift, but was pushed off the disc and ended up being out for the goal. That shift – Pothier’s last of the night – was 1:16 in duration.
Green ended up logging 30:31 on the night and Tom Poti skated 29:29. Milan Jurcina skated 20:45, the most ice he has seen in a span of 43 games, since he played 21:06 on Jan. 6 in a shootout win over the Flyers.
Clarkson v. Clark of Clarkson – Clarkson was a buzzsaw on Monday night, and he came up an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick. The Devils’ Clarkson fought the Caps’ Clark, whose alma mater is Clarkson. Got all that?
Eight is 16th – With two assists on Monday, Ovechkin moved past former Devil Bobby Carpenter on Washington’s all-time assist list. Ovechkin now has 208 career helpers, 16 behind Dave Christian for 15th place on the Capitals’ all-time charts.
Ovechkin is already third on the Caps’ all-time goal-scoring ledger so it would stand to reason that he would be third all time in third period goals. Ovechkin’s total of 85 career third-period goals trails only Peter Bondra (162) and Mike Gartner (148) on the team’s all-time ledger.
With 78 career go-ahead goals, Ovechkin trails only Bondra (144) and Gartner (105) among all Caps ever.
Marty Being Marty – Brodeur ran his lifetime record vs. Washington to 34-12-4. Brodeur has more than twice as many wins vs. Washington as any other active goaltender. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo is second with 15. The only goaltender with more career shutouts against the Capitals than Brodeur’s six is Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden, who whitewashed Washington nine times during his NHL career.
Dryden fashioned a phenomenal 1.13 career goals against average against the Caps, easily the best ever. Dominik Hasek’s 1.86 is second best, followed by Edmonton’s Nikolai Khabibulin and Brodeur, both at 2.12. The goaltender who ranks fifth all-time in goals against vs. Washington was also in the building on Monday night. Chico Resch (2.19) is the Devils’ longtime television color analyst, working alongside Mike “Doc” Emrick.
Happy Birthday – To Green, who turned 24 on Monday.
By The Numbers – David Steckel won 11 of 13 (85%) of his draws … Washington failed to score a power play goal for the first time this season … Ovechkin skated 7:13 of the Caps’ 7:50 in power play time … Poti was on the ice for 5:42 of the Caps’ 8:43 in shorthanded time on Monday … The Devils blocked 18 shots on the night, paced by Paul Martin’s four … The Capitals are 4-0-4 in their last eight meetings with the Devils, the team’s longest stretch without a regulation loss vs. New Jersey since Washington had an eight-game winning streak over the Devils from Nov. 30, 1985 through Dec. 9, 1986.
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