Defeat From the Jaws of Victory – Although the Caps were without their best player and trailed 2-1 entering the third period of tonight’s game, they came from behind to take a 3-2 lead and rallied once more later for a 4-3 advantage in Sunday's game against the Blue Jackets at Verizon Center. But the whole thing came unraveled like a cheap sweater in the final minutes of regulation.
Columbus won in overtime, 5-4. In addition to losing the game, the Caps lost left wing Alex Ovechkin, who is day-to-day with an upper body injury.
Caps winger Mike Knuble – who electrified the crowd with a heroic one-man effort in the offensive zone earlier in the third while Washington was shorthanded – took an ill-advised and poorly timed slashing minor at 17:36 of the third when he two-handed the Blue Jackets’ Derick Brassard on the Columbus side of neutral ice.
The Jackets pulled their goaltender in favor of an extra skater, and the evened the game at 4-4 on Raffi Torres’ second goal of the game. The goal came one second after Knuble was sprung from the box; it was for all intents and purposes a 6-on-4 goal.
“In the last two minutes,” admits Knuble, “I can’t take a penalty on a backcheck when the guy is out of my reach. It’s kind of a brain cramp there. It’s a dumb play at the wrong time, but we played hard in the third.”
The Caps compounded that mistake in overtime when Washington defenseman Brian Pothier was whistled for interference, an infraction that led to R.J. Umberger’s game-winner just a dozen seconds after Pothier was seated.
Washington is now 1-2-2 in games in which it trailed heading into the third period, but it took no consolation from the point gained in Sunday’s game.
“Yeah, well when you take a stupid penalty,” laments Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau, “that’s what happens when you take stupid penalties. Selfish penalties, they cost you all the time. You take a team penalty and you work your ass off like they did then usually you kill them off all the time, but when you take a selfish penalty it doesn’t end real good.”
The “team penalty” to which Boudreau referred was David Steckel’s third-period goaltender interference call, a phantom call for sure. Knuble got the crowd on its feet when he single-handedly hemmed the Jackets in their own end, getting some help later from Quintin Laing.
Laing and Brooks Laich were also poised for hero status before Washington’s late penalty troubles. Laich scored twice in a span of 128 seconds in the third period and Laing put the Caps ahead 4-3 with a goal at 16:34 of the final frame.
“It was a good hockey game,” says Knuble. ”We have to be happy with the way we played in the third. An error by me late to put the team behind. That’s what’s frustrating because it’s something I can control.”
Three of Knuble’s seven minor penalties this season have been slashing infractions.
Russian Machine Broken? – The last time the Caps scored a goal against Columbus prior to this evening was on Feb. 6, 2008 when Washington took a 4-3 overtime decision from the Jackets. Ovechkin supplied the game-winner in that one, beating the Blue Jackets’ Fredrik Norrena in the extra session.
The Russian superstar wasn’t around for overtime in this one; he left the game in the second period after awkwardly tangling and with Jackets winger Raffi Torres and then falling to the ice. Earlier, Ovechkin had tangled with Columbus’ Jason Chimera in front of the Blue Jackets’ bench, sparking a scrum that involved all 10 skaters on the ice.
Whether Ovechkin was injured in the scrum or in the tangle with Torres is unclear. The Capitals are off tomorrow and are in action again next on Wednesday when they travel to New Jersey.
Piling Up Points – The Caps have now notched at least a point in each of their last nine games (6-0-3). That’s the longest such streak for the Capitals since they enjoyed a 14-game run (8-0-3-3) from Dec. 16, 2002 to Jan. 15, 2003.
Streaking – Caps defenseman Mike Green collected an assist on Brooks Laich’s second goal of the night. Green has now recorded points in each of Washington’s last nine games (two goals, nine assists). Only Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis (10 games) has had a longer streak among all NHL players this season.
Green’s current streak is the longest of his NHL career, exceeding by one game the run he put together last winter when he established an NHL record for defensemen by scoring a goal in eight consecutive contests.
Multiple Men – Laich’s two-goal night was his second multiple-goal game of the season. It was the 12th time in 14 games this season the Caps have gotten a multiple-goal game out of one of their skaters.
Ovechkin leads the way with six multiple-goal games. Laich and Semin each have two. Backstrom and Fleischmann each have one.
For the second time this season, the Caps have had a player with multiple goals in four straight games.
Long Time For Laing – Laing’s goal tonight was the second of his NHL career and his first since Dec. 10, 2007 against New Jersey. That goal against the Devils came in the third period and was a game-winner. For a minute or two, it looked as though tonight’s Laing tally might also stand up as the deciding goal.
Leading Men – Washington has led in the second period or later in each of its 14 games to date this season.
First Strike – The Caps have scored the game’s first goal in 11 of their 14 contests this season. Washington has scored at least one first-period goal in 11 of 14 games and it has outscored the opposition by a combined 17-6 in the first period this season.
Solving Steve – The Caps had gone 77 shots on goal and 132:13 without scoring against Columbus goaltender Steve Mason before Nicklas Backstrom finally solved the big Blue Jackets goaltender. Backstrom finished off a pretty passing sequence in which he and each of his two new linemates (Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin) had touched the puck in a span of just two seconds or so.
All four of Backstrom’s goals this season have come on home ice.
This Day in NHL History – On this date in 1983, Doug Gilmour notched the first of his 450 career NHL goals when he scored for St. Louis against Detroit.
Happy Birthday – To Hockey Hall of Famer Al Arbour, born on this date in 1932.
By The Numbers – Green skated 9:50 in the first period. He took eight shifts averaging 1:13 in length … Semin accounted for five of Washington’s 13 first-period shots on goal … Backstrom had six shots on goal in Sunday's game, matching his single-game career best. He has had six shots on goal in a game three times, most recently against Columbus on Jan. 9.
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 WSH
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1 - 1 Tie
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2 - 1 CBJ
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2 - 2 Tie
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3 - 2 WSH
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3 - 3 Tie
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