Wakey, Wakey – Coming into Wednesday night’s game, the Devils had managed just two power play goals in 27 man-advantage opportunities during their previous eight games. New Jersey matched that total in the third period of tonight’s game, and that was the difference in the Devils’ 3-2 win over Washington.
The loss was Washington’s first in regulation since a 3-2 setback in Detroit on Oct. 10. The Caps had collected at least a point in nine straight games (6-0-3) since.
The Caps and Devils went into the third period of Wednesday’s game tied up 1-1. Neither team had mustered much in the way of any sustained offensive attack, and each team had just one power play chance in the game’s first 40 minutes.
That changed drastically in the third.
The Devils, who had exactly one power play opportunity in three of their previous five games, were gifted with four such chances in the third period. Given a chance to get some repeated exercise, the Devils’ dormant extra-man unit awakened and earned the team a pair of points.
“We didn’t give up many glorious chances at all,” rues Caps winger Mike Knuble. “They really started having pressure in the zone on their power plays.”
True enough. New Jersey had only 17 shots on goal (and only 14 at even strength) in the game’s first 40 minutes, but it poured 15 shots on goal in the third, and scored on two of its four power play shots on net in the third.
Alexander Semin (twice), Brendan Morrison and Mike Knuble all paraded to the penalty box in the game’s final 20 minutes. Both of Semin’s third-period penalties (and all three of his infractions on the night) were committed in the offensive zone, as was Morrison’s.
“When you go behind the net and you put your stick on a guy,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “you’re going to get a penalty. Brendan Morrison has been in the league for 10 years, Semin’s been in then league for five years. These guys know this.
“It’s just dumb penalties.”
Devils rookie Henrik Bergfors cashed in on two of those power play opportunities in the final frame to help his team record just their second win in six home games this season.
“It’s not our young guys letting us down, that’s for sure,” says Knuble, whose late penalty in the third period of Sunday’s loss to Columbus led to the Blue Jackets’ tying goal in the final minute of regulation. “It’s the guys who are supposed to have experience. The onus is on us, especially the older players. You have to take leadership. You have to take ownership of the dumb things you are doing. You’ve got to stop it.”
New Jersey’s only even-strength strike on the night came when Brian Rolston banked a centering feed off Washington’s Mike Green and into the Capitals’ net in the second period.
Fast Firsts – For the 12th time in 15 games, the Capitals scored the game’s first goal. Chris Clark made a strong play at the New Jersey blueline to prevent the puck from oozing out of the offensive zone, and he put the rubber on the stick of Mathieu Perreault, making his NHL debut.
With the Caps now enjoying a mini 2-on-1 down low, Perreault made a sublime backhanded saucer pass to Tyler Sloan, who shot the puck past New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur.
Washington has outscored the opposition by a combined 18-6 in the first period this season. In 2008-09, only Boston (87 first-period goals) had more first-period strikes than the Capitals (86). This season, only Calgary (20) has more first-period tallies than the Caps.
Missing 8 – Washington’s record without Alex Ovechkin in the lineup falls to 1-4 with Wednesday’s loss to the Devils. The team’s only victory without Ovechkin was a 4-3 shootout triumph over Nashville on Oct. 28, 2008.
Missed Opportunity – With Ovechkin on the sidelines, the Caps were seeking someone to step up and make something happen offensively. Semin – who has averaged 33 goals a season over the past three campaigns – seemed the most likely candidate.
Semin finished with three shots on goal on the night, but had none until the third period. He committed three offensive-zone penalties on the night, including two in the third period. On one glorious final-frame scoring chance, Semin was unable to lift the puck over Brodeur, who was able to thwart him with a two-pad stack.
Later in the stanza, Semin came out of the penalty box and went off on a breakaway, but was unable to launch a clean shot.
With Ovechkin out of the lineup, it was an opportunity for some of the rest of the Caps’ cadre of good, proven young players to step up, but none of them did.
“It’s more than fair to say,” laments Boudreau. “Some of them not only didn’t stand out, but they cost us the game. It’s a tough one to swallow.”
Tomas Fleischmann scored Washington’s second goal on a high wrist shot from the high slot with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
Menacing The Martys – Sloan’s goal was his second in 33 career NHL games and his first as a forward. He scored his first NHL goal on Oct. 25, 2008 at Dallas, beating the Stars’ Marty Turco.
Trouble in the Third – Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov entered Wednesday’s game with a 4.80 third-period GAA, the fifth highest mark in the NHL. That figure rose after he surrendered a pair of third-period tallies to the Devils.
The Caps have now allowed 19 third-period goals, second most in the NHL. Columbus leads with 20.
“In the third periods for our goaltenders, we’ve been asking way too much,” says Knuble. “They’re not guys who are going to complain about it or anything, but if I was a goalie I’d be shaking my head about it a little bit. What are you supposed to do?
“Here we have one-goal leads going into the third or a tie games going into the third, and we’re asking our goalies to stand on their heads. I’m sure some nights on the way home they are just shaking their head, ‘These guys have got to wake up and help me out.’
“We are just asking too much of them in the third period.”
Devil Fighter – Clark has had two fighting majors in 15 games this season. Both have come against the Devils. Clark fought with New Jersey’s David Clarkson on Oct. 12 at Verizon Center and he went with the Devils’ Rod Pelley on Wednesday.
Class of 2006 – Perreault made his NHL debut here in New Jersey tonight, becoming the fifth of Washington’s 10 picks in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft to reach the NHL. Perreault, the Caps’ sixth-round (177th overall) choice in 2006, joins Nicklas Backstrom (first round, fourth overall), Semyon Varlamov (first round, 23rd overall), Michal Neuvirth (second round, 34th overall) and Oskar Osala (fourth round, 97th overall) as those from that draft who have gone on to don a Capitals sweater.
Perreault turned in a strong performance in his maiden NHL voyage, collecting two assists, recording two shots on goal, two takeaways and notching a plus-2 on the night and doing so with just 10:30 in ice time.
“He plays with a quiet confidence,” observes Knuble of Perreault. “He’s a steady guy in the center, good on pucks and good on draws. Obviously he’s a passer.”
Not only have the Caps had five players from that draft reach the NHL, those five players hail from five different nations. Backstrom is from Sweden, Varlamov from Russia, Neuvirth from the Czech Republic, Osala from Finland and Perreault is from Canada.
The Caps have had more 2006 picks reach the show than any other team; Columbus is second with four.
Washington’s 2004 draft has also produced six NHLers to date, one fewer than Chicago’s seven. However, the Blackhawks had 17 picks to Washington’s 13 in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Casting A Giant Shadow – Brodeur played in his 1,011th NHL game on Wednesday. He is now just 18 games behind Patrick Roy for the top spot on the NHL’s all-time ledger in games played by a goaltender.
Brodeur literally towers above the Devils’ franchise record book. With 565 wins, he has won more games than the next four New Jersey netminders (Chris Terreri 118, Chico Resch 67, Sean Burke 62 and Alain Chevrier 53) on that list combined. That also holds true for games played. Brodeur’s total is more than the next four on the list (Terreri 302, Resch 267, Burke 162 and Michel Plasse 150) combined.
Brodeur’s 102 career shutouts are 95 more than second-place Terreri’s seven. In career losses it only takes the next three goaltenders on the Devils’ all-time list (Resch 148, Terreri 118 and Plasse 89) to surpass Brodeur’s total of 303.
This Day in NHL History – Hockey Hall of Famer Bill Barber netted the first goal of his NHL career on this date in 1972 playing for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Buffalo Sabres.
By The Numbers – Milan Jurcina paced the Caps with four hits. Sloan was second with three in just 10:42 of work … Despite getting the least ice time of any of Washington’s four forward trios in the first period, the line of Sloan-Perreault-Clark accounted for four of the Caps’ 11 first-period shots on goal.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears started a rugged road stretch on Wednesday night in Lowell, setting off a fall tour through New England in which they will play four games in five nights. While the Caps were facing the Devils in New Jersey, the two teams’ AHL farm clubs were going head-to-head in Lowell.
After a scoreless first, Lowell drew first blood when Nick Palmieri beat the Bears’ Michal Neuvirth at 4:43 of the second. Hershey came back to take a 2-1 lead into the third, scoring a pair of goals within 109 seconds late in the middle frame. Keith Aucoin notched his second of the season with help from Alexandre Giroux and John Carlson and then Oskar Osala netted his third of the campaign, Kyle Wilson and Andrew Gordon assisting.
The Bears added to their lead early in the third when Aucoin scored his second of the night in the first minute of the final frame, Giroux and Gordon assisting. Dean McAmmond soon scored to pull the Devils to within a goal, but Bears blueliner Patrick McNeill scored his first of the season from Gordon and Wilson at 11:55 to restore Hershey’s two-goal cushion. Aucoin completed his hat trick at 16:23 with help from Giroux.
Giroux and Gordon each had three assists on the night and Gordon was a plus-4. McNeill, Aucoin, Giroux, Wilson, Osala and Zach Miscovic were all plus-2 on the night. Neuvirth stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced to earn the victory.
Hershey plays at Portland on Friday, at Manchester on Saturday and at Providence on Sunday.
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