Heavyweight Bout – The two hottest teams in the Eastern Conference hooked up on a dreary Saturday night in Newark. The Washington Capitals, winners of four straight and owners of a 10-1-3 mark in their last 14 games visited the New Jersey Devils, winners of seven straight games and holders of a 13-2 mark in their previous 15 contests.
New Jersey prevailed, 5-2.
The Caps started swiftly, getting an early power play and scoring on their first shot on goal of the evening. Tomas Fleischmann netted his eighth of the season at 4:15 of the first to give the Caps a quick lead, and Mathieu Perreault followed with a goal on the next shift, scoring just 47 seconds after Fleischmann.
At that point Washington had dented future Hockey Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur for two goals on as many shots. During the life of New Jersey’s current winning streak, the Devils have not allowed more than two goals in a game. The Caps were never able to get a third, either.
“We get up 2-0 and it just seems like we just think it’s going to be an easy game,” laments Caps defenseman Mike Green. “There is still 40 minutes left in the game. We have some guys who maybe change their game a little bit and we can’t have that. We have to play as a team and we have to play the same way for 60 minutes and when we do we win games.”
The Devils roared back with five unanswered goals on 15 shots in a span of 33:28 from midway through the first period to early in the final frame. With the game tied at 2-2 in the second, Caps winger Alexander Semin committed an egregious turnover at the New Jersey blueline, a giveaway that led to a Zach Parise breakaway and what proved to be the game-winning goal.
“It’s not the way we play.,” says Caps coach Boudreau, who was unable to notch his 100th career NHL win on this night. “You can only tell certain people so many times. That was the biggest goal against us at that point. We wanted to keep it deep and work them in the corners. [Instead] we turn it around and they get a breakaway. Bad play.”
When it was all said and done, the Caps were saddled with their fourth regulation loss of the season, half of them now at the Devils’ hands. It is the first loss by more than one goal for the Capitals this season.
The Capitals were not physical (eight hits all night) and did not skate enough to draw another power play after the initial one early in the first period.
“We didn’t work hard enough down in their end to deserve any penalties,” says Caps forward Quintin Laing, “and we had some mental errors that led to goals, and that cost us tonight.”
“We didn’t have the power play opportunities tonight to save us,” says defenseman Brian Pothier. “And we needed to play a sound defensive game with no turnovers. And we weren’t able to do that.”
New Jersey has now defeated the Capitals three times in as many games this season, rallying from a deficit to do so each time. The Devils have twice climbed out of a 2-0 hole to take down the Capitals this season.
Quick Strike – For the fourth time this season, the Caps scored on their first shot of the game in Saturday’s loss to the Devils.
Down Three – For the first time this season, Washington fell behind by as many as three goals in a game. That happened when Devils defenseman Cory Murphy scored at 3:15 of the second to give the Devils a 5-2 lead.
Sloppy Second – Tonight marked the eighth time in 20 games this season that the Caps have allowed multiple goals in the second period of a game. Six of those eight second periods with multiple opposition goals have followed flawless first periods by the Caps.
Milestone Men – Caps captain Chris Clark played in the 500th game of his NHL career tonight against the Devils. And Fleischmann skated in the 200th game of his career in the league on Saturday against New Jersey.
Tough Times – Although Caps goalie Jose Theodore is 2-1-1 in November, he has not been playing as well as he had been earlier in the season. In five November starts, Theodore has a 4.35 GAA and an .846 save pct.
“I don’t know that I see anything wrong with him,” observes Boudreau. “He’s just got to stop the puck. The power play goal was a clear shot by [Jamie] Langenbrunner, no screen. I know Parise’s was a breakaway but he made it look easy. The next one was a short side over the blocker, from just outside the dot. Those things, Jose’s got to stop.
“He had a bad game and he’ll be ready to go the next time he starts, I hope. His history has been that he’ll play a whole bunch of good games and then a couple bad games and then he’ll turn it around because he’s mentally strong.”
Keeping It Up – Rookie center Perreault continues his strong play. Half a dozen games into his career, he has two goals and five points. He has yet to have a “minus” game and he has recorded at least a point in four of six games despite limited ice time.
Moving Up – Caps defenseman Mike Green had assists on both of Washington’s goals and now has 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) on the season. He ranks third among all defensemen in the league in scoring. Green has three goals and 16 points in his last 14 games.
Congratulations – To former Hershey Bears defenseman Dean Arsene, who has been recalled to the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL. The 29-year-old Arsene was a key cog on each of the last two Bears Calder Cup championship teams (2006 and 2009) and he is a warrior of a player who is finally getting his well-earned first shot at playing in the NHL.
Arsene has played 267 of his 332 AHL games in a Bears uniform.
Greene Going – Devils defenseman Andy Greene recently became the first player in franchise history to have a hand in his team’s game-winning goal in five consecutive games. In doing so, he also became the first NHLer to achieve the feat since Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson did so in January, 2007.
Tonight, his streak stopped as he went pointless. But he led all skaters on both side with 25:36 in ice time and he was a plus-3 for the night, which was also the best number for both sides.
Streaking – New Jersey’s win was its eighth in a row, matching the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.
Streak Stopped – New Jersey entered Saturday’s game having killed off 20 straight opposition power plays. Washington had only one power play chance in Saturday’s game. It came early in the first and the Caps cashed it in to end New Jersey’s penalty killing streak.
In two games in this building this season, the Caps had two power play opportunities.
Kid Stuff – Three rookies combined on New Jersey’s fourth goal of the night, Matt Halischuk’s goal in the final minute of the second period. The goal was the first of Halischuk’s NHL career.
Tim Sestito picked up his first career point in getting one of the assists and freshman Niclas Bergfors notched the other helper.
By The Numbers – The Capitals had eight hits on the night. Two came in the first period (17 minutes apart) and two came in the third. No player had more than one … Fleischmann finished the night at minus-4 … Chris Clark, Brooks Laich and Perreault tied for the team lead with four shots on goal each … Tyler Sloan logged more than 21 minutes for the second straight night on Saturday, the most ice he has had this season. Prior to this weekend, he last logged 21-plus minutes on Nov. 15, 2008 when he skated 21:37 in an overtime game against the Devils in New Jersey … Morrison won 11 of 15 (73%) of his face-offs on the night.
Down On The Farm – A night after taking down the Norfolk Admirals 5-3 on home ice, Hershey hosted the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Giant Center on Saturday night. The Bears made it a perfect weekend, taking down the Baby Pens by a 3-1 count.
With an assist from Jay Beagle, Boyd Kane got the Bears started with a shorthanded goal in the first period. Blueliner Karl Alzner netted his first of the season late in the second period with assists from Steve Pinizzotto and Trevor Bruess.
Alzner was the game’s first star and Carlson (who was plus-3) was second. At plus-14, Alzner and Carlson are tied for the AHL lead in that department. Neuvirth made 27 saves to run his record to 6-3. The Bears are 12-5 on the season and they lead second-place Wilkes-Barre Scranton and Albany by six points in the AHL’s East Division standings.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays returned to North Charleston Coliseum a night after absorbing a 3-2 shootout setback in Gwinnett on Friday. Hosting the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday, the Stingrays won a shootout decision by the same score as the one they lost on Friday.
Keith Johnson and Nikita Kashirsky scored regulation goals for the Stingrays and Johnson and Dylan Yeo both scored in the shootout. Goaltender Braden Holtby made 25 saves in regulation and stopped six of seven in the shootout to earn the win, pushing his record to 3-1-1-2 on the season.
At 9-2-1-3, the Stingrays are in the top spot in the South Division standings and they boast the best record in the ECHL.
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