Coffee Is For Closers – We’re 24 games into the 2009-10 season now, and one thing has been constant. The Washington Capitals have held a lead in the second period or later in all 24 games. That’s a remarkable number. But it’s also remarkable that the Caps have finished off only 13 of those 24 games.
Washington took a 3-1 lead into the third period of Monday’s game against the Senators in Ottawa. The Caps were fortunate to escape with the single point they received in a 4-3 overtime loss. The Capitals are now 13-5-6 on the season.
The Caps remain tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve also let a number of points slip through their fingers this season.
From the time that Jay Beagle gave the Caps a 3-1 lead at 11:44 of the second until the end of regulation, the Senators outshot the Caps 26-6. Prior to that, Washington held a 22-11 advantage in shots on goal.
“I don’t know,” laments Caps captain Chris Clark, when asked what happened to his team in the third period. “I wish we could have fixed it. They came out well. They played the way they were supposed to play, probably the way they were told. We got caught in our zone a lot and couldn’t get it out at times. They capitalized on the three chances they had in the last period and overtime. I don’t think we intended to come out lightly, but maybe we did. We’ve shot ourselves in the foot a bunch of times this year, but we came out in overtime and won games. This is the one that really hurts, because we end up losing.”
The Caps played penalty-free hockey for the game’s first 40 minutes, but they were assessed three minor penalties in the third. The Sens evened the game on an Alexandre Picard power play goal at the 7:40 mark of the third period.
“They outworked us in the third period,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “They wanted it more. We take three dumb penalties and they get the momentum and get the crowd into it and we leave our poor goalie out to dry.”
Caps netminder Semyon Varlamov deserved a better fate. He was screened on Picard’s goal, and the other three tallies came on deflections in front.
Early leads have meant little to the Caps this season. Washington is 6-4-4 (.429) when leading after the first period this season. That winning pct. puts them 29th in the NHL in that department.
The Caps are 8-0-2 when leading after two. That sounds good, but it is tied for 21st in a league in which nine teams are still perfect when leading after 40 minutes.
“This was different because we haven’t lost a game when we’re leading going into the third period,” says Boudreau. “But this was a collapse by 20 guys. I don’t know how else to sugarcoat it. We had total control of the game after two. They didn’t even want to be part of the game. It looked like they wanted to go home. But something lit a fire under them and we couldn’t match it.”
Washington earned a point to remain even with Pittsburgh atop the Eastern Conference standings, but it takes no joy in that point.
“Some teams will look at that [as a] positive as getting a point,” says Clark. “But not when you have the game in hand and a two-goal lead going into the third period. It’s definitely not something we’re going to build upon. A point’s a point. It is moving up. But it doesn’t feel good, doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth.”
Power Outage -- Washington is without a power play goal in three straight games for the first time in more than a year. The last time the Caps went as many as three consecutive contests without an extra-man tally was a three-game run from Nov. 1-6, 2008.
Overrated – The Caps did not get on the board first in Monday’s game, but that hasn’t been a bad thing this season. Washington has drawn first blood in 18 of 24 games this season, but it is 4-0-2 in games in which its opponent gets the game’s first goal.
Green On The Blueline – The six defensemen dressed for the Caps on Monday night carried a combined total of 1102 career regular season games worth of experience into the contest. Only one of the six rearguards has suited up for more than 300 games in the league.
Streaking – Green picked up an assist on Clark’s first-period goal to extend his scoring streak to seven games (one goal, 10 assists). Earlier this season, Green ran up a nine-game scoring streak. He is the only player in the league this season with as many as two streaks of seven or more games with a point.
Discipline – The Caps have had to kill four or fewer power plays in nine straight games and have needed to kill three or fewer penalties in eight of those nine games.
Washington’s penalty killing corps has killed 18 of 24 (75%) opposition power plays during that span. Despite doing a good job of staying out of the penalty box for the last nine games, the Caps have still surrendered a power play goal in six of those nine contests.
Kid Stuff – Beagle’s goal was his first in the NHL and it came in seventh game in the league. He joins Mathieu Perreault as the second Caps player to score his first NHL goal this season. In 2008-09, Washington had four players score their first goal in the league.
Working Late – Nine of Washington’s 24 games this season have gone to overtime. The Capitals are now 1-4 in games decided in overtime and they are 2-2 in games that require a shootout.
Happy Birthday – To Caps center Nicklas Backstrom, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Monday.
By The Numbers –John Erskine recorded seven of Washington’s 23 hits on the night … Perreault paced the Caps with four blocked shots … Pothier skated 23:17 on the night, his second highest single-game figure this season. Pothier has skated more than 20 minutes in two straight games and four on the season.
1 - 0 OTT
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
3 - 1 WSH
3 - 2 WSH
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 OTT