Streaks Snapped – Washington’s bid for a seventh straight win fell by the wayside in western New York on Wednesday night when the Caps suffered a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Sabres.
In a phrase, it was just “too much Ryan Miller” for the Caps on this night.
Washington had more than its share of scoring chances throughout the night, but was unable to dent Buffalo goaltender Miller, the league’s leader in goals against average and save pct.
“Every team we see is going to bring their best against us every night,” says Caps center Brendan Morrison. “It’s a good thing. Hopefully it makes us prepare and play to our capability. Tonight we didn’t do that.”
The Caps missed a couple of open net opportunities, they didn’t help themselves in sometimes making passes when they might have been better off shooting, and they lso took more than their fair share of bad angle shots on Miller.
That said, the Buffalo netminder was on his game and it was very clear early on.
“He was unbelievable,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “I don’t want to take anything away from him. You could tell he was so on from the very first save he made on [Tomas Fleischmann] with his leg, which was a subtle save, but he knew he was going to be very tough to beat. But we didn’t get enough traffic and we didn’t get enough second shots. And when we did do that, his glove hand was so good that it was impossible to beat him.”
“Early [in the game] it was 100% our fault for not scoring goals,” says Caps captain Chris Clark. “Third period, he was unbelievable. He made some saves that most goalies wouldn’t. If we had started a lot earlier in the game – 4 minutes earlier – maybe we would have worn him down a little bit.”
The Caps poured 13 of their 35 shots on goal on Miller in the third period, but weren’t able to solve the Sabres goalie.
“I think we didn’t play pretty good hockey in the first two periods,” says Fleischmann. “Nothing like what we are used to and it looked like we are more tired than them. We missed out on the scoring chances and that’s it. He was playing really well tonight. It was tough for us.”
The seven-game scoring streak of Caps right wing Eric Fehr also came to an end on Wednesday.
“They had guys back all night long,” says Morrison. “We didn’t do a good enough job of chipping pucks by. We were trying to beat guys at the line all night long, basically up the wall there and we were turning pucks over and not generating much.”
Get The Lead Out – For the first time all season, Washington did not hold the lead at any point in Wednesday’s game against the Sabres.
The Miller and The Mason – Miller and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Steve Mason have combined to account for the last four shutouts pitched against the Capitals over the last two seasons.
Miller blanked the Caps in Buffalo on Nov. 1, 2008 and Mason followed with consecutive whitewashes of Washington on Nov. 29, 2008 and Jan. 9, 2009.
Down Three – For only the second time all season, the Caps faced a deficit of three goals. Tonight’s loss marks just the second time the Capitals have lost a game by a margin of more than one goal this season.
Powerless – Tonight’s game was the second this season between the Caps and Sabres. In the first meeting between the two teams on Nov. 25 in Washington, the Caps went through the entire game without a power play for the first time in the regular season in more than seven years.
Tonight, they had just one extra-man opportunity.
The Capitals had combined for eight power play goals in their last three games, but their lone chance against the Sabres came just 90 seconds into the contest.
“A lot of times the power play generates momentum for us,” says Morrison. “Guys get out there, they get touches of the puck and they feel good. But they’re a disciplined team and they played a very disciplined game tonight.”
“They’re that team,” says Clark. “They’re the team that is not going to take stupid penalties. You can get away with it a couple times but some other teams don’t get away with it as much.
“If you keep doing it and keep doing it, you’re eventually going to get a penalty. They’ll do it a couple of times and not get called. That’s fine. We can handle that. They’re not going to take penalties. We know we’ve got to beat them five-on-five.”
Boudreau didn’t have quite the same view.
“It’s a little bit ridiculous,” laments the Caps bench boss, “but what are you going to do? I can sit here and complain all I want, but losing teams complain. It is 120 minutes and one power play. What are you going to say?”
Down a D – Caps defenseman Brian Pothier left the game with an undisclosed injury in the second period of Wednesday’s game. He is listed as day-to-day; the team should know more about his status on Thursday.
Not His Barn – With Wednesday night’s loss to the Sabres, Theodore’s career record at HSBC Arena falls to 2-8. He has a career goals against average of 3.36 and a lifetime save pct. of .874 in the Buffalo barn.
Blank Stares – Both the Caps and the Sabres were coming off shutouts by identical scores in their previous games, albeit on the opposite sides. The Caps put a 3-0 whitewash on the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Monday while Buffalo was victimized by Martin Brodeur’s 103rd career shutout the same night on home ice.
Going To The Big Guns – The Caps tried vainly to come back from a 3-0 deficit at the end of the second period. Ovechkin logged 9:06 of his total of 23:58 in the third period. Nicklas Backstrom skated 8:47 in the third, and Mike Green was on the ice for 9:37 in the final frame.
Good On The Dot – Washington won 37 of 56 face-offs (66%) on the night. David Steckel won seven of nine (72%), Keith Aucoin won five of seven (71%), Nicklas Backstrom won 12 of 18 (67%) and Brendan Morrison won nine of 15 (60%).
Not Tonight – The Caps were held scoreless in the first period on Wednesday for just the sixth time in 31 games this season.
Not This Season – Regardless of which building the Sabres call home, the Capitals have not met with a great deal of success over the years in Buffalo. Washington has won both games in Buffalo in the season’s series between the two teams only once over the years. That was in 2001-02, a season in which Washington did not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Including tonight’s loss, the Capitals are 18-41-6 all-time on the road against the Sabres. One of those Washington victories came in an Oct. 2005 neutral-site game at Rochester, N.Y.
The Kid’s All Right – On our Wednesday Capitals Report podcast, we touted Buffalo blueliner Tyler Myers as a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate this season. He backed up our assertion with a top-notch performance in Wednesday night’s game.
Myers logged 25:47 – including 21:23 at even strength – and was a plus-1 with eight blocked shots on the night. He leads all Buffalo blueliners in scoring and paces all Sabres skater in shorthanded ice time per game.
That's One – Buffalo’s Nathan Gerbe netted the first goal of his NHL career in the second period of tonight’s game.
Gerbe was Buffalo’s fifth-round choice (142nd overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. After starring at Boston College for three seasons, the 5-foot-5, 173-pound winger turned pro in 2008-09, putting up 30 goals in just 57 games with the AHL’s Portland Pirates. Gerbe made his NHL debut with the Sabres last season, collecting one assist in 10 games.
Tonight, he notched an assist on Montador’s first-period goal and then found the back of the net for the first time in the big league.
By The Numbers – Washington’s Alexander Semin led all players on both sides with 8:30 in first-period ice time. Myers was second at 8:10 … Jeff Schultz’s 25:12 in ice time is the most he has logged in any game this season.
Quotebook -- Boudreau on the game: “I’m going to give them credit because they played their game to a “T,” I think. But we weren’t moving our legs and just letting the play happen. Until you start forechecking and creating your own opportunities, nothing good is going to happen. We had a lot of passengers tonight.”
Boudreau on the Caps not being able to extend their winning streak to seven games: “You can get to six and you can be satisfied and say, ‘Hey, we’re pretty good.’ Or you can say, ‘Listen, I want to be great and I want to push the envelope.’ It looked like we were happy with six tonight, for whatever reason, whether it was the road or just happy with six and complacent because they’re not used to smelling the air where they’re at. It’s quite a difference from being a hunter to being the hunter. We just weren’t sharp tonight, from the goalie out.”
Wrist shot -