No Third Strike -- Friday night’s game against the Canucks in Vancouver marked the 34th time in 35 games that the Capitals have owned the lead in a contest this season. Washington got out of the first with a 2-1 advantage and had a few opportunities to add to its lead and potentially salt this one away.
Instead, the Canucks capitalized on a Capitals mistake late in the second to even the score and then cashed in a power play chance in the third to win it, 3-2.
Washington is now without a win in three straight visits to Vancouver (0-2-1). The Capitals’ last road win against the Canucks was a 4-3 overtime triumph on Feb. 14, 2001.
Giving up the game’s first goal has not been a problem for the Caps this season, so Ryan Kesler’s fluky strike (it caromed in off Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz on a delayed Washington penalty) in the first did not daunt the visitors.
The Caps responded with the equalizer just over two minutes later when Alexander Semin fired a laser of a wrist shot that beat Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo under the glove hand.
Washington gained the upper hand with less than two minutes remaining in the first on a Chris Clark rebound goal, the captain’s fourth tally of the season.
Vancouver has proven to be a much better team on home ice (14-5 this season) than they are on the road (6-10). The Canucks allow an average of just 2.01 goals per home game as compared to 3.19 on the road. And Washington’s magic number has been “three” in 2009-10. The Capitals are (including Friday’s game) 20-2-4 in games in which they score three or more goals this season. They are 1-6-2 in games in which they score two or fewer goals.
So, the game’s fourth goal figured to be a big one, either way.
Vancouver was whistled for two minor penalties in a span of just 2:23 midway through the second period, but Washington’s power play was impotent. The Caps could not gain the attack zone, could not get set up and did not manage as much as a shot on goal during their four minutes of second-period power play time.
Late in the middle frame, the puck came to Washington’s Mike Green in the high slot of the offensive zone. Green had some time and space – a true luxury for the Caps in five-on-five play in this contest – but his shot hit Luongo in the chest and Vancouver counterattacked.
The Canucks came back with speed on a 2-on-1, and Vancouver’s Mason Raymond smartly held the puck and waited. Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn defended the pass and gave Raymond the shooting lane, and he deked Caps goalie Jose Theodore and deposited the puck into the yawning cage. After missing out on at least three good chances to take a two-goal lead, Washington found itself all even with the Canucks after 40 minutes of play despite having held Vancouver to just 13 shots on goal.
When Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin went off for hooking at 7:51 of the third, it was Washington’s fourth consecutive power play of the game and its fourth to the Canucks’ one in the game to that point. Given a chance to retake the lead, the Caps did not take advantage. They were held without a shot on goal for the third consecutive power play and the game remained 2-2.
Everyone in the building figured the next power play chance was coming Vancouver’s way, and that’s the way it turned out. About two and a half minutes after the Canucks had killed Sedin’s penalty, Caps defenseman Tom Poti was whistled for a crosscheck on the Canucks’ Alex Burrows. Poti believed Burrows embellished, and the Washington bluliner was given an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct after he voiced his displeasure and slammed the penalty box door.
Raymond scored to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead on the first half of the double-minor. Semin was hauled down on a breakaway while the Caps were still shorthanded, and the Washington winger was given a penalty shot opportunity. But he was unable to beat Luongo, and the Caps – despite some strong late pressure in the attack zone with Theodore pulled for an extra skater – were never quite able to get a good enough opportunity to fire home that elusive third goal.
Leader Board – Coming into tonight’s game, the Caps had players ranked among the league leaders in several categories. Ovechkin came into the game tied for third in the league with 21 goals and tied for the league lead in plus/minus at plus-17. He also led in first-period goals and fourth in the NHL with 138 shots on goal. Nicklas Backstrom’s 39 points were good for fifth in the NHL.
Tomas Fleischmann entered the game with a 26.5% shooting pct., the best mark in the league. Injured Caps goaltender Semyon Varlamov stands atop the league leader board in winning pct. at .867.
Crossing Paths – Some 27 years ago, then-Caps GM David Poile swung a six-player trade with the Montreal Canadiens the forever altered the course of hockey in the District. Poile dealt forward Ryan Walter and defenseman Rick Green to the Habs for forwards Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin and defensemen Rod Langway and Brian Engblom.
On Friday in Vancouver, the paths of two of the principals in that deal crossed again.
Laughlin, of course, is the Caps’ longtime television color analyst. After several years of holding the same post with the Canucks, Walter is now an assistant coach for Vancouver.
Streak Snapped – Caps center Kyle Wilson saw his streak of 211 consecutive games played with the AHL Hershey Bears snapped on Friday because he was up with the parent club in Vancouver.
Nobody’s Perfect – The final, official game sheet for Friday’s Caps-Canucks games contains some errors. Washington totaled exactly eight minutes of power play time in the game, but the final sheet shows 7:47 for some reason. Vancouver had a total of 5:32 in power play time, and that figure is reflected in the power-play and shorthanded ice time of Luongo and Theodore, respectively, but Vancouver is noted on the sheet as having gone 1-for-3 in exactly 4:00 of extra-man time, which is incorrect.
Nemesis – Luongo has long been a thorn in the Capitals’ side, regardless of the sweater he has sported. Only New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur (36) has more career wins over Washington than Luongo, who earned his 16th career victory over the Capitals on Friday night.
Luongo is 16-10-3 lifetime against Washington with two shutouts, a 2.26 GAA and a .929 save pct. Luongo’s career save pct. against the Caps is the fourth-best figure he has against any opponent.
By The Numbers – The Capitals fell to 4-2-1 against Western Conference foes and 2-1 against Northeast Division opponents this season … Washington is now 6-2-2 in games in which it surrenders the first goal … Vancouver’s Ryan Johnson is the Canucks’ answer to Washington’s David Steckel and Quintin Laing. Johnson was 5-for-6 (83%) in the face-off circle and he was one of four Canucks (the other three were defensemen) with three blocked shots in Friday’s game. Johnson accomplished all this with just 8:21 in ice time.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears opened the weekend in upstate New York with a Friday night skirmish against the Rochester Americans. The Bears prevailed by a 3-1 count.
Hershey’s Oskar Osala opened the scoring with his seventh of the season at 14:56 of the first with help from Jay Beagle and Patrick Wellar. Beagle extended the Bears’ lead to 2-0 at 6:48 of the second with his fifth of the campaign, Bryan Helmer and John Carlson assisting.
Rochester’s Ernie Hartlieb spoiled the shutout bid of Bears goaltender Braden Holtby late in the second, and then Hershey’s Keith Aucoin restored the two-goal lead with a power play goal at 5:27 of the third. Aucoin’s goal was his 13th of the season; Alexandre Giroux and Andrew Gordon assisted.
Holtby made 26 saves on the night to run his AHL record to 4-1-1 this season. He also has a 1.32 GAA and a .953 save pct. with the Bears.
The two teams are on their way back to central Pennsylvania where the Bears will host a Saturday night rematch with the Amerks at Giant Center. Hershey closes a busy weekend with a Sunday visit from the Toronto Marlies.
The Bears are now 19-8-0-2 this season. They lead the AHL’s East Division by three points over Albany, but Hershey has two games in hand on the River Rats.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays started their weekend with a 4-3 road win over the Charlotte Checkers on Friday night. The victory was the 12th straight triumph for the Stingrays.
The Rays got goals from Nikita Kashirsky, Matt Scherer, Rob Ricci and Keith Johnson and a 36-save performance from Todd Ford in goal to down the Checkers.
The Stingrays and Checkers meet again on Saturday at North Charleston Coliseum for the back end of the home-and-home set. On Sunday, the two teams will ping-pong back up to Charlotte for their third game in as many nights.
South Carolina boasts a 21-6-1-3 record this season, the best in the ECHL. The Stingrays hold a 14-point bulge over Charlotte in the ECHL’s South Division.
1 - 0 VAN
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
2 - 2 Tie