First Fail – Washington has made a living on its first-period prowess this season, but it failed to do so tonight. The Caps spotted the Canes a 3-0 lead in the first and were unable to claw their way back into the contest. The Hurricanes skated off with a 6-3 win.
The Capitals had barely more shots in the first period (four) than Carolina had goals in the frame.
Carolina scored three goals in a span of just four shots on goal in the middle of the first period, the first of which came just four seconds before a full two-minute, two-man Hurricanes man advantage was set to expire.
“We got two penalties in the first period and they score the first goal which was enough to make them feel pretty good about themselves,” says Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin. “They kept pushing and they scored three goals. I think we woke up in the second period but then they scored the fourth goal and it kind of changed momentum for us. I don’t think we stopped playing, but it’s hard to come back when you’re losing by three goals.”
The Caps did pull to within a goal at 4-3 early in the third period when Ovechkin scored on the power play. But Carolina’s Sergei Samsonov scored to make it 5-3 at the 10-minute mark, just seconds after the Caps had killed off a slashing minor to Brendan Morrison.
The Hurricanes’ three-goal outburst in the first was the second the Caps have seen at Verizon Center this season. The New York Islanders struck for three in the first period of a Nov. 11 game in Washington, but the Caps rebounded to win that one by a 5-4 count in overtime.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Capitals had held a 49-19 first-period advantage on their opponents this season, the widest goal differential by any NHL club in any period.
Tough Task – Coming off their best consecutive 60-minute, three-zone performances of the season in wins over Buffalo and New Jersey, the Eastern Conference-leading Capitals pulled the trigger on a major trade on Monday afternoon, just hours before face-off against the Hurricanes.
The Caps dealt right wing (and team captain) Chris Clark and defenseman Milan Jurcina to Columbus in exchange for left wing Jason Chimera. Clark had been in Washington for four and a half years and was the third-longest tenured captain in Capitals history.
Jurcina had been in the District for nearly three years and was part of a blueline corps of seven players that had been intact continuously since his arrival in a Feb. 1, 2007 trade with the Boston Bruins.
The Caps would not use the trade as an excuse for Monday’s sub-par performance, but the two popular ex-Caps will definitely be missed and there likely was some residual shock value from the trade.
“Some guys didn’t find out until they got to the rink,” says veteran Caps right wing Mike Knuble. “It’s always kind of a strange day but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we knew we would have a team that would come out quick against us. We try to be ready for that but they were able to take advantage of us early. Killing off 1:55 of a five-on-three against, our penalty kill guys did an admirable job but just couldn’t hold there at the end. Then, they kind of get a fluky goal there, where [Eric Staal] knocks it out of the air. With that being said, I don’t want to use a trade as an excuse but we sort of came out flat.”
“We’re professionals and we understand it’s a business,” says Caps center Brooks Laich. “I don’t think the trade had anything to do with the hockey game. Obviously they’re very good friends and a huge part of our locker room those two guys, but as far as it taking away or distracting us during the game, that’s not an excuse at all.”
“It’s a hard situation for us because we lost our captain and a great guy,” says Ovechkin. “They’re both good players but it’s a business and you can do nothing about it.”
“To me, if I say it was, then I am just looking at an excuse,” remarks Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “I don't know if it did or if it didn't. Usually were a lot better in the first period, but I think Carolina played really well in the first period today. I think our lowest shot total of the year at home was in the first period as well. So, I don't want to use it as an excuse, even though I have been in that situation. I know it can bother some people, but I don't know if it bothered our guys.”
Monday’s trade marked the first time the Caps were involved in an NHL player-for-NHL player trade during the season since Feb. 26, 2008 when they moved Matt Pettinger to Vancouver in exchange for Matt Cooke.
The deal with Columbus marked the first time in more than seven years that Washington traded two NHL players in the same deal during the season. The last time the Caps were involved in such a deal was on Nov. 1, 2002 when Washington dealt forwards Chris Simon and Andrei Nikolishin to Chicago for center Michael Nylander.
Three Is Not Enough – With tonight’s loss to Carolina, the Capitals are now 23-3-4 in games in which they score three or more goals.
Three In Three – Caps center Boyd Gordon returned to the lineup on Monday after missing the last 18 games (and 31 of the last 32 contests) with a back ailment. Gordon skated 8:43 on the night.
For Gordon, Monday’ match marked his third game in as many nights. Sent to AHL Hershey on an injury rehab assignment, Gordon played in Bears victories on both Saturday and Sunday nights in Hershey.
Streaks Stopped – The Capitals’ modest three-game winning streak and their five-game home ice winning streak both came to an end tonight.
Washington’s run of eight straight victories against Southeast Division opponents to start the season also went by the wayside on Monday. The Caps had been the league’s only team with a perfect mark against its own division.
Not Very Laichly – Down two goals after Samsonov’s third-period strike, it appeared the Caps might get a power play opportunity when Carolina’s Brett Carson was whistled for holding Washington center Brooks Laich. But the official also called Laich for diving, putting the two teams at four-on-four for the next two minutes.
Caps fans in attendance, knowing that Laich is the least likely player on the team – and one of the least likely in the league – to take a dive, unleashed a vociferous torrent upon the zebras in the aftermath of that call. The ensuing “ref, you suck!” chant was among the loudest and longest sustained rants of its type in the history of Verizon Center.
Tough Towns – Tonight’s victory was just the second earned by the Hurricanes in 19 road games this season. The Canes are now 2-13-4 on the road in 2009-10. Carolina’s two road victories both came in December and both came against elite Eastern Conference teams. The Hurricanes’ previous road win came on Dec. 7 against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
Five Spot – Carolina’s Eric Staal recorded a five-point game (two goals, three assists) against the Caps, matching his single-game personal best. Staal was also plus-4 on the night.
By The Numbers – Carolina’s Tim Gleason blocked five Washington shots on the night and the Canes’ Joni Pitkanen blocked four … Mike Green skated 30:23 on the night, nearly 14 minutes more than Washington’s second most frequently used blueliner in the game, Shaone Morrisonn (16:45) … At plus-1, Eric Fehr was the only Capital with a positive plus/minus at night’s end … Alexander Semin had a minus-3 night.
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1 - 0 CAR
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3 - 0 CAR