Two Straight – In the 25 months since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the Washington bench, the Caps have prided themselves on rarely losing consecutive games in regulation.
The Capitals’ 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks here on Wednesday night comes on the heels of Monday’s 6-3 home ice loss at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes, giving Washington its first pair of successive regulation defeats since Oct. 8-10 when it lost to the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings, respectively.
Playing their first road game in 11 days, the Caps started out the same way they did in the last one, digging a 2-0 hole. But while Washington was able to rebound with a four-goal third period against the Oilers in a 4-2 comeback win at Edmonton on Dec. 19, the Caps were unable to bounce back against the Sharks.
“This is a different team than Edmonton,” says Caps center Brendan Morrison. “It’s tough the last couple of games; we’ve dug ourselves holes. The first period so far this year has been our best period. The last couple of games it hasn’t been. We’ve got to refocus here and get our first periods going and be ready to battle right off the bat. Tonight, we weren’t initially ready, I don’t think.”
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau believes his team was ready.
“I wish I had an answer,” says Boudreau. “where you could do 82 games and you could come out and dominate in the first periods of 82 games. It doesn’t happen all the time and we haven’t done it in the last two games. Hopefully it’s not because they’re not ready because I think we’re preparing them and I don’t think that’s the reason. We’ll get out of that.”
In the 61 games Boudreau coached to conclude the 2007-08 regular season, the Caps lost two regulation games in a row just once, and never lost more than two straight. Last season, in Boudreau’s first full season behind the bench, the Capitals dropped two straight in regulation twice and lost three in a row in regulation on three separate occasions, most recently on March. 1-5. Washington has not lost more than three straight games in the 183 games in which Boudreau has been at the helm.
“Let’s win,” says Boudreau when asked what his message will be to his team heading into Saturday afternoon’s game in Los Angeles. “The message is ‘we don’t do this. We don’t lose back-to-backs.’ It’s something we take pride in. We know we’re playing a really good team in Los Angeles. I don’t know what they’re going to do [Thursday] night [at Minnesota]. They’ve lost two in a row so they’re going to be really hungry as well. It’s going to be a real battle.”
Foundering in the First – The Caps had led opponents by a combined 49-19 in the first periods of their first 38 games this season. In their last two games, the Capitals have been outshot 23-7 and outscored 5-0 in the first 20 minutes.
“I don’t know if we were playing tentative or a little bit cautious,” says Morrison of his team’s first-period performance. “They obviously have a good team, but so do we. A couple mistakes directly led to goals. We battled harder in the second and third and were a little more intense. The first period, I don’t know why it was kind of like a feeling out period.
“We had chances to get back in with our power play, but we really only have one line going right now. It’s been that way for a couple of weeks now. We need to get some secondary scoring. It would help out a lot.”
Moving On Up – Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin scored a third-period goal, his 26th of the season. The tally moves Ovechkin into a tie for the league lead with the Rangers’ Marian Gaborik. With 50 points this season, Ovechkin is now in sole possession of third place in the league’s scoring race. He trails the Sharks’ Joe Thornton by five points.
Ovechkin has a five-game scoring streak (five goals, seven assists), a game shy of his longest run of the season. He has eight goals and 20 points in 11 games since returning from a two-game NHL suspension earlier in December.
New Cap – Left wing Jason Chimera, acquired from Columbus in Monday’s trade for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina, made his debut in a Capitals sweater here in San Jose tonight. Chimera is the 24th player in franchise history to sport sweater No. 25.
He logged 11:22 in ice time, recorded three hits, a shot on goal and collected his first point as a Capital with the primary helper on Mike Knuble’s seventh goal of the season.
“You feel like kind of like a rookie again,” says Chimera of his Washington debut. “[I was] pretty nervous at the start but felt better as the game went on. I felt I got my legs under me as I went along, but that’s not the way you want to start, that’s for sure.
“It was a tough game overall. We battle pretty hard the second half, but they seemed to get timely goals and timely scoring.”
Turning The Calendar – Tonight’s game in San Jose was Washington’s last game of calendar 2009. The Caps finished up calendar 2009 with a 50-23-11 record in 84 games.
Staring Down The Best – Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth had a tough night in goal tonight, but he made some good saves early on while the game was close.
For the third straight game, Neuvirth went up against a goaltender who figures to be his team’s starter in the upcoming Vancouver Olympic Games.
Last Wednesday, Neuvirth bested Buffalo’s Ryan Miller – the certain Olympic starter for Team USA – by a 5-2 count in a game at Verizon Center. Three nights later, Neuvirth outdueled New Jersey’s legendary Martin Brodeur, who figures to be Team Canada’s No. 1 guy in February.
Tonight, Neuvirth came up on the short end against Evgeni Nabokov, the starter for Team Russia two months from now.
Streaking Still – Washington’s streak of futility in San Jose continues. The Caps have not won in San Jose since Oct. 30, 1993 and are now 0-9-1 in their last 10 visits to the Shark Tank. The Capitals have been doubled up 38-19 on the scoreboard in those 10 contests.
Doubled Up – San Jose was awarded a pair of penalty shots in Wednesday’s game, and both were a bit dubious in nature. The Sharks scored on both bids, marking the first time two players on the same team scored penalty shot goals in the same game since Vancouver’s Thomas Gradin and the late Ivan Hlinka scored in a game against Detroit on Feb. 11, 1982.
For Washington, it was just the second time the Caps had faced a pair of penalty shots in a game in their history. The only other time came just a couple weeks into the team’s history.
Back on Oct. 23, 1974, Caps goalie Michel Belhumeur faced down penalty shots from the Blackhawks’ Jim Pappin and Stan Mikita in a game at Chicago. Belhumeur stopped both penalty shots, but the Caps lost 3-2 anyway.
Sharks First – Tonight’s game marked the first time in San Jose franchise history that the team scored two goals on a penalty shot in the same game.
By The Numbers – Washington outhit San Jose by a 46-32 margin. Ovechkin and Matt Bradley led the way with half a dozen body blows each … Morrison skated 13:05 on the night, his second lowest ice time of the season and his lowest since he logged 12:47 in a Nov. 4 loss at New Jersey … Shaone Morrisonn led the Caps with four blocked shots, accounting for a third of his team’s total on the night.
Wrist shot -