Fifteen Blue – It says a lot about these 2009-10 Washington Capitals that on the night their franchise-record winning streak came to a halt at 14 games, they still managed to come away from the game with a point. Not only that, they came back three separate times to knot the score.
Washington rebounded from a 5-2 deficit after playing poorly for most of the game’s first 40 minutes, getting a goal in the first minute of the third period, one in the middle of the final frame and another in the final seconds to force overtime. But Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec scored with just 7.5 seconds remaining in the extra session to send Washington to a 6-5 defeat, their first in a span of 29 days.
“I knew we’d go down swinging,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “I knew we’d never just give it up. But we were pretty bad tonight. It’s very sloppy when you don’t get enough practices in.”
Brooks Laich’s hat trick – the first of his NHL career – wasn’t quite enough to put the Caps over the top. With the three-goal night, Laich becomes the fifth member of the Caps to reach the 20-goal plateau this season, and he has reached that milestone for the third consecutive season.
Washington had a goal mysteriously waved off in the middle of the second period, a tally that could have put a different paint job on this contest. Montreal’s Carey Price tried to glove down a Mike Knuble shot, but the puck glanced off his webbing and sparked a goalmouth scramble. Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill tried to corral the puck but as he did, Caps left wing Alex Ovechkin bulldozed him – and the puck – into the cage. The red light behind Price went on, and the referee pointed at the puck in the net. Goal, or so it seemed.
A conversation amongst the officials ensued, but there was no video review and no checking in with the league’s war room in Toronto. At the conclusion of the conversation, the goal was disallowed. There was also no explanation offered to the patrons in attendance or to the media assembled upstairs in the press box.
Ovechkin’s hit on Gill appeared to be clean and within the rules. If it wasn’t, why was no penalty called?
Ovechkin twice declined to comment about the incident after the game. Boudreau wasn’t happy with the call.
“If they had called it no goal, I would have accepted it,” says the Caps coach. “But they called it a goal on the ice. I didn’t think there was enough evidence to overturn it. I know Ovi hit Hal Gill, but it looked like the puck was going in the net. It didn’t really stop Carey Price from making the save. Because the puck was always in front of Hal Gill; it had to be. So the puck was going in the net before Hal Gill fell on top of Carey. That was my argument. If it had hit Hal and went back and then he fell on somebody and it bounced in, then I could see it being no goal. But I didn’t think in that situation there was enough to overturn it.”
Michal Neuvirth started in goal for Washington but was pulled at the 6:11 mark of the second period because of what Boudreau termed a “minor injury.” Jose Theodore came on in relief, seeking to establish a franchise record by winning his 11th straight game.
Theodore was nicked for three goals on just four shots in a span of 6:11 in the latter half of the second period. He settled down thereafter and made a few good saves in the third to enable the Caps to come back. But his personal winning streak came to an end at 10.
There was a feeling that if Washington could get this game to a shootout, it might hold an advantage over the injury-ridden, less-skilled Habs. A sequence of events in the final 30 seconds of overtime prevented that from occurring.
Theodore gloved a Gill shot with about 30 seconds remaining, but elected to toss the puck back into play rather than freeze it for a face-off. Alexander Semin skated the puck into the attack zone and fired his fourth errant shot of the night. This one ran around the glass behind Price and rolled out to neutral ice, in effect starting the Montreal breakout.
As the seconds ticked down, the Canadiens’ Sergei Kostitsyn carried the puck down the right wing wall toward the goal line, angling toward the net. Tomas Plekanec gave Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz the slip and parked all alone in front. As Kostitsyn threaded the puck in front, Theodore was already down on his knee and he had no chance to stop Plekanec’s crease-top tap-in. It was the third primary assist of the night for Kostitsyn, who was named the game’s No. 1 star.
While Washington showed a lot of heart, character and resilience to come back and even this one up in the third, it also showed some lackluster play in its own end that caused that three-goal deficit to begin with.
“Our forwards weren’t doing the job in the slot,” laments Boudreau. “Our defense wasn’t doing the job moving their legs down low and eliminating them. When you get those two things, usually the puck is in your net. And it was in our net six times.”
Turning Tricks – The Capitals had 39 multiple-goal games from nine different skaters in the team’s first 58 games this season. None of them were hat tricks. Washington got its first hat trick of the season from Ovechkin against Pittsburgh on Sunday, and its second from Laich tonight.
Laich’s hat trick ended a string of seven straight Washington hat tricks from Ovechkin. Prior to Wednesday night, the Caps last hat trick from someone other than Ovechkin was Semin’s three-goal game vs. Tampa Bay on March 18, 2007.
Head Hanging Hat Trick – Laich’s hat trick was the first for Washington in a losing effort since Chris Clark scored all three Capitals goals in a 4-3 loss to Boston on March 15, 2007.
Clark had two hat tricks as a member of the Capitals, and both times he scored all three Washington goals in a 4-3 loss. The other one was in a March 18, 2006 game against the Florida Panthers.
Consecutive Hatters – The hat tricks by Ovechkin and Laich in consecutive Capitals games were the team’s first in more than 11 years. Peter Bondra scored four goals for Washington in a Feb. 3, 1999 game against Tampa Bay and netted three more in the Caps’ next game, against Carolina two nights later. Those were Washington’s only two hat tricks of the 1998-99 season.
Nine Spots –Nicklas Backstrom ran his scoring streak to nine games with a goal and an assist against Montreal. He joins Green, Ovechkin, Semin and Tomas Fleischmann as the fifth Capital to have a scoring streak of at least nine games this season. Green has done so twice.
Barren Blueline – Caps defenseman Tom Poti took just three third-period shifts totaling 2:23 and none after the 7:56 mark. He is said to be day-to-day with a lower body injury, and his status for Thursday’s game in Ottawa is in doubt.
Washington rearguard John Erskine took five shifts totaling 3:12 in the third and did not skate after the 12:31 mark of the last period. He logged just 11:44 on the night.
The Caps were down to four defensemen for the final half of the third period and overtime. Green skated 13:25, Brian Pothier logged 9:54 and Schultz 9:30 after the start of the third.
Radar Adjustment – Three of the Caps’ vaunted Young Guns had trouble finding their range in the offensive zone tonight. Ovechkin, Green and Semin combined for 13 of Washington’s 38 shots on goal for the night but they also combined to have 15 shots blocked and another 10 that missed the net.
Washington had 42 errant shots (26 blocked, 16 misses) on the night and the aforementioned trio accounted for more than half (59.5%) of them.
Family Affair – Montreal’s Tom Pyatt scored his first NHL goal against Neuvirth at the 41-second mark of the second period. Pyatt is the brother of Phoenix Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt, and the Pyatt boys are the son of former Capitals forward Nelson Pyatt, a member of the original (1974-75) Washington Capitals team and the Caps’ leading goal-getter with 26 in 1975-76.
Overtime Killers – Montreal’s Wednesday win in overtime was its 13th beyond the 60-minute mark this season. That’s the most of any team in the league.
By The Numbers – The Habs blocked 26 shots on the night, and Gill got in front of 11 of them. Seven of Gill’s blocked shots came in the final 25:52 of the game … Montreal’s Andrei Markov (30:58) and the Caps’ Green (30:52) led their respective team’s defensemen in ice time. Ovechkin (29:30) and Brian Gionta (25:38) paced the Caps and Habs’ forwards, respectively … Pyatt had seven shots on goal. He had no misses, and no shots blocked … Fleischmann was just 3-for-14 (21%) in the face-off circle … Montreal outshot Washington 33-22 at even strength. The Caps had 13 shots on the power play.
1 - 0 MTL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 MTL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 MTL
4 - 2 MTL
5 - 2 MTL
5 - 3 MTL
5 - 4 MTL
5 - 5 Tie
6 - 5 MTL