No Point – On Thursday night in Ottawa, the Capitals continued their habit of giving up the game’s first goal and coming back from a multiple-goal deficit. But in the end, they also lost their second game in as many nights by the same score. A night after dropping a 6-5 overtime decision to the Canadiens in Montreal, the Capitals absorbed a regulation setback by the same score at the hands of the Senators in Ottawa.
“It was an ugly display,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “I thought our defense was horrible and our goaltending was horrible. You’re not going to win when you give up six goals and maybe five of them are bad ones and your ‘D’ can’t make a play.”
The game was the first in a month in which Washington did not pick up a point. The Capitals are now 17-2-1 in their last 20 games and 28-8-1 in their last 37.
The Caps’ same bad habits from their last handful of games crept in early in Thursday’s game. Washington was fine for the first five minutes, but Ottawa’s Jason Spezza gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead with a wicked shot that went high blocker side on Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov, making his first NHL start in more than two months. The shot was the first of the game for the Senators, and it ended a 68:42 shutout streak by Varlamov. He had blanked Tampa Bay 3-0 in his previous start on Dec. 7.
Turnovers and poor defensive zone play started early and lasted through the night.
“I think we’re trying to do too much with the puck instead of trying to put it up the boards,” says blueliner Jeff Schultz. “It seems like were trying to force it up the middle. Teams take it away and we’re still trying to do it. In our zone we’re watching instead of moving and closing in on the [opposing] players. It’s giving them time and space. We get running around and that’s when you get in trouble.”
Milan Michalek became Ottawa’s first 20-goal scorer midway through the first, and the Caps’ Tomas Fleischmann halved the deficit with his 18th goal of the season – and first since Jan. 21 – late in the frame.
Washington shot itself in the foot with a late hooking call to Brendan Morrison. Ottawa’s power play – ranked 30th in the league – converted with just 6.7 seconds left in the first to push their lead to 3-1. Longtime Caps killer Daniel Alfredsson hurt Washington once again, firing a shot through Varlamov’s five-hole from the right circle. That goal put the Caps into a 3-1 hole after 20 minutes.
Washington’s comeback got underway in the second. Jeff Schultz floated a shot from center point behind Sens goalie Brian Elliott for his third of the season. Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble did some good work along the walls and behind the Ottawa net to retain possession of the puck on that score.
The Alexander Semin show started late in the second. The Caps’ skilled winger scored twice in a span of 42 seconds in a tour de force exhibition, showing off some slick moves and ripping wristers high into the cage behind Elliott from each side of the ice. Semin’s second strike gave Washington a 4-3 lead.
Ottawa showed fire after the second Semin goal, and the Caps were again nicked for a tough goal late in a period when Chris Neil tapped in a rebound to even it at 4-4 with less than two minutes left in the second. It was the first of three unanswered goals for the Sens.
Down two in the third, the Caps pulled to within one when Semin completed his hat trick with yet another wicked wrister. But tonight’s late comeback fell short, leaving Washington without a point.
For the second time in as many nights, a Capitals hat trick came in a losing effort.
“Anytime you score 10 goals and two guys have hat tricks in the last two games, you should be able to win the games,” says defneseman Brian Pothier. “We’ve scored 10 goals. That should be enough to get us a win. But on the backside of the puck we didn’t play as well as we need to. It was the same as [Wednesday] night. We turned the puck over and gave them a lot of chances they didn’t have to work really hard for. We gave them a lot of turnovers.”
It wasn’t offense that failed the Caps; the team has scored at least four goals in each of its last three losses. Washington had climbed as high as 11th in the league’s goals against rankings during the height of its recent winning streak, but it has fallen to 20th at 2.80 goals per game after Thursday’s loss in Ottawa.
Triple Trick – For the first time in Washington’s franchise history, the team has recorded hat tricks in three consecutive games. Ovechkin scored three times against Pittsburgh on Sunday, Brooks Laich had a hat trick against the Canadiens on Wednesday and Semin had three against the Sens on Thursday.
There have been 52 hat tricks in the NHL this season, and only three times has the team with the hat trick lost the game (49-2-1). Washington has accounted for two of those losses in the last two nights.
Five Spot – Thursday’s game marks the fifth straight game in which Washington has scored five or more goals in a game. It had been nearly 17 years since the Caps had such an offensive spree. The Capitals scored five or more goals in five straight games from March 18-25, 1993.
While Washington has scored 26 goals in its last five games, it has also surrendered 23.
Helping Hands – Caps defenseman Mike Green had a pair of assists in Thursday’s game, giving him 44 for the season. That’s a career high for the Caps’ 2009 Norris nominee; he had 42 last season.
Green is bidding to become the first Washington defenseman with 50 assists in a season since Kevin Hatcher notched 50 in 1990-91. Scott Stevens holds the franchise record with 61 in 1988-89.
Green recorded his 200th career point in Montreal on Wednesday. He has picked up at least a point in six straight games now. Green has already had three scoring streaks of at least eight games previously this season.
Streak Stuff – Ovechkin extended his scoring streak to nine games; he has nine goals, 10 assists and is plus-13 in those games. Ovechkin’s longest career point streak is a 13-game run from three seasons ago.
Nicklas Backstrom’s scoring streak was stopped at nine games. Brooks Laich had two assists, and he has multiple points in consecutive contests for the first time since the opening two contests of the season.
Back Between the Pipes – Varlamov’s loss was just the second regulation setback of his regular season career in 20 starts. His only prior defeat was a 3-2 loss at New Jersey on Nov. 4.
Even after his tough night on Thursday, Varlamov is 12-2-2 with a 2.44 GAA and a .916 save pct. this season.
Bourque 2.0 – Claimed by Pittsburgh off waivers just before opening night and then reclaimed by the Capitals a couple months later, Chris Bourque was recalled from AHL Hershey on Thursday and he made his 2009-10 debut against the Senators. He was minus-2 in 9:37 of ice time.
Bourque had 22 points in his last 11 AHL games this season. He becomes the 21st Capital to be reacquired and serve multiple non-consecutive terms with the team.
Turn Back The Clock – Seventeen years ago tonight, the Caps scored 10 goals in a game in St. Louis on their way to a 10-6 victory. Two nights later, they netted another 10 goals in a 10-3 win over the Kings in Los Angeles.
Cap Killer – Alfredsson continued his mastery of the Capitals. He now has 32 goals and 56 points in 50 career games against Washington.
By The Numbers –Matt Bradley paced the Caps with four hits in just nine minutes of work … Fleischmann was 2-for-11 (18%) on face-offs. He did not take any draws in the third and skated just 12:15, a night after he logged more than 20 minutes against Montreal … Ovechkin had one shot on goal and eight blocked … Semin had nine shots on goal and six blocked … The Capitals teed up 64 shots (24 on goal, 29 blocked and 11 missed) to Ottawa’s 40 (28 on goal, five blocked and seven missed) … Anton Volchenkov blocked 11 shots for the Sens, one night after Hal Gill blocked 11 for Montreal against the Caps.
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