Grand Theft Points – Firing early and often, the Capitals staked themselves to a 2-0 lead after the first 40 minutes of play on Monday against the Dallas Stars. The Caps outshot Dallas by a 42-16 margin in the process. But the Caps got into penalty trouble in the third, and their tenuous penalty-killing unit wasn’t up to the task. The Stars scored three third-period goals on their way to a 4-3 shootout win over Washington.
“I thought the entire team had a hiccup in the third period,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “I think getting 42 shots in two periods – you’re not going to get 64 shots in a game. They [Dallas] came on [in the third period] and thought, ‘Hey, we’re still in the game.’ Once they got the first one in, I knew it was going to be a dog fight.”
Coming into Monday night’s game at Verizon Center, the Stars had struggled. After a 6-2-1 stretch leading into the NHL’s Olympic break, the Stars had dropped three straight coming out of the hiatus. Goaltending was at the forefront of the problem; the Stars had been violated for 17 goals on just 83 shots (.795 save pct.) in the three games.
Goaltending was not a problem for Dallas on Monday. Marty Turco turned in a vintage performance, stealing a pair of points for a team on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture. Even after Monday’s improbable win in Washington, the Stars are still in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, four points off the pace with 17 games to go and two teams to leap-frog. The two points Dallas gained on Monday enabled it to push past St. Louis in the standings.
“It’s games like this when you come into a team with that much confidence and that good in this building,” says Dallas center Brad Richards. “I don’t mind saying [Turco] has to be our best player probably on those nights. We don’t have the talent to match up with them line for line, player for player so that’s when some nights it should be called ‘goalie’ not ‘hockey.’”
“It was all about the win,” says Turco. “To have a chance in the third period was huge for us. Then for guys to step up on the power play with guys paying the price in front of the net to get those ugly ones. Those are the things that we needed.
“Hopefully this group, and I believe it is, is smart enough to realize how big this win was, to come back like that against this team [shows] that we can not only play with anybody but win.”
Home Cooking – Washington’s home-ice winning streak was halted at 13 games. The Caps are now 25-3-4 on home ice this season. They are 6-0-2 against Western Conference opponents at Verizon Center.
The loss was the first on home ice for Varlamov this season (8-0-1).
96 Tears – Washington teed up a gaudy total of 96 shots on goal during the 65 minutes of play on Monday. In addition to the 52 shots it put on goal, Washington also had 27 shot attempts blocked and it missed on another 17 tries.
The 60/40 Split – Caps goaltender Jose Theodore pitched a 2-0, 30-save shutout against the Rangers on Saturday night. Yet the Caps went with Semyon Varlamov in goal against Dallas on Monday, keeping the pattern of alternating the two goaltenders in the four games since the Olympic break.
Washington still has 16 games in which to solve its goaltending conundrum heading into the playoffs, but Theodore has taken an early lead. The veteran goaltender is 12-0-2 in his last 14 appearances with a 2.38 GAA and a .929 save pct. during that span. In the shorter term, he has stopped 53 of the 54 shots he has faced (against Buffalo on the road and the Rangers at home) since the break.
Varlamov has allowed 13 goals in three starts (4.24 GAA, .843 save pct.) since coming off injured reserve – where he had been parked for more than two months with a lower body injury – in mid-February. He has surrendered seven goals on 55 shots in his two starts since the break.
Back On The Beam –Alex Ovechkin scored two of Washington’s three goals, halting a personal six-game, red light dry spell.
Ovechkin showed visible signs of relief when he netted his first goal of the game, a power play strike in the second period.
“You could see it,” says Boudreau. “He looked up at the sky, and he had been frustrated the past few games. I told him this morning, ‘you just have to work harder.’ I thought he was in a mode where he was waiting for the play to come to him instead of going out and creating the play. But you saw in his first two or three shifts in the game he was going out and hitting guys and he had his energy back. When he has his energy, he is what he is: the best player in the world.”
Ovechkin fired 10 shots on goal, had three blocked and missed with four tries. He also recorded half a dozen hits.
Fifty Not Nifty – Tonight marked the first time in more than four years that the Capitals managed more than 50 shots on goal in a game. It was also the third straight loss for the Caps when firing 50 or more shots on goal.
The Caps absorbed a 5-1 loss to the Thrashers in Atlanta on March 16, 2009 despite outshooting the home team by a 50-25 margin.
Roberto Luongo, then with the Florida Panthers, stopped 53 of the 55 shots he faced in a Dec. 18, 2005 game against the Caps at Verizon Center to help the Swamp Cats to a 3-2 win.
The 200 Club – Ex-Cap draftee Krys Barch, Washington’s fourth-round (106th overall) choice in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, played in his 200th career NHL game with Dallas on Monday night at Verizon Center.
Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps captain Chris Clark, born on this day in 1976. And to Hockey Hall of Famer and ex-Cap Larry Murphy, born on this day in 1961. Also, happy birthday to former Washington blueliner Mike Lalor, born on this day in 1963; to former Caps defenseman Rob Zettler, born on this day in 1968 and to former original “Young Gun” and ex-Cap Rob Pearson, born on this day in 1971.
Five of the 17 NHL players born on this day have donned a Capitals sweater at some point in their respective careers.
By The Numbers – Washington’s 23 shots in the second period is a single-period high for the season, and two shy of the all-time franchise record for period … John Erskine had four and Tom Poti three of Washington’s 10 blocked shots through the first 40 minutes. The Caps blocked another 13 shots in the third, with neither Erskine nor Poti contributing to the total … Trevor Daley blocked seven shots and Karlis Skrastins got in the way of six to account for nearly half of the Stars’ total of 27 blocks on the night … Brooks Laich matched his single-game career best with seven shots on goal … Ovechkin laid six of Washington’s 21 hits on the night … Mike Knuble skated 20:41 on Monday, the seventh time this season he has eclipsed 20 minutes in ice time. Five of those seven 20-minute nights have come in his last seven games.
1 - 0 WSH
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