Called Out -- A week ago, the Washington Capitals had the best record in the NHL. They were in the top 10 of virtually every vital team statistic: goals for, goals against, power play, penalty killing, shots for, shots against and face-off pct.
After tonight’s 3-0 home ice loss to the Florida Panthers, the Capitals own a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) for just the third time in the 255-game coaching tenure of Bruce Boudreau. The Caps have never dropped more than four straight under Boudreau’s watch.
The Caps came out with energy and fire in the early going, but had nothing to show for it. And when things drifted toward adversity, they drifted away.
Each of the game’s first five power plays went to the Capitals. Washington had seven power play chances on the night; it was just the third time this season the Caps have had more than five extra-man chances in a game. Washington had a single-game season high of 17 power play shots on goal, but they were seeds that could find no purchase behind Panthers netminder Tomas Vokoun.
In the first period, the Caps outshot the Cats 18-6, and 11 of those shots came on the power play. At one point in the middle of the game, Washington held a 26-8 advantage in shots on goal.
From that point forward, Florida outshot the Caps 24-10 and outscored them 3-0.
“It wasn’t the way we drew it up,” muses Panthers coach Pete DeBoer, “to start a period like that, taking that many penalties and giving that many opportunities. But our goaltender was our best player in the first. That allowed us to get through that. And I thought in the second and third we played really well. Our defense as a core, [it was] maybe their best game of the year.”
More than a month after last summer’s free agent shopping season started, Florida signed 5-foot-9, 186-pound defenseman Mike Weaver to a two-year deal worth a total of $1.8 million. The Panthers became the fifth team – and the fourth in the last five seasons – to employ Weaver in his 10-year NHL career.
After the game, Boudreau admitted that one of the reasons for his wholesale line changes in the third period was to get the 6-foot-2, 233-pound Ovechkin away from Weaver. Ovechkin moved to the right side of a unit with Mathieu Perreault and Brooks Laich in the game’s final frame.
“Our top six forwards weren’t very good,” says Boudreau. “Our bottom six forwards were working their hardest and getting opportunities. So I wanted to put at least one of those guys on with the other guys and maybe it would rub off, the energy would rub off.”
Weaver led the Cats with four hits and three blocked shots and he logged 8:59 worth of shorthanded ice time on the night. Weaver’s partner Jason Garrison, an undrafted free agent playing in his 58th career NHL game, played 23:10 on the night, 9:12 of which came while Florida was down a man. Garrison also drew an assist on the game-winning goal.
While DeBoers praised his defense after the game, Boudreau called out his top players for their lackluster performance of late.
“If your best players aren’t your best players,” says Boudreau, “and we’ve been shutout three times in the last 11 games, which has never happened, you’re not going to have success.
“We’ve had one goal or less in five out of the last 11 games. You have to get production out of your best players and it’s not happening right now.”
“Those are our best players,” reiterates Boudreau. “Those are our offensive guys. If they’re not going to score, and our power play is not going to work, then you better win the game 1-0. They’re not playing good enough right now to score goals.”
Knuble partially agreed with Boudreau’s assessment.
“Nobody is more embarrassed than the players today,” says the veteran right wing. “We’ve got some of our players that have flown under the radar with their play – myself included. I’m probably the No. 1 culprit. It’s not on Ovie. It’s not on Nick. It is not on our top guys all the time. Other guys need to help out. We’ve all got to better.”
Washington is now a sub-ordinary 4-5-2 in its last 11 games, and it has been outscored 31-25 in those 11 contests. Even worse, the league’s top offensive team from a season ago has scored one or zero goals in five of those 11 games, and it has been blanked three times.
The Caps went from Nov. 29, 2008 to Nov. 17, 2010 with three shutout losses in 160 games. Now they’ve got three whitewashes against them in 11 games.
The Capitals have fallen behind Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the league and Eastern Conference standings, and four other teams (Montreal, Detroit, Boston and Dallas) could have more points than the Caps if they’d played as many games (30) as Washington has.
No Place Like Home – Three games into a four-game homestand – the Caps’ longest of the season – the Caps have dropped all three (0-2-1). It’s the team’s longest losing streak on home ice since Washington dropped all four (0-3-1) games of a four-game homestand from March 1-8, 2009.
Vokoun’s blanking of the Caps on Verizon Center ice is the first whitewash by a visiting goaltender since Columbus’ Steve Mason turned the trick on Jan. 9, 2009.
Fehr Firing – After being a healthy scratch in Washington’s 5-4 shootout loss to Toronto on Monday, right wing Eric Fehr was back in the lineup tonight. He fired five shots in his first two shifts of the game, and finished with six to match his single-game career high.
That strong start earned him a demotion to the fourth line in the third period, when he skated five shifts totaling 3:36. Fehr entered the game with an average of 12:42 per night in ice time this season; he logged 11:43 in Thursday’s game against the Panthers.
Fehr led the Caps in shots on goal against Florida. He has 15 shots on goal in his last 36-plus minutes of ice time over his last three games.
Power Outage – Washington went 0-for-7 on the power play against the Panthers. That’s the first time the Caps have failed to score in a regular season game in which they had as many as seven power play opportunities since a 5-4 win over the Thrashers in Atlanta on Oct. 22, 2009. The Caps were 0-for-7 with the extra man in that one.
The last time Washington went 0-for-7 or worse on the power play and lost a regular season game was Feb. 8, 2008 when it was 0-for-7 in a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes at Verizon Center.
Ovechkin has now gone 19 games without a power play goal and has had a power play goal in just one of Washington's 30 games this season. He has yet to light the lamp on a power play on home ice this season.
Streak Stopped – Tonight’s loss halted Washington’s six-game winning streak against Florida. The Capitals won all six meetings between the two clubs last season, scoring a total of 32 goals in the process.
A Bout Time –Matt Hendricks’ first-period scrap with Florida’s Kenndal McArdle was Washington’s 20th fighting major of the 2010-11 season and it came in the team’s 30th game. That matches the Capitals’ total amount of fighting majors recorded in the entire 82-game regular season of 2009-10.
Power Source – Florida’s anemic power play pushed one past Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov with 2:34 left in regulation, marking just the third game in the last 19 in which the Cats have scored a power play goal. The Panthers are now 5-for-66 (7.6%) with the extra man in their last 19 games.
By The Numbers –John Carlson and Marcus Johansson were the only Capitals that did not record a shot on goal … The Caps missed the net 16 times, with Alexander Semin accounting for six of those misses … Mike Green led all players on both sides with 29:19 in ice time … Boyd Gordon won eight of nine (89%) face-offs on the night.
1 - 0 FLA
2 - 0 FLA
3 - 0 FLA
Delaying Game - Puck over glass
Holding the stick