Five Spot – Prior to Bruce Boudreau being appointed the Capitals’ head coach on Nov. 22, 2007, the Caps had dropped five straight games and nine of their previous 10 (1-8-1). For the next three-plus years, Washington went without a losing streak of five games in length.
Until Saturday, that is.
The Colorado Avalanche handed the Caps their fifth straight setback on Saturday, a 3-2 loss that left Washington with a 0-3-1 mark on a four-game homestand, its longest of the season.
“I think we played really hard,” notes Caps forward Matt Hendricks. “ We had great goaltending tonight. We played a solid 60 minutes, but they played well too. We made a couple of mistakes and they took advantage of it. But I’m happy with the effort tonight compared to the last few games.”
After losing a face-off in their own end early in the first, the Caps surrendered the game’s first goal, a shot from rookie Avs defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk that eluded Washington netminder Michal Neuvirth.
Caps winger Mike Knuble evened it up midway through the first when he gave a backhand swat to a midair rebound of an Alex Ovechkin shot.
Washington fell into a 2-1 hole late in the first frame when a poor line change coupled with a sublime feed from Colorado center Paul Stastny combined to leave defenseman Ryan Wilson with all the time and space he needed to fire a shot past Neuvirth.
Just past the six-minute mark of the second, Caps winger Alexander Semin incurred a five-minute major and a game misconduct for cross-checking Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles. Washington did a good job of killing the major penalty, but nearly four minutes into the kill Shattenkirk found Stastny parked on the back door of the Washington goal. He threaded a perfect pass and the Colorado center tapped it home for his third point on as many Avs goals and a 3-1 lead for the visitors.
Faced with a two-goal deficit and the specter of a fifth straight loss, the Caps rallied hard. Outshooting the Avs 17-5 in the final frame and pouring 36 shot attempts toward the Colorado cage compared to just 10 that the Avalanche was able to tee up in the final 20 minutes.
That furious finish resulted in a power play goal from former Avalanche forward Hendricks, but the Caps were never able to get the equalizer past Colorado netminder Craig Anderson, who made 40 saves in recording his second win in as many nights.
“We’ve had some tough breaks during this stretch,” says Caps right wing Eric Fehr, “but I think it’s great the way we stayed strong in the third period. It felt like we were in their end the entire third period but just not able to put one in. It felt like we had some good energy.”
Bite The Hand – Hendricks’ goal came against the team that gave him his start in the NHL in 2008-09. The goal was the first power play tally of Hendricks’ NHL career and it came in his 90th game in the league. Earlier this season, he recorded his first career power play point with Washington.
A Season Of Sorts – Washington defenseman Karl Alzner played in the 82nd game of his NHL career – the equivalent of one full season in the league – on Saturday against the Avs, just over two years after he made his NHL debut with Washington.
Alzner picked up an assist on Knuble’s goal, giving him two goals and 14 points to go along with a minus-4 rating and 24 penalty minutes in his first 82 games in the league.
Kid Stuff – Saturday’s game featured two of the league’s top three rookie defensemen in terms of scoring.
Despite playing in just of Colorado’s 29 games this season, Shattenkirk leads all rookie defensemen in goals (five) and points (16).
Anaheim’s Cam Fowler – who will make his first NHL visit to Verizon Center on Wednesday – ranks second among rookie blueliners with 14 points, and Caps defenseman John Carlson is third with 13 points.
Old Home – Colorado head coach Joe Sacco returned to Verizon Center – a building he called home for three seasons as a Caps forward from 1999-2002 – for the first time as an NHL bench boss in Saturday’s game.
Sacco was joined by Avs assistant coach Steve Konowalchuk, a former Caps captain and longtime Washington forward. It was also Konwalchuk’s first trip back to the District in his current capacity.
Eleven days after being traded to the Avs, former Caps forward Tomas Fleischmann played against the organization with which he spent most of the last seven years. He skated 20:49, had two shots on goal, took a minor penalty and was a minus-1.
The Caps obtained defenseman Scott Hannan in the deal for Fleischmann. Hannan was on the ice for all three Colorado goals in his first game against his former team. Hannan skated 18:31 and recorded a minus-2 with one shot on goal and one blocked shot.
Down On The Farm – A night after a 2-1 shootout win in Charlotte, the AHL Hershey Bears had Saturday night off. They’ll face Charlotte again on Sunday afternoon.
The Bears currently stand third in the AHL’s East Division, a point ahead of fourth-place Charlotte.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays dropped a 4-3 road decision to the Reading Royals on Saturday night. Defenseman Josh Godfrey scored a pair of power play goals in the second for the Stingrays, and David de Kastrozza added the third South Carolina strike.
Goaltender Todd Ford made 32 saves in a losing effort. The Stingrays play a Sunday matinee in Trenton to close out the weekend.
By The Numbers – Knuble’s goal was the 250th tally of his NHL career … The Caps took 84 shots, 42 of which went on goal. They had 27 shots blocked and 15 that missed the net … Carlson led all Caps with 26:01 in ice time – the sixth time this season he has done so – and Nicklas Backstrom led Caps forwards with 25:05. Both players missed Friday’s practice because of flu symptoms … Ryan O’Byrne led the Avalanche with seven blocked shots … Brian Fahey was the only Washington skater who did not record a shot on goal in Saturday’s game … Hannan, Boyd Gordon, Matt Bradley and Jason Chimera were the only four of the Caps’ 18 skaters who did not have one of their shot tries blocked in Saturday’s game … Ovechkin led the Caps with five hits. Wilson paced the Avs with five hits.
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 COL
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1 - 1 Tie
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2 - 1 COL
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3 - 1 COL
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3 - 2 COL
Cross checking (maj)