Six Pack – Washington’s losing streak reached six on Sunday night in New York as the Caps took a 7-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Rangers. It is the Capitals’ worst loss since an 8-1 defeat in Pittsburgh on Jan. 25, 2006, and the team’s worst shutout setback in nearly a quarter of a century.
Until Saturday night, the Caps were the only NHL team in the last three years that had not suffered a winless streak of as many as five games. Now the streak has stretched to six, a number the Caps haven’t seen in the way of consecutive losses since March, 2007.
“I don’t have an answer right now,” rues Boudreau. “I’ve got to think about this. It is unfamiliar territory. I think we have a lot of people feeling sorry for their selves. But as you can tell, teams aren’t feeling sorry for you. They’re pushing it on and piling it on. We have to find a way to get out of this, that’s all. Before it’s too late.”
Starting with Brandon Prust’s goal late in the first period, the Rangers tallied four times in a span of just 6:33 to put the game away.
“It was going okay until the first goal,” says Boudreau. “In the second period then it just – I’m trying to find the right words here – but we didn’t get a save, is one thing.”
Starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov stopped only 14 of the 20 shots he faced on the night, but Boudreau was unable to pull him because backup Michal Neuvirth is one of several Caps still bothered by the flu.
“Neuvy got sick before the game,” relates Boudreau. “We didn’t have time to pull anybody up and he couldn’t go in. We asked him and he was barely on the bench. That’s what happened. We couldn’t make the change.”
Caps winger Matt Hendricks dropped the gloves with New York’s Michael Sauer less than a minute after the fourth Rangers goal, and team captain Alex Ovechkin followed suit with Brandon Dubinsky less than five minutes later.
The fight was the first actual punch-throwing scrap of Ovechkin’s regular season NHL career, and his second fighting major. He got five for fighting Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad on Dec. 2, 2006.
“I saw a lot of emotion and frustration,” says Boudreau of Ovechkin’s bout. “It’s his first fight, I think. He did what great leaders do, try to get their team going. That’s what he did.”
There was no spark to be had on this night. For the sixth time in as many games – and the 11th time in the last 12 games – Washington outshot the opposition. But for the sixth straight night, it wound up on the wrong end of the score.
“We have to do something,” says Caps right wing Eric Fehr, the only one of Washington’s 18 skaters not to be saddled with a minus against the Rangers. “Ovi is our leader, [he’s] finishing checks and they’ve got guys going after him all game. We needed guys on our team to step up, play physical and play tough. I think guys did a great job. [Matt Hendricks] did an unbelievable job in the third period.”
Hendricks had a second fight in the third period, this one with the Rangers’ Sean Avery.
“When you’ve lost six in a row, you get behind and you get deflated,” says Boudreau. “And so when they scored a couple of quick goals and when you’re not scoring as a group, you go, ‘Oh geez, what kind of mountain is this going to be to climb?’ and it gets more difficult. But that’s where you have to have resolve. That’s where you have to be defiant and not let it happen. But right now we’ve got too many guys that are feeling sorry for themselves.”
The Caps now own their first six-game losing streak since an 0-5-1 run from March 21-31, 2007.
The last time Washington lost more than six straight was a nine-game skid (0-6-3) from Feb. 25-Mar. 15, 2007.
After being shutout a total of four times in a span of 190 regular season games from March 2008 to Nov. 2010, the Capitals have now been blanked four times in the last 13 games. That’s the fastest the Caps have been whitewashed four times in a dozen years. Washington was blanked four times in a span of 10 games from Nov. 27-Dec. 19, 1998.
The last time the Caps suffered a shutout loss by more than six goals was on Jan. 28, 1986 when Red Wings rookie goalie Mark Laforest whitewashed them by a 7-0 count in Detroit for the first of his two career shutouts.
Laforest went 4-21 with a 4.95 GAA and an .846 save pct. that season.
Washington will take Monday off to regroup. Tuesday is a practice day, and the Anaheim Ducks come to the District on Wednesday. After practices on Thursday and Friday, the Caps head back out on the road for Northeast tilts in Boston (Saturday) and Ottawa (Sunday).
Boudreau plans on using those practices to get his team pointed in the right direction. On Dec. 1, the Caps owned the best record in the NHL. Now, their Southeast Division lead is down to three points over Tampa Bay and four over Atlanta. Both the Lightning and the Thrashers have two games in hand on Washington.
“We’ve got one game Wednesday,” says the Caps coach. “We’ve got three practices in there. Now is the time to fix it. We have to fix it. We have to fix it soon. We’ve had the build-up of points, and they’ve gone away. It’s now time to turn it around and put it back on track.”
Less Than Zero – Washington has been outscored by a combined 33-16 at even strength it its last 13 games. Of those who have played in six or more of those games, only three players – Ovechkin, Mike Knuble and Marcus Johansson – have been on the ice for more even-strength goals scored for the Caps than even-strength goals against during that span.
Familiar Place, Familiar Time – Nearly two years ago, right wing Andrew Gordon was summoned from AHL Hershey to make his NHL debut for the Caps at Madison Square Garden. That Dec. 23, 2008 game started poorly for the Capitals as they found themselves on the short end of a 4-0 deficit early in the second period. But Washington rallied and won that game on a Shaone Morrisonn overtime goal, 5-4.
That was the lone NHL contest for Gordon that season; he got into two more in 2009-10, in Toronto and Ottawa.
“From my past experience here,” says Gordon, “I know this team is capable of a lot of things. Quick outbursts of offense are nothing out of the ordinary for these guys. I didn’t think we were never dead in the water. A couple of back-breaking plays late but when you hit five posts it’s sort of tough to believe it’s going to eventually bounce our way.
“You’ve got to just keep pressing. I’ve only been here for one of these games, but I know the boys have been struggling a little bit. Nobody wins a championship in December. I know the boys are wanting to win every night, but there’s a lot of season left and there’s a lot of growing to do. This is just a minor bump in the road, I believe.”
All four of Gordon’s four career NHL games have come on the road. Sunday night’s loss to the Rangers was the first NHL game in which he played that did not require overtime.
Payback – Washington entered tonight’s game with four straight victories over the Rangers and a 9-1-1 record in the previous 11 meetings between the two teams.
Road Killed – Last season, the Capitals established a single-season franchise record with 24 road wins. This season, the Caps are off to a 6-7-1 start on the road. They’ve suffered three shutout losses on the road and have been outscored by a combined 42-32.
Built For Back-to-Backs – The Rangers improved to 8-0 this season when playing the second of games on back-to-back nights. New York is 3-0 in such games on home ice this season.
Over the last two seasons, the Rangers are 17-2-2 in the second of back-to-back games and they’re 7-1-1 on Madison Square Garden ice in those games.
Howe Hat – Dubinsky had a Gordie Howe hat trick for the Rangers. Prust needed only a fighting major for a Gordie Howe hatter of his own. He and Washington’s Jason Chimera got tangled up late in the third, but both players received 10-minute misconducts rather than fighting majors.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears played a Sunday afternoon contest in Charlotte, losing a 5-3 decision to the Checkers.
The Bears fell into a 3-0 first-period hole before Jay Beagle’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season – tied for the league lead – and Sheldon Souray’s first goal as a Bear brought Hershey to within one.
That’s as close as the visitors would get. The Checkers tallied twice to restore their three-goal advantage before Lawrence Nycholat’s fourth of the season made for a 5-3 final with less than two minutes to play.
With 33 points, the Bears are fourth in the AHL’s East Division, a point behind the third-place Checkers.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays finished up their weekend on the road with a 3-2 shootout win over the Devils in Trenton. Johann Kroll and Jordan Pietrus scored for the Stingrays, and Luke Popko supplied the decisive shootout strike to make a winner of goaltender Jared DeMichiel. DeMichiel made 37 saves to run his record to 6-5 on the season.
The game was a homecoming of sorts for South Carolina head coach Cail MacLean, who spent the better part of three seasons playing with the ECHL Trenton Titans from 1999-2002, a span that included a pair of deep playoff runs.
At 11-13-1-0, the Stingrays have 23 points and occupy the cellar of the ECHL’s South Division.
By The Numbers – The seven goals allowed in Sunday night’s game is a single-game career high for Varlamov … Nicklas Backstrom and Scott Hannan were the only Capitals not to record shots on goal in Sunday’s game … Backstrom, Hannan, Chimera and Alexander Semin were all a minus-3 in the game … Ovechkin had six shots blocked, John Carlson had five … The Caps blocked a total of six New York shots … Ovechkin led the Caps with seven hits in 16 minutes of ice time … Boyd Gordon was 9-for-11 (82%) and Mathieu Perreault was 10-for-14 (71%) in the face-off circle but Johansson was 0-for-7 … Ryan Callahan led the Rangers with six hits … Brian Boyle Led the Blueshirts with seven blocked shots.
Wrist shot -
1 - 0 NYR
Snap shot -
2 - 0 NYR