Seven Down – The Capitals played a tight defensive game and a well-disciplined game against Anaheim on Wednesday. They bottled up the Ducks’ dangerous top line for most of the game, stuck to their coach’s game plan and still came up on the losing end of a 2-1 overtime decision with Anaheim.
“They were very focused,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of his team. “They did the game plan to a tee. I thought we played very good. Sometimes you play very good and lose. We got a point, which I think for the psyche was very big.”
Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf administered the death blow in overtime, firing a wrist shot past goaltender Semyon Varlamov. With about a minute remaining in overtime, Getzlaf smartly criss-crossed with Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky down low in the Washington end, a move that helped him shake rookie Caps blueliner John Carlson. Getzlaf curled out of the corner to the right face-off dot, then used Carlson’s partner Scott Hannan as a screen and beat Varlamov short side.
The loss is Washington’s seventh in succession (0-5-2), the team’s longest skid since it dropped nine straight (0-6-3) from Feb. 25-March 15, 2007.
Washington had several strong scoring chances that went by the wayside in the game’s first 40 minutes, and that ended up being the difference in the contest.
In their last 14 games, the Capitals are now 4-8-2 with the four wins coming consecutively, sandwiched between winless streaks of three and seven games. They’ve been held to one or zero goals in half of those last 14 contests.
“When they’re not going in,” says forward Brooks Laich, who supplied the lone Caps goal in this one, “they’re not going in. But I thought our team did a great job without the puck and if we play like that, we are going to get rewarded for it. I thought the game plan the coaches set for us was done very well.”
After he gave the Caps a 1-0 lead, another Laich shot trickled through Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller only to be swiped away from the goal line with Getzlaf’s stick at the last possible instant.
Eric Fehr deked Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller on a semi-breakaway in the first, but couldn’t raise a backhander over the goalie’s right pad.
Sprung with a perfect home run pass from Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin hit the post on a clean breakaway in the second.
A three-on-one chance with Green coming in as the late guy to join Mike Knuble and Nicklas Backstrom went by the wayside; one too many passes and a brilliant and fortuitous save from Hiller combined to keep that one out.
If any one of those chances had found its way in, the Caps might be heading out on the road this weekend looking to build a modest winning streak. Instead, they’ll lug their seven-game winless streak to Boston on Saturday with Ottawa on deck Sunday.
“If we can play like that, you’re going to win an awful lot of hockey games,” says Boudreau. “I see us winning a lot of hockey games in the future. But right now it’s frustrating because no one’s used to this. It really makes you get mentally stronger whether you like to or not.”
Playing as well as they did against the Ducks, the Caps must now keep from getting frustrated at the lengthy lack of positive results.
“I think it’s good that we have two days off before the next game,” says Boudreau. “This was an emotional game for all of them and it’s time to get rolled up and do it again. We’ll have two more good practices. Then we’ll be on our way, go to Boston and give ‘er hell.”
Check, Please – Boudreau elected to do a bit more line matching than he might normally do, largely because Anaheim’s top trio of Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan have combined to account for 40 of the team’s total of 85 goals through the first 33 games of the 2010-11 campaign.
In making the decision to put a checking line and a defensive duo on the Ducks’ top unit, Boudreau went to the wayback machine.
Laich, Matt Bradley and David Steckel were tasked with the difficult checking assignment in Wednesday’s game. The three have played together before, most notably in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Rangers and the Penguins.
“These are veteran guys that have come through and played for me and done it before,” says Boudreau. “I look back to the Pittsburgh series where they were or checking line. They might not have had the success that they would have liked to earlier on in the year, but I knew that if I gave them a job, that they would come out and they would do it and they would do it very well. I thought they checked Getzlaf’s line tremendously.
“That might have been the best line that you’re going to see in the NHL. They’re really good players.”
The newly cobbled Caps’ checking trio did their job, keeping the Ducks’ big guns in check for the game’s first 60 minutes. When Getzlaf victimized the Caps’ in overtime, he did it after changing on the fly and with Ovechkin and Backstrom as the Caps’ forwards on the ice.
“We got challenged,” says Steckel. “Our line stepped up and we did it tonight. I wasn’t on for the [overtime] goal, but we were plus. And we had our chances 5-on-5 against them. You can’t ask for more when you go up against one of the top lines in the league like that.
“We executed the game plan we wanted, we just drew the short end of the stick.”
Steckel skated 18:16 on the night, his highest ice time total this season and the most he has had in any one regular season game in more than three years, since he logged 20:04 against the Senators on Nov. 8, 2007.
Bradley logged 17:39 on the night, also his highest total of the season. The last time Bradley logged more ice in a regular season game was when he worked 18:01 in a Nov. 11, 2006 game against the Rangers.
Bear Necessities – Six members of the 2010 Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears were dressed and in the lineup for Washington tonight. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth, defensemen Carlson and Karl Alzner and forwards Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle gave the Caps the most 2010 Calder Cup champions they’ve had in the lineup on any given night this season.
For Gordon, it was his first home game of the five he has now played in his NHL career. Four of his five games have required overtime.
First Blood – Washington scored the game’s first goal tonight against the Ducks, the first time it has done so since last Monday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs. Until tonight, that game against Toronto had been the lone game during the winless streak in which the Caps collected a point.
Kid Stuff – Congratulations to Caps prospect Cody Eakin of the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. Eakin was named to the Team Canada roster for the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship. The tournament begins on Dec. 26 in Buffalo.
By The Numbers – After getting 17 shots on goal in the game’s first 20 minutes, the Caps managed just 15 shots in the next 44:03 … Returning to the lineup after a two-game absence because of a knee injury, Green skated 29:16 – most of all skaters in the game – and led the Caps with five blocked shots. Green has averaged 26:02 per game this season, sixth in the NHL and the highest per game mark of his six-year NHL career … Mathieu Perreault won just one of 10 face-offs tonight. Laich won all six of his draws, and Backstrom won nine of 11 (82%) … Laich led the Caps with seven shots on goal.