First Fail – Carrying a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) into Saturday’s game against Boston, the Capitals had allowed 24 goals goals against in the seven games. But Washington had been fairly solid in the first frames of those games. The Caps blanked their foes in the first period of four of those games and allowed a total of just four first-period goals in the seven games.
On Saturday, they came out and played one of their worst periods of the streak and of the season, which is saying something. The Caps dug a 3-0 first period hole from which they could not extricate themselves and finished with a 3-2 setback, their eighth in succession.
“The first point [Caps coach] Bruce [Boudreau] talked about before the game was, ‘Be ready, they’re going to come out hard,’” says Caps right wing Matt Bradley. “And we go out and do that in the first period. They’re too good a team to give them a 3-0 lead. We played great for 40 minutes, but it’s a 60-minute game and it just wasn’t good enough. Until we learn that, we’re not going to win many games.”
Washington fell behind at 3:27 of the first on a Patrice Bergeron goal. It dug a 2-0 ditch on Andrew Ference’s goal at 8:13. The chasm grew to 3-0 when Blake Wheeler scored at 17:03.
The Caps spent most of the first period in their own end and did not record a shot on goal until almost the 8-minute mark when Matt Hendricks’ harmless 90-footer was set aside by Boston goalie Tim Thomas.
“I think the will to have a fast start was there,” says Boudreau. “Then that first shot gets going and you need to get the lead. It was one of those games where it would have been easy in our situation for us to just say, ‘Phhht, there you go.’ But they worked their ass off in the last two periods there.”
Although the Capitals mounted a furious rally over the game’s final 40 minutes, they picked the wrong team against which to dig such a hole.
Boston entered the game with a 12-1-1 record in games in which it scored the first goal, 11-0 in games in which it led after the first period and 13-0 in games in which it led after two periods.
Seconds after Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth stoned Boston rookie Tyler Seguin on a breakaway, Bradley scored his third of the season. The game was still early in the second at that point, but despite outshooting the B’s 36-10 in the final two periods, Washington couldn’t get a second goal past Boston netminder Tim Thomas until Karl Alzner scored at 14:32 of the third.
“We had the same amount of energy we’ve had in the past when we’ve had big comebacks,” says Caps right wing Eric Fehr. “If this was three weeks ago, I think we win that game, 5-3 just with the energy we had. The forecheck was going. I think we get a few lucky breaks just a couple weeks ago and we win this game.”
Washington outshot Boston 26-2 in the final frame.
“When you outshoot a team 26-2 in the third period,” remarks Boudreau, “hopefully you come away with more than one goal.”
The 26 shots on goal in the third are a new single-period franchise record, eclipsing the previous mark of 25. Alex Ovechkin fired five and Nicklas Backstrom four of the third period shots on goal.
“I really believed that we were going to tie it tonight,” sighs Boudreau. “You could feel it. They were going, they were getting a break. But Thomas has beat an awful lot of teams with some great stuff. And he did it to us.
Much was made of Boudreau dropping F-bombs in the first episode of the HBO show “24/7” earlier this week. Tonight, he used the word “hopefully” three times in less than 30 seconds in reply to a single question.
Offensive Outage – Washington has scored 11 goals during its eight-game losing run. The Caps have scored more than two goals in one of those games, a 5-4 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs on Dec. 6. They have scored one or zero goals in five of the eight games.
The Caps are averaging 37.8 shots per game in their last eight games. They’ve scored 11 goals on 302 shots for a 3.6 shooting pct. and a .964 opposition shooting pct. during that span.
No Time For Missing Sergeants – Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz is one of the league’s quietest and steadiest defenders. He led the league and set a single-season franchise record with a plus-50 last season.
In the first period of Washington’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs on Dec. 6, Schultz suffered a broken thumb when he blocked a shot.
Since then, the Caps have been outscored by a combined 21-7 in 17 periods and have not won.
Special Stuff – The Caps were 0-for-1 on the power play in Saturday’s game. They finished the season 0-for-12 with the extra man against the Bruins.
Boston did not have a power play opportunity in the game, the first time in recent memory that Washington’s shorthanded outfit got the night off. The Bruins were 5-for-11 (45.5%) with the extra man against Washington in 2010-11.
Down By Two – Washington rebounded from two-goal deficits twice to earn two points in the season’s first month. The Caps turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 overtime win in Nashville on Oct. 16 and rallied from a 2-0 hole to take a 7-2 win over the Flames in Calgary on Oct. 30.
After losing to the Bruins tonight, Washington is now 2-9 in games in which it has trailed by two.
Hang Ten – The Caps are now 2-6-2 in their last 10 games, matching the New York Islanders’ mark in their last 10. Among the 30 NHL teams, only the New Jersey Devils (2-8) have less to show for their last 10 games.
Streak Stopper – When B’s blueliner Andrew Ference netted the second goal of the night midway through the first, it marked his first tally in 99 games. His most recent previous strike was on Feb. 22, 2009 at Tampa Bay.
Down On The Farm – While their parent clubs were doing battle in Beantown, the Caps’ AHL Hershey affiliate was playing host to the Bruins’ AHL Providence club at Giant Center on Saturday night.
The Bears and the Baby B’s played scoreless hockey for the game’s first 40 minutes. Providence struck first, tallying twice within 52 seconds during the first half of the final frame. Andrew Joudrey netted his fifth of the season at 12:52, but that’s all the comeback the Bears had in them.
Braden Holtby made 23 saves for Hershey in a losing effort. Ex-Bears goalie Nolan Schaefer earned the win with 26 saves for the Bruins.
The Bears suffered a 3-1 loss at Adirondack on Friday night and have now dropped three straight, their longest losing streak of the season. They’ll attempt to salvage something from their busy weekend when they host the Charlotte Checkers on Sunday at Giant Center.
The fourth-place Bears trail Charlotte by three points in the AHL’s East Division standings. Hershey is just three points clear of fifth-place Binghamton.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays won their third straight game, a 3-2 road decision over the Gwinnett Gladiators. South Carolina has won seven of its last 10 games.
Rob Ricci, Tommy Goebel and Trent Campbell score to pace the Stingrays’ attack. Jared DeMichiel earned the win with 28 saves.
Saturday’s win enabled fourth-place South Carolina to pull back to .500 at 13-13-1-0 and to draw within two points of third-place Gwinnett in the ECHL’s South Division standings.
The Stingrays close the weekend with a Sunday home game against the Florida Everblades.
By The Numbers –Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle were the only Caps who did not register a shot on goal in Saturday’s game … Backstrom and Ovechkin each skated 23:54 on the night. Washington is now 4-8 in games in which Ovechkin logs more than 23 minutes of ice time … Ovechkin and Backstrom paced the team with six hits each … Beagle blocked a team-high three shots in his 10:10 of work … Jason Chimera took three draws after Beagle was chased from the circle, winning all three … Backstrom won 14 of his 22 face-offs (64%) on the night … Adam McQuaid led the B’s with five blocked shots.
1 - 0 BOS
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