Overpowered – Coming into Tuesday night’s tilt with the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center, Washington had gone 29 straight games without allowing more than one power play goal in a contest. Florida came in with the league’s worst power play unit, an outfit that had produced just a dozen goals in 136 tries (8.8%) to that point in the season.
So naturally, Florida rode three power play goals to a 4-3 overtime win over Washington to open a crucial six-game homestand on a winning note. It was the first time in more than a year -- since Dec. 21, 2009 -- that the Panthers managed as many as three power play goals in a single game.
The game was scoreless until Caps linemates Mike Knuble and Nicklas Backstrom took near-simultaneous minor penalties midway through the first frame, giving the Panthers a two-man advantage for a full two minutes.
Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth made a staggeringly good stop on Florida center Stephen Weiss early in the man-advantage, but Mike Santorelli was able to tap in a rebound of a Weiss shot just over a minute into the two-man advantage.
Florida doubled its lead two and a half minutes later when Marty Reasoner tipped a Bryan McCabe point shot past Neuvirth from the top of the paint.
Washington escaped the first period down just 2-0, thanks to the netminding heroics of Neuvirth.
“Neuvy played outstanding,” says Caps center Marcus Johansson. “He made at least three or four big saves in the first to keep us in it. Then we finally got going. Obviously our starts have to get better if we want to win hockey games.”
“I thought the first 10 minutes we were pretty good until we got the 5-on-3 against,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “We gave them life and the first period was downhill after that.”
Another two-man advantage tally from Florida pushed the home team’s advantage to 3-0 at 6:48 of the second. Once again, the goal came on a rebound with David Booth netting his 12th of the season.
Washington finally got going offensively midway through the middle frame, scoring a pair of pretty goals on the rush. Marcus Johansson finished a tic-tac-toe passing play with linemate Brooks Laich at 10:10 to put the Capitals on the board and Knuble converted a perfect feed from Alex Ovechkin at 13:30 to draw Washington within one.
“I stood a little still and Brooksie came with speed so I gave it to him,” says Johansson of the Caps’ first goal of the night. “He gave me a great pass right back. I tried to shoot it and it went in. it was a great play by Brooksie.”
Johansson hammered home the equalizer at 7:12 of the third, but the Caps were unable to build on the momentum of that tally. Washington had its sixth power play of the evening and a chance to take the lead late in the third, but the Caps’ extra-man unit remains entrenched in a lengthy spell of impotence.
“If we are going to look this lethargic on the power play, that’s where we’re losing games. It’s not 5-on-5, it’s not the penalty killing. I keep putting the same guys out thinking that eventually it’s going to turn around. But it’s not. We’re going to have to do something to shake the power play up.
“We have a chance to win the game with the power play and we don’t even get a shot on goal, we don’t get a chance to set it up in their zone, especially when Vokoun was fighting the puck there in the third period. Guys aren’t working hard enough.”
Boudreau was asked if he could put his finger on an element or two that has been responsible for Washington’s prolonged extra-man woes.
“It’s everything,” he laments. “It’s everything. Bad plays, bad thought decisions, staying out too long, not winning battles, not doing what we do in the morning [skate], going over it, going over every team every day and getting out there and not doing anything that we’re supposed to. That’s the stuff that’s ticking me off on the power play.”
Neuvirth finished with 37 saves and the unfortunate distinction of being dented by three power play goals – none of them in 5-on-4 situations – and a deflection on which he had no chance.
“He was really good,” says Boudreau. “If it wasn’t for him, in the first period it would have been 5-0. He stole a point for us.”
Kill Chilled – Santorelli’s power play goal ended a run of 27 straight successful penalty killing missions for the Caps, and a run of 29 straight games in which Washington had allowed one or zero power play goals in a game. That run of 29 games was the team’s longest since a 36-game run in 1997-98.
“The 5-on-4 I thought we did a really good job,” says Boudreau. “We didn’t do a very good job 5-on-3, obviously, but it was more the penalties that were dumb penalties at the time that cost us.”
The Panthers are now halfway through their season, and one-fifth of their entire extra-man output for the season came in Tuesday night’s win over Washington.
Grunt Work – Washington had six power plays on the night, but it was the team’s grinders who were largely responsible for drawing those calls.
“The young kids and the workers played great,” remarks Boudreau.
Got My Mojo Working – Johansson joins Mathieu Perreault as the second Caps rookie to tally twice in a tilt this season. The last time the Caps had a pair of rookies with two-goal games in the same season was in 1999-00 when Jeff Halpern and Glen Metropolit turned the trick.
Two-Termers – Nearly five years after his last game in a Capitals sweater, left wing Brian Willsie became the 15th player to serve to separate stints in a Washington uniform.
Prior to tonight’s game against the Panthers, Willsie’s previous game with Washington was on April 18, 2006 at Tampa Bay in the final contest of the 2005-06 regular season.
Of those 15 two-term Capitals, Anson Carter went the longest between his stretches in Washington. Traded to Boston on March 1, 1997 and reacquired from the Rangers on Jan. 23, 2004, he was away from Washington for nearly seven years.
The other two-term Capitals: Kris Beech, Craig Berube, Bobby Carpenter, Carter, Paul Cavallini, Enrico Ciccone, Sylvain Cote, Dmitri Khristich, Todd Krygier, Glen Metropolit, Michael Nylander, Tom Rowe, Rick Tabaracci and Trent Whitfield. Beech, Carpenter, Ciccone and Khristich were away for about five and a half years before returning to DC for their second stints in a Capitals sweater.
Whitfield holds the distinction of being away for the shortest period of time. The New York Rangers claimed Whitfield on waivers from the Caps on Jan. 16, 2002. After appearing in just one game with the Blueshirts, the Caps reclaimed Whitfield on waivers from New York on Feb. 1, 2002.
Finally – Johansson’s first goal of the night ended a stretch in which Vokoun blanked the Capitals for 97 minutes and 45 seconds dating back to last March.
You Again – Santorelli has scored a goal in each of the three games between Florida and Washington this season.
In his first season with the Panthers after an Aug. 5, 2010 trade with Nashville brought him to Florida, Santorelli is tied for second on the team with a dozen goals.
Down On The Farm – Three members of the AHL Hershey Bears were named to the Eastern Conference roster for the AHL 2011 All-Star Classic. Right wing Andrew Gordon, defenseman Lawrence Nycholat and goaltender Braden Holtby will represent the Bears in the Jan. 31 game at Giant Center in Hershey.
Gordon and Nycholat will be in the starting lineup for the Eastern Conference. Gordon and Holtby have earned All-Star recognition for the first time while Nycholat will be participating in his fourth AHL All-Star Game, three times as a starter.
Gordon leads the Bears in goals (18) and points (36) and is eighth in the AHL’s scoring race. He is fifth in the circuit in goals.
Nycholat’s 27 points is tied for fourth among all AHL blueliners, and his 22 assists are also fourth among rearguards, just two off the league-leading pace in helpers by a defenseman.
Holtby is 10-4-1 in his sophomore season with Hershey. His 1.80 GAA ranks fourth and his .935 save pct. is fifth in the league. Holtby is tied for second in the AHL with four shutouts.
By The Numbers – Willsie’s assist on Johansson’s first goal was hiss first NHL point in nearly two years (since Jan. 21, 2009) and it ended a personal 30-game drought without a point at the NHL level … Willsie and Perreault each had just a single shift after the start of the third period … Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on goal and did not have any of his attempts blocked. He did miss twice … Hendricks had eight hits on the night, more than a third of Washington’s total and more than double the number of any other player on either side … Florida had 22 of its shot attempts blocked while Washington had just three shots blocked … Eric Fehr led all players on both sides with four blocked shots … Mike Green led all players on both sides with 26:35 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with 9:14 in power play ice time.