Too Little, Too Late – Washington played one of its best periods of hockey in recent memory over the final 20 minutes of tonight’s game with the Vancouver Canucks at Verizon Center. But the Caps’ late flurry wasn’t enough to overcome a two-goal deficit against the league’s best team.
“The third period was good,” says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom, “but not good enough to get the win.”
The Caps fell 4-2 for their third straight loss (0-2-1) and fourth in their last five games (1-2-2). Washington is 6-2-3 in its last 11.
For the first time in half a dozen games, the Caps scored the game’s first goal when Matt Hendricks beat Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo to stake Washington to a 1-0 lead at 5:50 of the first.
Vancouver drew even less than three minutes later on an Alexander Edler point shot, and the Caps were fortunate to escape the first with a 1-1 tie. The Canucks displayed their considerable speed through neutral ice and brawn and work ethic down low, looking a lot like the 2009-10 Washington Capitals at time.
The Canucks outshot the Caps 15-8 in the first and outchanced their hosts by a similar ratio, but Vancouver’s offensive execution was just a touch off in the first 20 minutes.
Just 44 seconds after the Caps’ Jason Chimera was boxed for roughing, Vancouver took a lead it would not relinquish. Christian Ehrhoff’s point shot found its way through a tangle in front of Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov to put the visitors up by a goal.
A Daniel Sedin goal late in the second put the Canucks up by a pair, one too many for the Caps’ third-period surge.
“The third period we played great,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “We played with passion. Granted, it was their second game in two nights and they were probably a little tired. But you could see the passion in the game. In the first two periods we were playing not to lose, cautiously trying to do the right things but not creating any opportunities.”
The Caps had 27 shots on goal for the night, and 49 total shots taken. Eleven bids were blocked and eleven missed the net. The Caps teed up 23 of those 49 shots in the final frame, getting 11 on net, missing six and getting six blocked.
“If we’re not going to do it for 60 minutes,” says Hendricks, “we’re going to do it for 60 minutes, we’re going to keep finding the same result.”
Seeing the Caps play the way they did in the game’s final 20 minutes reminded – and how well the Canucks played for most of the night – reminded some of us how well the Capitals were playing around this time last year. And it makes us wonder why they can’t get it going like that again on a regular basis.
“If I had an answer, I would give it to you right now,” says Backstrom.
Turning Point – Tonight’s tilt turned in Vancouver’s direction late in the second after the Caps put together a dominant offensive zone sequence, but one in which they were again unable to solve Luongo.
Seconds later, the puck kicked out to neutral ice and a series of bounces and events put the puck right on the tape of Canucks winger Daniel Sedin. He broke in alone on Varlamov and scored to make it 3-1 in favor of the visitors.
“Jason [Chimera] got pokechecked,” begins Boudreau, in recounting what proved to be the game-winner. “[Caps defenseman] Mike [Green] was going up the ice when he should he been back and there was no need for it. [Daniel Sedin]’s probably if not the, one of the top three premier goal scorers in the league. He puts those in.”
After coming close to drawing even at 2-2, the Caps found themselves down two to the league’s top team late in the middle frame. That two-goal swing proved to be too much to overcome, despite Washington’s best efforts in the third.
Doubling Up – Caps center Marcus Johansson had another strong showing, skating 17:30 and scoring the Caps’ second goal of the night in the third period.
“I feel a lot more confident,” says Johansson, who has doubled his season’s goal total from three to six in the last three games. “You get a little more confident and you do things with the puck you don’t do if you’re not confident and that gets you going a little more. It’s been going a lot better the last 10 games or so.”
“Hopefully, I can keep going like that.”
Four Score – Tonight’s game marked the ninth straight contest in which Washington failed to score as many as four goals in a game. It’s the team’s longest such streak since the final nine games of the 2006-07 regular season.
Blackjack – Washington was 0-for-3 with the extra man tonight, marking the 21st straight game in which the Caps have not had multiple power play goals in a game. That’s the team’s longest streak of its kind since a 28-game dry spell from Jan. 12-March 24, 2002.
The Caps are 8-for-78 (10.3%) on the power play in their last 21 games.
Back In Back – Green and Jeff Schultz were back together as a blueline pair for the first time since a Dec. 6 game against the Maple Leafs. Both were minus-2 on the night, and Schultz is now an uncharacteristic minus-5 in his last two games.
Man Down – Caps right wing Eric Fehr left the game after colliding with teammate David Steckel near the benches midway through the third period.
“He’s got an upper body injury,” says Boudreau of Fehr. “I don’t know how long he’ll be out, but he’s sure to miss Sunday’s game.”
Vancouver played without defenseman Aaron Rome for the final 40 minutes. Rome suffered an MCL sprain in the first and did not return.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears kicked off the first of consecutive busy weekends with a Friday night visit to Glens Falls, NY where they faced the Adirondack Phantoms.
Behind the perfect (25 saves) netminding of goalie Dany Sabourin, Hershey headed back to Chocolatetown with a 3-0 whitewash win.
Zach Miskovic’s power play goal – his sixth tally of the season – in the waning seconds of the first period proved to be all the offense the Bear would need on this night. Brian Willsie added his 13th of the season in the second period and Steve Pinizzotto’s ninth of the campaign went into an empty Adirondack cage with 15 seconds left to seal the deal.
With 48 points, the Bears are in fourth place in the AHL’s East Division, a single point south of third-place Norfolk and three back of second-place Charlotte. Hershey hosts Lake Erie at Giant Center on Saturday before heading off to Binghamton for a Sunday afternoon affair.
The Bears have three home games next weekend, hosting Albany, Rochester and Adirondack on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays hosted the Florida Everblades at North Charleston Coliseum on Friday but found themselves on the short end of a 5-1 score. Pierre-Luc O’Brien authored the Stingrays’ only tally of the night.
With 44 points, the Stingrays trail second-place Florida by two points in the ECHL’s South Division standings.
Postgame Quotebook: Backstrom, when asked if he was looking to shoot the puck more tonight (he had five shots on goal): “If you haven’t scored in 18 games, you have to shoot.”
By The Numbers – Backstrom’s five shots on goal led the Caps … Alex Ovechkin led all skaters on both sides with seven hits … Backstrom won 19 of 24 draws (79%) on the night and Steckel won 8 of 9 (89%) … Green and Karl Alzner led the caps with three blocked shots each … Ovechkin led all forwards on both sides with 25:01 in ice time.
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 VAN
3 - 1 VAN
3 - 2 VAN
4 - 2 VAN
Too many men/ice - bench
Interference on goalkeeper