15 in 51 – Last season, the Washington Capitals suffered a total of just 15 regulation losses in their 82 regular season games. Tonight, they absorbed their 15th regulation loss of 2010-11 in Game No. 51. The Caps closed out their season series with Southeast Division foe Atlanta on Wednesday, going home with a 1-0 loss.
“I think it was definitely one of the higher paced games we’ve played all year,” says Caps right wing Matt Bradley. “We worked hard and so did they, but obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted. They played very well and so did their goalie.”
Atlanta’s Nik Antropov scored the only goal of the game, a wrist shot that beat Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov at 11:21 of the second period. The goal came after the two teams had traded chances for a couple of shifts.
Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz had the puck in his own end and was waiting for a wobbly disc to settle so he could attempt to clear it safely. The puck never cooperated.
“I flipped the puck out and it hit the ice and was kind of fluttering,” says Schultz. “So I was hoping that it would settle down. I took a swing and missed, and then knocked it in the corner. Their third guy following up, they found him and he made a good shot.”
That was the hockey game.
The Caps outplayed and outchanced Atlanta by a good bit in this one, but the Thrashers seemed to have a force field around their net at time. Washington poured 36 shots at Thrashers’ goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, but he stopped them all.
“It feels good today,” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin, who paced the Capitals with eight shots on goal. “We just didn’t score. We had too many chances in the second period and in the third period he makes great saves. Again, we tried our best but we didn’t score.
“I think the puck just didn’t want to go in the net today. A couple times, it was an empty-netter. It happens. It’s good we still have to play 31 games.”
Washington put 36 shots on Pavelec, including 18 in the second period. That’s the highest shot total the Caps have mustered since Dec. 18 in Boston when they fired 41, including 26 in the third period.
The Caps’ much-maligned power play created great looks and good chances, but again came up empty in its three opportunities on the night. Washington had seven shots on goal with the man-advantage in Wednesday’s game against the Thrashers.
“When you can’t score, you can’t score,” laments Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “The one thing I can say tonight, it wasn’t for lack of effort or puck control or shots on goal or anything. Even our power play I thought was really good. We just can’t score goals right now.
“It’s very frustrating for the coaches and I’m sure it is for every player in there when you’re trying so hard and you can’t score goals.”
Despite playing so well defensively that they’ve given up exactly one goal in each of their last four games, the Caps managed to pick up just five of a possible eight points (2-1-1) in that span.
If you think that’s frustrating, you’d be right.
“It is,” says Schultz. “We put out a good effort tonight and another goalie came up big. We had a lot of chances to score. We’re just not finding it right now.”
Whitewashington – On a night when Washington was blanketed with white stuff, the Capitals were whitewashed in Atlanta for the second time this season. Tonight’s shutout marks the seventh time in the last 32 games the Caps have come up blank in a game. That series of games started with a 5-0 loss to Atlanta and Pavelec on Nov. 19.
Prior to that Nov. 19 blanking, the Caps had been shutout seven times in their previous 224 games.
The seven shutouts suffered by the Capitals are the most the team has absorbed since 1998-99 when an aging and injury-battered team (a franchise record 510 man-games lost to injury) was blanked 11 times.
The Capitals have gone through the entire season without being shutout four times, including consecutive campaigns in 1990-91 and 1991-92. Washington went 244 games without being blanked during that stretch, the third-longest run of its kind in NHL history.
Back in their maiden season of 1974-75, the Capitals were blanked a dozen times. That remains the franchise mark.
The Capitals have suffered eight losses to Southeast Division opponents this season, six of them in regulation (9-6-2) and five by shutout.
Power Outage – Washington is now 1-for-21 (4.8%) with the extra man in its last nine games. The Caps are now 9-for-88 (10.2%) with the extra man in their last 27 games, and they’ve not had more than one power play goal in any of those 27 games.
“We had lots of chances,” says Boudreau. “We had to have seven to 10 chances, good chances. We had zone time, we had shots, we had net presence, we had movement. Everything but scoring a goal.”
The Capitals were 21-for-87 (24.1%) with the extra man in their first 24 games this season.
Killers – On the other side of the special teams coin, the Capitals killed off both Atlanta power plays on the night. Washington has killed 18 straight shorthanded situations and 24 of its last 25 (96%).
The 800 Club – Caps defenseman Scott Hannan played in the 800th game of his NHL career on Wednesday in Atlanta. Among all Washington defensemen, only Tom Poti (808) has played more games in the league than Hannan.
Back In White – Bradley was back in the Washington lineup for the first time since he broke a finger against New Jersey on Dec. 21. Playing on a line with David Steckel and Boyd Gordon, Bradley logged 10:59 on the night. He put one shot on net and laid a hit.
“It felt nice to be out there to be honest,” says the veteran Caps winger. “My first couple shifts were pretty short, just trying to get the feeling back. Playing with Gordo and Stecks, it felt good just to be back out there, period. I’m just disappointed we didn’t get the win.”
O Is For Ondrej – Pavelec is the second goaltender to blank Washington twice this season, joining Tampa Bay’s Dwayne Roloson with that distinction. The Caps have scored one goal in the last 186:49 against the Atlanta goaltender.
Tough Town – For the first time since Atlanta became an NHL city for the second time in 1999-00, the Capitals have gone a season without picking up a point in Georgia’s capital city.
The Caps dropped the season opener here on Oct. 8 and were blanked on Nov. 19. They were 0-3 and were outscored 10-2 in their three visits to Atlanta this season.
Washington has now gone 131:44 without scoring a goal at Philips Arena, since Mike Knuble’s third-period goal against the Thrashers in the opening night loss.
“I think that’s testament to their team,” says Bradley. “They’ve brought in some new guys, some real hard-working guys and they’re tough to play against. We obviously haven’t figured out how to beat them here.
Going To The Show – The Capitals’ Entry Draft class of 2004 has been one of the most fruitful in franchise history. Six of the thirteen players chosen in that draft – Ovechkin, Schultz, Mike Green, Chris Bourque, Sami Lepisto and Andrew Gordon – have played for the Capitals.
A seventh member of that Caps class of 2004 was called to the show on Wednesday night when Travis Morin was summoned to Dallas to play for the Stars. He made his NHL debut against Edmonton in a 3-1 home ice win, skating 10:07 in the process.
Morin was the Caps’ last choice in 2004, selected in the ninth round (263rd overall) out of Minnesota State University in the WCHA.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears postponed their scheduled game for Wednesday night against the Springfield Falcons. The Bears and Falcons will instead play on Thursday night at Giant Center.
By The Numbers – The Caps outshot Atlanta 66-42 in shots taken. Washington had 36 on goal, 20 blocked and 10 that missed. The Thrashers had 24 on goal, six blocked and a dozen that missed … Ovechkin teed up 14 shots in the game. Besides the eight that were on net, three were blocked and three missed … Steckel won seven of eight (88%) draws on the night … Brooks Laich led the Caps with three hits … Chris Thorburn paced Atlanta with four hits and Dustin Byfuglien led the way for the Thrashers with six shots on goal … Washington blocked just six shots on the night, with no player getting more than one. The Capitals are 11-14-6 when they block 15 or fewer shots in a game this season, they’re 16-1-3 when they block 16 or more.