Eight Eggs – For the eighth time in their last 37 games, the Washington Capitals have produced a goose egg at night’s end. Coming off two exhilarating weekend wins over Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, Tuesday night’s 2-0 home ice loss to the San Jose Sharks was a deflating experience for the Caps.
Sharks goalie Antti Niemi kept the Caps at bay with help from his stalwart corps of defensemen, who blocked as many shots (25) as the netminder stopped.
Although they were outshot by wide margins (15-9 in the first and 12-4 in the second) in each of the game’s first two periods, the Caps didn’t start to spend inordinate amounts of time in their own end until late in the second period.
Niemi had a relatively easy time of it for most of the night, facing just 13 shots in the first two frames and making 25 saves on the night to record his fourth shutout of the season.
Coming off a shutout of his own against Pittsburgh on Sunday, Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth was tremendous for most of Tuesday’s game. After stopping everything he saw for the game’s first 51-plus minutes, he was victimized by a Logan Couture shot that squirted through the five-hole.
“I felt pretty good,” says Neuvirth. “I felt confident. I was seeing the puck pretty well. They got a little bit lucky on that first goal. It kind of surprised me. Goals happen. I’ve got to be square next time.”
Just a couple minutes later, Neuvirth was beaten short side by a Dan Boyle one-timer from the right circle.
“In the end,” says Boudreau in evaluating Neuvirth’s night, “he played good for 51 minutes. But if you want to be a great goalie in this league, when the game is on the line you have to be the one to stop those. I thought those goals were not of the variety that should have beaten him, but at the same time, I thought he kept us in for the first period.”
While the game was still 0-0 in the first period, the Caps thought they had grabbed an early lead when an Alexander Semin shot from the right circle squeezed through Niemi’s pads and lay just above the goal line, naked for all to see.
Niemi didn’t know where the puck was, and as the crowd – collectively seeing the puck teetering near the goal line – let out a simultaneous gasp, the San Jose goalie accidentally kicked the puck into the net with the back of his skate.
Not to worry, though. The whistle had been prematurely blown and the goal would not count.
“It was deflating,” admits Boudreau of the non-goal. “I mean, obviously it shouldn’t have been blown. The referee came up and apologized. Doesn’t do us a lot of good; we are a team that plays better with a lead these days than coming from behind. So, it probably would have helped us. But you can’t blame that one chance. We didn’t get opportunities because we didn’t deserve them.”
Niemi has four shutouts this season, he is 3-5 against Eastern Conference foesst with all three wins on the road and via shutout
Streaking – Tonight’s loss was Washington’s fifth straight against a Western Conference opponent. The Caps are now 0-4-1 in their last five games against Western foes and 3-5-1 on the season.
Each of Washington’s next four games will also be played against clubs outside its own conference.
Back In The Saddle – Semin returned to the lineup after missing the previous 12 games with a lower body injury. It was his longest absence from the lineup of his career to date. Prior to tonight, his last game action came on Jan. 8 against the Panthers.
Semin led the Caps with four shots on goal and skated 17:47 on the night.
“I didn’t think he was sharp, but I didn’t think he wasn’t,” assesses Boudreau hen asked about Semin’s night. “In the third period he looked a little tired. His shifts were short. Probably his game conditioning isn’t where it should be. He had some chances I thought, but he wasn’t sharp or he would have put them in.”
Missing Man – After taking a Brooks Orpik shot to the ear and incurring a wound that required stitching in Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Penguins, Caps defenseman Mike Green quelled any rumors of a possible concussion when he took part in the entire length of Tuesday’s morning skate. But the Caps elected to err on the side of caution, and Green was held out of
“When Mike’s not in the lineup you lose a guy that can really move the puck,” notes Boudreau. “I think our defense played fairly well, but you don’t have that offensive guy that gets the puck, moves it and jumps into the play. So he is missed.”
Green’s absence opened up a spot for Tyler Sloan, who appeared in his 20th game of the season and first since Dec. 26. Sloan logged 14:38 on the night, all of it at even strength.
Not Tonight – Entering Tuesday’s game, the Caps had a 17-1-3 record in games in which they blocked 16 or more shots. Washington blocked 16 San Jose shot bids tonight, dropping that mark to 17-2-3.
At the other end of the ice, the Capitals had difficulty getting their shots through to the net. Alex Ovechkin had six shots blocked, Nicklas Backstrom and Semin had three shots blocked each to account for nearly half of San Jose’s 25 blocked shots in the game.
Unfortunate Five – The same five Washington players were on the ice for both San Jose goals: defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner and forwards Ovechkin, Backstrom and Jason Chimera.
Discipline – The Caps took just one minor penalty on the night, a John Erskine cross-checking call at 18:39 of the first period. Washington’s penalty killing outfit has now killed 36 of its last 38 (94.7%) shorthanded situations.
By The Numbers – Carlson led all skaters on both sides with 25:58 in ice time … The Caps won only 41 percent of their face-offs on the night. Boyd Gordon (6-for-8, 75%) was the lone Caps’ center with a winning record in the circle … Alzner and Jeff Schultz paced the Caps with four blocked shots each … Ovechkin led the Caps with four hits … Douglas Murray and Devin Setoguchi led the Sharks with four hits each. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had six blocked shots and Murray five to lead the way for San Jose.
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