Peaking Early – For a game that started so promising, Saturday’s homestand finale with the Los Angeles Kings ended with a thud for the Washington Capitals.
Caps captain Alex Ovechkin scored on the team’s first shot of the game just 66 seconds after the opening puck drop. But that would be the high point for the Capitals on this afternoon. Ovechkin would not even attempt another shot until the third period, and Washington surrendered four unanswered goals – three of them in the third period – on its way to a 4-1 loss to the Kings.
The loss leaves the Caps with a 1-2 homestand and just one goal in their last six periods of play, this following on the heels of last weekend’s impressive wins over Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
Washington held the visitors to just four shots on goal in the first frame, but the Kings came out hard in the second and fired each of the first eight shots on goal of the middle period.
“It’s a 1-1 game going into the third,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “We outworked them in the first, got outworked in the second. All we had to do was outwork them in the third to start a tough road trip. They looked like they were already thinking about what’s going on in the sun.”
The Kings’ second efforts were rewarded in front as Washington had difficulty corralling and clearing pucks, then could not contain Los Angeles in front of the net.
Each of the Kings’ first three goals came on rebounds after Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov made the initial save on the play.
“They’re capitalizing on loose pucks and we aren’t,” laments Caps right wing Mike Knuble. “That’s pretty much how it’s going on. We’re coming to the point in the season where we’ve got to make sure we’re all aware of that. It’s time to start throwing the switch to the playoffs. You’ve got to be playing well. We’re just kind of sloughing our way. It’s like we’re waiting for something to happen. I don’t know. Waiting for something.”
Boudreau believes the “switch” is non-existent.
“It never happens where you just flip a switch and it goes [your way],” says the Caps coach. “It comes from the beginning of the game to the end of the game, working your rear end off. So if they’re waiting for some switch to magically appear, it’s not going to happen.”
Home Cooking – Home cooking hasn’t been what it once was to the Capitals. Washington opened the season with a 12-1-1 record in its first 14 home games, allowing only 35 goals for an average of 2.5 per contest. The Caps scored 57 goals in those 14 games for an average of 4.07 per game.
Up to that point – the end of November – Washington had fashioned a very impressive and dominant 30-3-4 record on home ice in calendar 2010.
Since then, the Caps have sputtered at home.
Over their last 17 home games, the Capitals have allowed the exact same number of goals they surrendered in the season’s first 14 Verizon Center tilts: 35. That’s a very stingy average of 2.06 per game. A team that allows 2.06 goals per game should be winning far more than a third of its games. But the Caps haven’t won even a third of their last 17 home games.
Washington is now 5-6-6 in its last 17 games at Verizon Center. They’ve scored only 33 goals in those games for an average of 1.94 per contest.
In their first 14 home games of 2010-11, the Capitals were limited to two or fewer goals in a game twice. In the 17 home games since, they’ve been shutout three times, held to a single goal three times and kept to two goals four times.
“I was trying to send a message,” says Boudreau, “but it was too late – in the last six or seven minutes by not playing a couple guys. In the end, our best players have to be our best players or we’re not going to win.
“It’s good to send a message and take ice time away, but you can’t do it on a consistent basis. You’ve got to do it, and then hopefully they get it. And when they get it, hopefully it turns around.
“Because in the end, those guys that you’re taking the ice time away [from], have got to be better than their best players or we’re not going to be successful. The role players, they’re role players. They do a good job. It’s our top guys [who are falling short].
“When you’re scoring one goal a game, one and a half goals a game, it has nothing to do with the system, no matter what anybody’s thinking out there. It’s because you’re not paying the price to do the little things to get goals.”
Loss Angeles – Washington hasn’t had much success on home ice against the Kings in recent years. With Saturday’s setback, the Capitals are now 1-6-1 in their last eight home games against the Kings. Washington has been outscored by a combined 30-18 in those games.
Trouble in the Third – In a stretch of 22 games from December 15 through February 6, Washington allowed a grand total of five third-period goals. They’ve now allowed five third-period goals in their last two games.
Non-Support – The Capitals have scored a grand total of 12 goals in support of Varlamov in his last seven starts, so it’s no surprise that the Russian goaltender is just 1-4-2 in those seven starts. Five of those support goals came in the lone win in those seven starts, a 5-2 triumph over Tampa Bay on Feb. 4.
Washington has scored seven goals for Varlamov in his last six losses.
Tough Foes – Los Angeles came into today’s game as the fourth straight hot foe the Caps have faced in the last week plus.
Last Friday, the Caps faced a Tampa Bay team that came in with a six-game winning streak, its longest since 2003-04. The Caps took on Pittsburgh last Sunday; the Pens brought a five-game winning streak into that game. The San Jose Sharks were 7-0-1 in their previous eight games before taking on the Caps on Tuesday, and the Kings entered today’s game with a 5-0-2 mark in their previous seven games.
First! – Ovechkin’s goal at 1:06 of the first frame is Washington’s fastest from the start of a contest this season. Previously, Ovechkin’s goal at the 1:30 mark of a Nov. 14 game with Atlanta had been the team’s quickest strike this season.
For the fourth time in the last five games, the Caps scored a first-period goal on Saturday. They’ve now scored five first-period goals in their last five games.
Tough Time – Reunited after Mike Green’s one-game absence from the lineup because of injury, the defensive duo of Green and Schultz each posted a minus-3 on the afternoon.
Since the start of the 2009-10 season, tonight’s minus-3 outing was just the second in 123 games for Green. For Schultz, it is also his second minus-3 in 120 games since the beginning of the 2009-10 campaign. Each of Schultz’s minus-3 nights has come in the last 13 games, however.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears took to the Giant Center sheet on Saturday against Binghamton after a 4-3 road win at Providence on Friday night. With Todd Ford in goal for the Bears, Hershey fell by a 4-3 count to end its streak of consecutive games with at least a point at 11.
The loss was just Hershey’s second in regulation in calendar 2011; both have come at the hands of the Baby Sens.
The Bears conclude a busy weekend when they visit first-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday at 3 p.m. Hershey trails the Baby Pens by seven points in the East Division standings but the Bears hold two games in hand.
By The Numbers – The two teams combined for nearly as many blocked shots (45) as they did shots on goal (51) on the afternoon … Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell led all skaters on both sides with 4:51 in shorthanded ice time … Andrei Loktionov led the Kings with five shots on goal. Knuble and Matt Hendricks led the way for Washington with four shots on goal … The Caps won just 39 percent (17 of 44) of their face-offs in the game … Hendricks led all skaters on both sides with seven hits. Dustin Brown led the Kings with six … John Carlson led the Caps with five blocked shots while Matt Greene had five for Los Angeles.
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 LAK
3 - 1 LAK
4 - 1 LAK
Delaying Game-Puck over glass