Tripped Up To Start Trip – Washington’s season-long five-game road trip got off to a tough start as the Capitals dropped a 3-2 decision to the Coyotes in Phoenix on Monday night. The loss is Washington’s third in succession.
Despite limiting the Coyotes to just 18 shots on goal and few scoring chances, the Caps lost their seventh straight game (0-6-1) to a Western Conference foe. Washington has been outscored by a combined 20-9 in those seven games.
“I think all tolled,” begins Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “I counted five scoring chances [for the Coyotes] for the game. And 18 shots, I don’t know if that’s a season-low but it’s close to it. It hurts more when you play a really good game and I thought we played a really good game tonight in all aspects. And you don’t get rewarded for it.”
After a sluggish and scoreless first period in which both teams managed only five shots on goal, the Caps drew first blood on a Marcus Johansson goal at 8:46 of the second period.
Phoenix needed less than a minute to get even as Martin Hanzal was given too much time and space in the slot. Washington’s only lead of the night lasted all of 49 seconds.
The game turned in Phoenix’s favor late in the second frame. Having had the first three power plays of the game by that point, the Caps went shorthanded for the first time at 17:17 of the middle period when Washington blueliner Scott Hannan was sent to the box for a phantom roughing call. Coyotes forward Scott Upshall sold the “infraction” by snapping his head back.
“It was a horrible call,” says Boudreau. “If you look at it, the referee looked at the other referee because he didn’t see it. And then he decided to call it.
“I know we have them 4-0 [in power play chances] at that point, But the bottom line is, it wasn’t a penalty. That’s the bottom line. Then you give them the chance, they score the goal.”
Up to that point in the game, the Caps’ power play had been dominant but had nonetheless failed to light the lamp. Phoenix scored on its first power play shot on goal of the game, a Ray Whitney shot that came a mere 26 seconds after Hannan was seated in the box. Phoenix had the lead for the first time, and it would not relinquish it.
The Coyotes pushed the advantage to 3-1 on a Vernon Fiddler one-timer at 4:24 of the third, but Washington’s Matt Bradley answered back 40 seconds later to pull the Caps to within a goal.
“Our line let them score after our first goal, so we kind of owed the team that one,” says Bradley.
Washington was never able to muster the equalizer. Although the Caps scored both of their goals at even-strength, the Coyotes kept Washington at bay in 5-on-5 play for long stretches of the game. The Caps had just one even-strength shot on goal over a span of 14:53 from the middle of the first to early in the second.
Trailing by a goal late in the third, the Capitals could not manage even one shot on goal in 5-on-5 play over the game’s final 11:48. The only shot the Caps could muster over the final half of the third period was a shorthanded shot on goal from Alexander Semin that came from the neutral zone with less than three minutes remaining.
“I thought in the third period we had a lot of chances,” says Bradley, “but that’s been the story lately, chances and no goals. It’s not good or bad, [but] it’s not getting the job done. We have to figure out a way to get more goals.”
Since scoring eight goals in consecutive wins over Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, the Caps have now totaled three goals in their last three games.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league and that’s what happens,” says Boudreau of the Coyotes. “I thought we had good flow in the second period. We outshot them 17-6. The first period I thought it was like we usually end up doing, they don’t get much, we don’t get much. It’s a feeling out process.
“When we got the first goal and it was important to have a good shift right off the bat. And the next line, they knew that. We talked about it. And they didn’t have a good shift. Those guys are supposed to be able to defend and they didn’t and it ended up a tie game. It gave the fans momentum and their team a little bit of momentum.”
The Caps traveled to Anaheim after the game where they will face the Ducks for the second time this season on Wednesday.
“We’ve got another day to think about it and figure it out,” says Boudreau. “If we come out and play like this against Anaheim [on Wednesday], hopefully we’ll get a better fate.”
Green Gone – Caps defenseman Mike Green was held out of Monday’s game because of “inner ear trauma,” according to Boudreau.
Green’s absence enable Tyler Sloan to get into the lineup for the second time in three games and the fourth time in the team’s last 36 games. Sloan skated 11:56 on the night, all of it at even strength.
No Points For You – Tonight’s setback to the Coyotes is Washington’s third regulation loss in a row. The Caps hadn’t lost three straight in regulation since doing so from Dec. 9-12.
The three-game regulation losing streak matches the Capitals’ longest this season.
Power Outage – Tonight’s game was the Capitals’ 33rd without scoring multiple power play goals in a game.
“We were just talking about it in there,” says Boudreau. “I think we had 13 shots on the power play after two periods. We were moving it around and we looked like a power play. Our entries were fine and I thought for sure we were going to score a couple goals on it. Sometimes it’s not meant to be.”
Each team had two goals on 16 shots at even strength in Monday’s game. The Caps failed to score on 14 power play shots on goal while Phoenix scored once on just two extra-man shots on goal to account for the difference in the game.
“They’ve got very mobile [defensemen] that move the puck well and it’s tough to get sustained pressure on them down in their end,” says Bradley when asked about the Caps’ difficulty at even strength. “I think overall it was a decent game. Obviously we lost the special teams battle. We’ve got to score on the power play and can’t let them score. I think that was the main difference.”
Discipline – The Caps took just two penalties in the game, but one of them was a double-minor to Nicklas Backstrom late in the third, a penalty that short-circuited Washington’s hopes for a late comeback.
The Capitals have shown excellent discipline of late, being tasked with just seven penalty-killing missions in their last four games.
Short Stuff – Alex Ovechkin has averaged just two seconds per game in shorthanded ice time this season. That average includes 1:30 on shorthanded ice in Monday’s game.
With the Caps down a goal and Backstrom in the box late, Washington was forced to deploy Ovechkin while down a man in hopes of getting the tying strike and having him on the ice in case they were able to get the puck in the Phoenix end and get goalie Michal Neuvirth off for an extra skater.
By The Numbers – The Capitals doubled up the Coyotes in shots attempted, 69-34. Washington led in shots on goal, 31-18. The Caps had 20 shots blocked and they missed the net 18 times. The Coyotes had nine shots blocked and seven misses … Alex Ovechkin had five of his shots blocked to lead the Caps. John Carlson had four blocked … Ten different players took face-offs for Washington on the night and eight different Coyotes took draws. One-third of those 18 players took just one or two draws on the night … Ovechkin led all forwards on both sides with 25:52 in ice time and Carlson paced all defenders on both sides with 26:30 … The Coyotes’ Ed Jovanovski led all players on both sides with four blocked shots.
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 PHX
3 - 1 PHX
3 - 2 PHX
Delaying Game - Puck over glass
Hi stick - double minor