Special Delivery – San Jose got a shorthanded goal, a power play goal and an even-strength goal on its way to a 3-2 win over Washington at HP Pavilion on Thursday night.
A night after exploding for seven goals in a 7-6 win over the Ducks in Anaheim, the Caps were held to two goals, the 11th time in the last 16 games that Washington has been limited to two or fewer goals in a game.
Washington had a chance to take a lead when it got a power play in a scoreless game late in the fist, but instead it surrendered a shorthanded strike for the second time in as many games.
Caps defenseman John Carlson lost his footing at the right point after the Caps won the offensive zone draw, and San Jose’s Joe Pavelski scored a shorthanded goal just 11 seconds after the start of Washington’s initial – and, as it turns, out, only – power play chance of the night.
To their credit, the frequently fragile Capitals bounced back to score on the man-advantage, with Alex Ovechkin netting his fourth power play goal of the season a mere 22 seconds after the Sharks had taken the lead.
“I thought we answered once they got the shorthanded goal really well,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “but it’s one of those things. We played against a good team and we lost by one.”
The game was still even at 1-1 after the first 40 minutes, and the Caps had chances to take a rare lead in this barn, but they were unable to finish.
Washington’s best chance to go up a goal on its hosts came when the score was 1-1 midway through the second period. Caps defenseman John Carlson ripped a shot from the right point, and Sharks goalie Antti Niemi kicked it out to the right side. Caps forward Brooks Laich was driving the net, and he got a stick on the puck, trying to throw it into a vacant left side of the net.
San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle got just enough stick on the bid to spoil the shot, and the game remained even until the Sharks’ Ryan Clowe made a deft play to flag down a waist-high pass from Kyle Wellwood at the left half-wall. Clowe then backhanded the puck home from short range to make it 2-1 at 4:27 of the third.
Washington had plenty of time to draw even, but was clearly weary playing for the second time in as many nights and for the third time in four nights. A John Erskine interference call midway through the frame led to a Dany Heatley power play goal and a two-goal deficit for the visitors.
“I thought if there was a shift,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “it was in them being at home, them getting a lead, and us probably running out of gas a little bit. I thought if we could have gotten the lead somehow early in the third period we might have been able to hold on, but it was going to be tough coming from behind.”
Nicklas Backstrom netted his 15th of the season with 1:55 remaining, but the Caps were destined to come away without two points for the 11th consecutive time in San Jose, dating back to Oct. 30, 1993.
“We didn’t get rewarded,” laments Boudreau. “We played I thought as good a first period as we could play coming into this building, knowing that they hadn’t been here in two weeks and that they would come out rocking. That’s the time that you hope to get a 2-0 lead going into the second period and let the play from behind.
“We lost. We’re going to have to regroup. We’ve got a team like Buffalo that’s waiting to gain on us and we’ve got to just go after them.”
San Jose is now 11-2-1 in its last 14 games.
Three Score – The Capitals have now allowed three or more goals in four consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 6-12.
Crazy Eights – Pavelski – who wears uniform No. 8 for San Jose – and Ovechkin both scored within 22 seconds of one another late in the first period. For nearly 45 minutes, those two tallies were the only goals of the game.
Not Getting Five – Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth has played the most games of any NHL goalie this season without allowing more than four goals in a game. Neuvirth has now played 33 games in 2010-11 without allowing as many as four goals in a game.
Troublesome Thirds -- From Jan. 16 through Feb. 6, the Caps allowed more than one goal in just one of 27 periods over a span of nine games. Since then, they’ve been victimized by multiple-goal periods six times in 15 periods over their last five games.
Third periods have been especially problematic. After going 22 straight games without allowing more than a single goal in the game’s final frame, the Caps have allowed multiple goals in the third period in three of their last five games.
Washington has now allowed at least one goal in the third period of five consecutive games for the first time all season. The Caps have surrendered nine third-period goals in the last five games.
Back To Backs – Washington is 3-4-2 in the first game of back-to-backs this season and it is now 3-5-1 in the second game. After winning the first of back-to-back games this season, the Capitals are now 0-3 in the second of those sets.
Killing Them Softly – Washington’s penalty killing corps allowed a goal for the third consecutive game. The last time the Caps were victimized for a power play goal in three straight games was Dec. 11-15.
Go West – Last season, the Caps finished the campaign with 23 points against Western foes, tied for the most among all Eastern Conference clubs. The Caps went 10-5-3 against the west last season.
Washington went 1-4 in a just completed stretch of five straight games against Western clubs. They are 1-7-1 in their last nine against the Western Conference after starting the season 3-1 in their first four. The Capitals are 4-8-1 against the West with five games still to play.
Hot Stuff – Two of the game’s top goal scorers since the start of the 2006-07 season competed in tonight’s game and each added to his total.
Ovechkin leads with 240 goals, including the one he scored in the first period of tonight’s game. New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk is second with 198 and San Jose’s Dany Heatley scored his 189th goal in that span tonight.
Ovechkin’s power play goal tonight was his 74th since the start of the 2006-07 season, and it broke a three-way tie with Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne and Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek for the most power play strikes in the league in that span.
Back On The Beam? – Ovechkin’s goal was his third in four games. He fired a team-leading seven shots on net and threw four hits, tied for the most among Capitals skaters. For the third straight game on the trip, he looked as though he was dialed in from start to finish. He had several strong scoring chances.
“I think it’s really encouraging,” says Boudreau of his captain’s recent performance. “Ovi looks like the old Ovi now. I haven’t been able to say that, but in recent games he has been so let’s hope he continues that.”
Boudreau was queried as to why he believes Ovechkin looks like the “old” Ovechkin.
“The energy he is playing with,” answers the Caps’ bench boss. “He’s coming back hard, and he’s not staying upright and his shifts were short, all of those things that encompass a good leader. That’s what he was doing. When guys are hitting him he’s taking it upon himself to not be the hittee but be the hitter and going after them. He’s getting six, seven shots on goal a game. He does that, he’s going to score every game.”
No Place Like Home – San Jose has been one of the league’s top home teams over the last few seasons. They are 14-10-3 this season.
San Jose plays 13 of its final 19 games on home ice this season.
Tough Town –The Caps are now 0-10-1 in their last 11 visits to the Shark Tank. They’ve been outscored 41-21 in those 11 games.
By The Numbers – Somehow, Caps center David Steckel took the same number of face-offs as did winger Alexander Semin. Both Washington forwards were 0-for-1 in the circle on the night … San Jose was down to five defensemen early; Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s night was over after two shifts totaling 1:03. The Sharks’ Dan Boyle logged 29:54 on the night while Jason Demers skated 28:12 and Douglas Murray recorded 23:50.
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