Sawbuck Of Shutouts – Senators netminder Craig Anderson stopped all 31 shots the Capitals sent in his direction on Friday night to send the Capitals to a 2-0 shutout loss in Ottawa. The blanking was the 10th suffered by the Capitals this season.
Ottawa’s Colin Greening scored a disputed goal at 13:25 of the second frame, bulldozing Caps netminder Semyon Varlamov into the net along with the puck. After a lengthy video review with the NHL powers that be in Toronto, the goal was ruled to be a good one and Anderson had all the support he would need.
"On the goal," says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, "I wanted to know whether [Varlamov] was interfered with and I think the question [in the war room] in Toronto was whether he kicked it in. The back ref had said that the puck went in before he was interfered with. You guys saw the replay. You tell me."
Sens winger Erik Condra added an insurance strike at 2:12 of the third.
Washington was able to muster a handful of quality scoring chances on Anderson, especially in the middle portion of the second. The Sens’ stopper made a sublime save on Caps winger Alexander Semin as he came out of the penalty box on a semi-breakaway.
The Caps pelted Anderson with a few prime chances soon afterwards during a power play while Chris Neil was in the box for interference. The game was still scoreless at that point, and Anderson made sure it stayed that way.
“We created a few chances but weren’t able to score. I thought Anderson played pretty well, but we didn’t make it tough enough on their defensemen. It wasn’t our best effort tonight.”
In addition to the call on Greening’s goal, a couple of extremely questionable officiating calls also conspired to oppress the Capitals both early and late in the game.
Early in the first period, Ottawa defenseman David Hale cracked Caps winger Matt Hendricks across the face with his stick. A high-sticking call was made and Hale was actually sent to the box and was sitting down when the hockey equivalent of a call from the governor came.
Inexplicably, the officials had huddled on the ice and somehow came to the lamentably erroneous conclusion that Hendricks’ wound had come from a skate rather than Hale’s stick.
Hendricks was asked for his view of the incident.
“The view was an Easton Synergy in my face,” he responds. “They gave him four [minutes], and then the other three officials said I got kicked by a skate.”
A four-minute power play early in a game against a team that played on the road the previous night might have made a difference in a game that was still scoreless at that point.
‘That’s neither here nor there,” says Hendricks. “You’ve just got to forget about it.”
With Ottawa up 2-0 midway through the third, Caps winger Matt Bradley threw what appeared to be a clean hit on Sens blueliner Patrick Wiercioch, who was going back to get the puck from beside his own net.
Even though the hit came above the goal line and even though Wiercioch landed on the ice, officials ruled that Bradley was guilty of boarding. Ottawa’s Zack Smith then jumped Bradley and the two dropped the gloves.
“The one on Brads,” begins Caps winger Brooks Laich, “there’s been a lot talk about hitting. Are we trying to eliminate hitting from the game? Is that what we’re trying to do with all this talk? He hits him above the goal line and it’s a boarding call. How is he supposed to play if that’s the call? You might as well take him right out of the lineup.
“He’s a solid, clean player. He doesn’t hit from behind. He doesn’t charge guys, run guys. He lays a good bodycheck and he has to pay the price for it with a penalty and their guy jumps in and there’s no call on him.”
Bradley’s hit on Wiercioch was exactly what was missing from Washington’s game up to that point. Against a team that had played on the road the night before, the Caps didn’t make life miserable enough on the Senators’ defensemen.
“That’s what I think was something that we lacked tonight,” admits Hendricks. “Obviously they played last night. They were tired and we could have tried to take advantage of that a little bit more. I don’t think we did. We might have given the puck to Anderson a few too many times on our dumps.
“They’re playing well. They’re playing confident, they’re playing hard and they deserve some credit.”
Suing For Non-Support – Varlamov, who was inserted as the starter vs. Ottawa late in the afternoon on Friday when scheduled starter Michal Neuvirth came up ill, won a 4-1 decision over the Blues in St. Louis on Dec. 1. Since then, he has been in the net 19 times. He has started and finished 17 games, relieved and finished in one, and started but did not finish another. In those 19 games, the Capitals have scored a criminally low total of just 30 goals in support of the sophomore Russian goaltender.
Varlamov has played in 25 games now this season, and he has been on the short end of a shutout loss in half a dozen of those games. Braden Holtby (13 games) and Michal Neuvirth (44 games) have each been victimized by two opposition shutouts in the nets for Washington this season.
Comeback Barn – Varlamov was out for more than two months with a lower body injury in the middle of last season, and when he returned to action at the NHL level he did so at Scotiabank Place against the Senators.
Varlamov was touched for six goals on 28 shots that night as Washington absorbed a 6-5 setback at the hands of the Senators.
After missing much of training camp and the first couple weeks of the 2010-11 regular season, Varlamov also missed a month of action between an Oct. 19 start at Boston and a Nov. 24 assignment at Carolina.
Including the span he missed in training camp/start of the season, tonight’s return to action marked the fourth time in a span of less than 16 months that Varlamov returned to action after an absence of a month or more.
Double-Digit Goose Eggs – Only twice previously in franchise history has Washington been shutout more than the 10 times it has been blanked in 2010-11.
The first-year expansion Capitals were shutout a dozen times on their way to an 8-67-5 finish in 1974-75, and the injury-rattled 1998-99 Caps were whitewashed 11 times as they sputtered to a 31-45-6 finish.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears were on the road Friday night, taking on the Adirondack Phantoms in Glens Falls, N.Y. The Bears dropped a 2-1 decision to the Phantoms.
Nolan Schaefer was in goal for the Bears, getting the nod late because scheduled starter Braden Holtby was held out. Schaefer stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced, but by the time Brian Willsie scored Hershey’s first goal of the night (his 29th of the season) midway through the third, the Bears were already in a 2-0 hole. Willsie’s goal completed the scoring for the contest, and the Bears were 2-1 losers.
Now 3-4-1-2 in their last 10 games, the Bears are still second in the AHL’s East Division with 91 points, 12 points behind front-running Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
By The Numbers – Washington fared poorly in the face-off circle, winning just 19 of 51 (37%) draws on the night. Marcus Johansson (1-for-10, 10%) and Nicklas Backstrom (7-for-20, 35%) had especially difficult nights on the dot … Dennis Wideman led the Caps with 24:45 in ice time while Laich paced Washington forwards with 23:30 … Laich led the Capitals with seven shots on goal and Bradley paced the team with four hits … Karl Alzner and Jeff Schultz led the way for Washington with three blocked shots each … Smith and Neil paced the Sens with five hits each.