Tough Trip, Tough Towns – Washington will be heading home empty-handed from its two-game Western Canada road trip. The Caps fell 7-4 to the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday night.
The Caps are now 1-5-1 in their last seven visits to British Columbia. They’re 1-8 in their last nine trips to Edmonton.
Washington dug an early hole for itself, struggling mightily to withstand Vancouver’s tenacious forecheck in the first. The Canucks used a pair of power play goals to forge a 3-1 lead over the Capitals in the first.
The Caps rebounded to draw even after two, scoring three goals of their own in the second to make it 4-4. But Washington let the game slip away in a span of five bad minutes in the middle of the final frame.
“I think they started pretty hard and gave us a little pressure and scored three goals,” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “After that we just calmed down and scored [three] goals in the second.”
Ovechkin had two of Washington’s goal, but was also called for an offensive zone interference call at 4:15 of the third when he bumped Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler in front of the Vancouver cage, a play Caps coach Bruce Boudreau believed was merely “incidental contact.”
Ovechkin took the blame for the call, though.
“In the third period, my penalty was in the wrong time and wrong spot.”
The Caps killed the penalty, but were still scrambling in their own end and Henrik Sedin was able to pick up a loose puck at the top of the paint and pot it for what would prove to be the game-winner.
Just 34 seconds later, Chris Higgins added an insurance strike with his second of the night.
The Caps had a chance to pull within one on a power play of their own midway through the frame, but Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo robbed Ovechkin with a glove save.
Mere seconds after that Luongo stop, Maxime Lapierre stuck a dagger in the Caps with his second strike of the night, a goal that came seconds after the expiration of the Washington power play.
“We knew they were going to come out hard in the third,” says Caps center Marcus Johansson, “and they had a couple of easy goals. That can’t happen in a game like this.”
“We knew what was going to happen as far as their effort in the third,” says Boudreau. “They get the first one, it generates more energy in the building. We sagged for about five minutes there and the game is over.”
Luongo has now won 13 of his last 14 (13-1) starts against Washington, dating back to late in the 2003-04 season when he was a member of the Florida Panthers.
Even with the consecutive losses on the road to end the month, the Capitals have established a franchise standard for best month of October (7-2, .778) in 2011-12. They eclipsed the prior mark of 9-3 (.750) set by the 1991-92 team.
Out In The Eighth – Goalie Tomas Vokoun became the first Caps goalie in nearly five years to make as many as eight consecutive starts when he got the Saturday assignment in Vancouver. But Vokoun was relieved of his netminding duties at the start of the second when Michal Neuvirth came on to spell him.
Vokoun gave up three goals – two of them on the power play – on 17 shots in his 20 minutes of work. Neuvirth was saddled with the loss; he surrendered four goals on 26 shots in his relief effort.
Oh, Canada – Ovechkin scored a pair of goals in Saturday’s game, continuing his trend of prolific scoring in Canadian buildings. In 43 career games in barns north of the border, Ovechkin now has scored 31 goals and registered 56 points.
Powering Up – Ovechkin and linemate Nicklas Backstrom are making a lot of hay on the power play thus far this season. Ovechkin scored a power play goal with help from Backstrom in Saturday’s game.
Backstrom now has collected eight of his 12 points on the season and Ovechkin six of his nine points while Washington was on the man-advantage.
Two For Two For Knuble – Knuble’s penalty shot try was the second of his NHL career. Both have been successful.
Knuble’s previous penalty shot came on March 3, 2003 while he was with the Boston Bruins. He scored on the Blackhawks’ Jocelyn Thibault in a game in Chicago.
Two Down – When Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler scored a power play goal with 3.2 seconds left in the first period of Saturday’s game, it put the Capitals into a two-goal deficit for the first time this season.
It didn’t last long. Washington needed just 89 seconds to shrink the Vancouver lead to one.
The Canucks put together another two-goal lead in the third, and this time Vancouver needed less than four minutes in which to make it a three-goal advantage.
Shooting Gallery – Coming into Saturday’s game, the Canucks had fired at least 32 shots on goal in each of their previous five games. Vancouver needed just 40 minutes to record 31 shots against the Capitals on Saturday, and the Canucks reached the 40-shot mark for the fourth time this season, ending up the night with a single-game high of 43.
Down On The Farm – All three teams in the Washington affiliate family from the Capitals on down spent this weekend out on the road. The AHL Hershey Bears jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Springfield Falcons in Springfield on Friday night, only to suffer a 4-3 overtime setback in the end.
Chris Bourque scored one of the Hershey goals to extend his season-opening point streak to eight straight games. Also of note, Caps prospect Garrett Mitchell notched his first pro goal against the Falcons. Braden Holtby absorbed the loss in goal for the Bears.
On Saturday, the Bears took on the Adirondack Phantoms in Glens Falls, NY. Again Hershey found itself on the short end of a one-goal decision, a 2-1 regulation defeat.
The two teams played 40 minutes of scoreless hockey before the Phantoms scored a pair of third-period tallies to take a 2-0 lead. Hershey avoided the shutout with just 39 seconds left in regulation on Dmitry Orlov’s second goal of the season, but Bourque’s scoring streak came to a halt.
At 5-2-2 on the season, the Bears stand third in the AHL’s East Division.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays spent the weekend in Elmira where they took on the Jackals on Friday and Saturday night. The Stingrays took Friday night’s opener by a 5-2 count and then skated off with a 5-3 win in Saturday’s contest.
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 31 saves in Saturday’s game to run his record to 3-0 on the season. Billy Ryan scored twice to pace the South Carolina attack.
With a 5-2 mark on the season, South Carolina holds a three-point lead over Gwinnett in the ECHL’s South Division.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 25:50 in ice time and six shots on net … Ovechkin had five shots on net, and none blocked. He missed once … Washington was outhit 25-11 on the night … Troy Brouwer had five hits and Matt Hendricks had three … The Caps were 26-for-65 (40%) from the dot on the night and won just 12 of 40 face-offs (30%) after the start of the second period.