Whitewashington – Even though they had won three straight games and nine of their previous 14 (9-4-1) coming into Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders, the Capitals have not been possessing the puck, drawing penalties, cycling the puck and generating scoring chances with any degree of consistency for quite some time now.
The Caps have been living off the fat of their goaltending and their newly improved defensive scheme, going 9-5-1 in their last 15 games despite getting 30 or fewer shots in each game and being outshot in 12 of the 15 contests.
The house of cards came down on Tuesday, and the Caps found themselves on the short end of a 3-0 score against the Isles and veteran netminder Evgeni Nabokov.
“It wasn’t a very good effort, that’s for sure,” says Caps winger Matt Hendricks, who led all skaters on both sides with seven hits in the game. “Every team is good in this league; it doesn’t matter who you play. If you’re not prepared to play every night as an individual, then you’re not going to be successful. We didn’t do what we needed to do tonight. We didn’t execute our game plan.
“I think we’ve got a lot of great, skilled guys in here. But we need to play a certain way to be successful and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Washington generated just 17 shots on goal for the game, the fifth straight game in which it has failed to reach 25 shots on goal.
“I thought we were skating well early, but so were they,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter. “I think we gave up two or three scoring chances just off mistakes. And it’s costing us. They are mistakes and people are getting beat, and the video don’t lie [as to] who gets beat or not.”
Washington has had exactly 13 even-strength shots on net in each of its last two games, including Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Caps stole that game courtesy of the goaltending of Tomas Vokoun, who made 43 saves to earn his 19th win of the season while his teammates sprinkled just 20 shots on the direction of Carolina goaltender Cam Ward.
“Against a team like that, we need a better effort,” says Vokoun of Tuesday’s loss to the Isles. “We had a chance at home against a team playing back-to-back to jump on them. We didn’t do that. We just hoped we’d win the game by hanging around and that’s not going to happen in this league. They have a pretty good squad, too. Don’t look at their record as an indication. They’ve got a pretty skilled group. It cost us. They were the better team and they won the game.”
The Caps have now gone 15 straight games without surpassing 30 shots on goal, their longest such streak since they went through the final 24 games of the 2003-04 regular season without pushing past the 30-shot barrier. A decidedly less-skilled and less-talented Washington team forged a 5-14-4-1 record during that 24-game stretch.
“We’ve got to start outshooting some teams,” says Caps center Brooks Laich. “We’re giving up 30, 35 and the other night 44 shots a game, which is too many. We’ve got great goaltending, but the law of averages is going to catch up with you. We’ve got to stay out of the box, find some rhythm offensively and tilt the ice the other way where it’s a constant attack rather than a constant defend.”
“I don’t know,” responds Vokoun, when asked if the team’s deficiencies have been masked by his own good play of late. “This is more a question for coaches. I’m out there trying to do my job and worrying about what I can control and that’s stopping the puck and helping the team to be in the game and hopefully win.
“It doesn’t take a hockey expert to see our effort wasn’t good enough tonight. When you get outworked and outplayed by a team that played last night and who is I don’t know how many points behind us in the standings, there is something wrong.”
New York has now blanked the Capitals a dozen times over the years; only Montreal (19) has recorded more shutouts over the Capitals. Nabokov is the first Isles goalie to shutout the Caps since Rick DiPietro on April 8, 2006.
Meet The New Boss … – The Capitals posted a 12-9-1 record in the 22 games before Hunter took over behind the Washington bench. The Caps are now an identical 12-9-1 in the 22 games since Hunter took the reins.
Under deposed coach Bruce Boudreau, the Caps scored 69 goals (3.14 per game) and allowed 72 (3.27 per game). They were 14-for-86 on the power play (16.3%) and were 64-for-80 (80%) on the penalty kill.
With Hunter at the reins, the Caps have scored 55 goals (2.5 per game) and allowed 53 (2.41 per game). They are 14-for-59 (23.7%) on the power play and 62-for-75 (82.7%) on the penalty kill.
Long Run – Tuesday’s whitewash was the first suffered by the Capitals this season and it came in the team’s 44th game of the campaign. The last time the Caps went this deep into the season without being blanked for the first time was back in 1991-92, when they went the entire season without being shutout, the second consecutive season in which they accomplished that feat.
Those two seasons (1990-91 and 1991-92) comprise the bulk of one of the longest non-shutout streaks in NHL history. From Oct. 31, 1989 to Nov. 11, 1992, the Caps went more than three years without being blanked, a stretch of 244 games. That streak is the third-longest in NHL history, and it fell 20 games shy of the mark set by the Calgary Flames from Nov. 1981 through Jan. 1985.
Power Surge – Tuesday’s game marked just the second time this season that Washington was nicked for multiple power-play goals in the same game on home ice. The first was the season opener against Carolina on Oct. 8. The Caps went 2-for-4 on the penalty kill in that one but still earned a 4-3 overtime victory.
“I just thought we had a couple of lapses there that turned to penalties,” says Caps winger Joel Ward of Tuesday’s loss. “They created some offensive chances and gained momentum on special teams. You’ve got to respect their team and their offense for sure. I think we’re just hurting ourselves more than other teams are outplaying us.”
Body Shop – The Islanders were the fourth foe in as many games on the caps’ just-completed homestand to come into Verizon Center after having played a home game the previous day or night. In the first three games of the homestand, the Caps punished their fatigued foes, dealing out at least 30 hits in each game and benefiting with a one-goal victory in each contest.
Washington delivered 10 hits in the first period of Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, but managed just nine over the final 40 minutes as the winning streak came to a halt.
Streak Stopped – The Caps’ streak of seven straight games scoring the game’s first goal on home ice came to a halt tonight at 12:05 of the first when New York’s John Tavares tallied a power play go to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
That Tavares tally also ended a spell of 432 minutes and five seconds of home ice play in which Washington did not trail at any point, a span that stretched back to a 5-1 loss to the Flyers at Verizon Center on Dec. 13.
Go Figure – Coming into tonight’s game, the Caps were 28th in the NHL with 142 power-play chances on the season and the Islanders were 29th with 138 extra-man chances.
Tonight’s game featured nine power plays, six for the Islanders and three for the Capitals.
Washington hasn’t played a game with more than nine power play chances in more than a month, since a Dec. 7 game against Ottawa that featured 10 power play opportunities.
The Islanders haven’t played in a game with more than nine power plays since their Dec. 10 game against the Penguins had 10 power play chances distributed among the two teams.
By The Numbers –Dennis Wideman led the Capitals with 28:26 in ice time. He was on the ice for 5:41 of the six minutes in which Washington enjoyed the man-advantage … Laich and Roman Hamrlik led the Caps with three blocked shots each.
1 - 0 NYI
2 - 0 NYI
3 - 0 NYI