No Mo – Coming into Friday night’s game with the Devils at Verizon Center, the Caps hoped to carry over some of the good feelings from Tuesday night’s thrilling late comeback win over the Islanders.
For a while, it looked pretty good. The Caps were defensively stingy and stifling in the first half of the first frame. They had a few glorious scoring chances, but were unable to cash in on any of them.
When the Devils got the game’s first power play chance on a Matt Hendricks high-sticking call at 11:05 of the first, they had just one shot on net for the game.
Twenty-four seconds after Hendricks was seated, the Devils had their second shot and their first goal, a Zach Parise power play goal. It would prove to be all the offense the Devils and goaltender Johan Hedberg would need on the night as they shutout the Caps 5-0.
The Caps could never quite get themselves back into the game, and their first 10 minutes were probably their best 10 minutes on this night.
Washington outhit New Jersey 16-10 in the first frame and teed up a total of 17 shots to the Devils’ 11 in the game’s first 20 minutes. The Capitals won 13 of the 18 face-offs (72%) in the first 20 minutes. But in the only area that matters, New Jersey ran up a 3-0 lead in the first period.
Parise tallied twice and Dainius Zubrus also scored in the first. The Caps had several chances of their own in the first and well into the second, but were unable to solve Hedberg.
Parise finished his hat trick at 3:08 of the second on another Washington turnover and the Devils made it 5-0 later in the second on a shorthanded goal from Patrik Elias.
“Obviously, you don’t want to lose a game like that,” says Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman. “We played right into their hands. The one thing you can’t do when you’re playing the Devils is turn the puck over. You can’t put anything in the middle. Pretty much all of their goals, except their power-play goal, we turned the puck over.”
Tonight marked the fifth time this season the Caps have allowed three or more goals in the first period, but it was the first time they’ve done so on home ice.
The loss left the Caps on the outside of the playoff picture looking in with 18 games remaining on the schedule. The Caps trail eighth-place Winnipeg by one point and Southeast Division-leading Florida by three. The caps squandered one of their gamesin hand on the Jets in Friday's loss to the Devils.
“It’s tough," says Caps center Brooks Laich. "You don’t want to wake up in the morning and see that you’re not in the playoffs. There’s a lot of hockey left. Sometimes you’re gonna lose hockey games. That’s the way it goes. We’ve got to rebound.”
Battle Through – Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun was pulled in consecutive starts in Carolina and Ottawa on a rough road trip last week. He was pulled after allowing just two goals in Carolina and four in Ottawa, so it was a bit surprising to see Neuvirth play all 60 minutes in tonight’s 5-0 loss.
“I wanted Neuvy to battle through it,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter. “He didn’t have a great start, so I wanted him to battle through it.”
Asked why he had such a quick hook with Vokoun last week but left Neuvirth in to “battle through” on Friday, Hunter elaborated a bit.
“It’s one of those things,” he says, “It’s what the coaches think at the time. Every game switches. It’s not always after two goals you’re going to switch your goalie. It’s always what you feel right at that moment.”
Neuvirth came into Friday’s game with a 4-0-2 career mark against the Devils to go along with a shutout, a 1.46 GAA and a .950 save pct. In tonight’s game, he surrendered four goals on the first nine shots and five goals on the first 14 shots he faced. The Devils had only 20 shots on goal for the game.
Troubling Trend – The Caps are 13-8-1 against the teams currently beneath them in the standings this season. They are 19-19-4 against all the clubs currently ahead of them.
Short-Circuited – In their last 10 games, the Caps are 2-for-34 on the power play. The Washington power play has surrendered twice as many shorthanded goals (four) to the opposition during that same span. The Caps are 4-6 in those 10 games.
Washington’s special team woes stretch back much further than that. In their last 21 games, the Capitals are just 6-for-68 (8.8%) with the extra man and they scored only one more goal than the number of shorthanded goals (five) they have surrendered in that span.
The Caps’ penalty killing corps is 59-for-75 (78.7%) during that stretch. Washington has allowed 21 special teams goals in its last 21 games while scoring just seven of its own during the same time period. The Caps are 8-10-3 in those 21 contests.
“On our power play,” says Hunter, “they’re pressuring. They’re No. 2 in the league [on the penalty kill]. And we give up a shorty again. We’ve got to play more safe and get it down low and just get pucks to the net.”
Mercy Finish – With 6:29 left in the third, Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz was sent off for slashing. The ensuing face-off was the final draw of the game; there were no whistles the rest of the way. Whatever hardy Caps fans remained in the building at that point were at least able to endure the last six and a half minutes in “real time” without a television timeout. The game ended at 9:22 p.m., meaning it was played in a snappy two hours and 15 minutes.
Making Them Count – The Devils scored twice on their first four shots on net in Friday’s game and three times on their first seven shots on goal. New Jersey’s first three goals were scored in a span of six minutes and 50 seconds and came in a stretch of a half-dozen shots on net.
Hat Trick Whitewash – Parise’s hat trick and Hedberg’s shutout marked the first time an opposing team has had both of those feats in the same game against the Capitals since Nov. 5, 2007 when Cory Stillman had a hat trick and Cam Ward a shutout as the Caps fell 5-0 to the Hurricanes in Carolina.
The last time the Caps were shutout and had a hat trick against them in the same game was more than six years ago, on Feb. 7, 2006. Florida’s Jon Sim scored three goals in support of Roberto Luongo’s shutout of the Capitals that night.
Ex-Caps Coaching Web – Ex-Caps coach Ron Wilson was sacked by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.
Ex-Caps assistant coach Randy Carlyle replaces Wilson behind the Toronto bench. Carlyle became available after the Caps replaced Bruce Boudreau with Hunter in late November. Within days of Boudreau losing his post in Washington, Anaheim hired him to replace Carlyle.
Earlier this week, Wilson became just the fifth coach in NHL history to reach the 1,400 plateau in games coached.
Wilson has coached 1,401 regular season games, working for four different clubs (Anaheim, Washington, San Jose and Toronto) in the process.
Wilson spent the longest stretch of his coaching career (five seasons, 410 games) with Washington. He coached 385 games in San Jose, 310 in Toronto and 296 in Anaheim.
Along with Pat Quinn, Wilson is one of two of those 1,400-gamers who have not won a Stanley Cup.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears had Friday night off. They’ll be back in action on Saturday when they host the Binghamton Senators on Saturday.
The 29-19-4-5 Bears are third in the AHL’s East Division, a dozen points behind first-place Norfolk.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays dropped a 2-1 overtime decision on the road to the Greenville Road Warriors on Friday night.
Daniel Koger accounted for the Stingrays’ only goal and Philipp Grubauer made 29 saves in a losing effort. The game-winning goal came with 15 seconds remaining in overtime.
South Carolina visits Gwinnett on Saturday. The 32-22-4-1 Stingrays are in third place in the ECHL’s South Division, five points behind front-running Greenville.
By The Numbers – After going through he first 43 games of the 2011-12 regular season without being shutout, the Caps have now been blanked four times in the last 21 games … Only four Caps managed to finish Friday’s game with an even plus/minus ranking: Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward, Jeff Schultz and Jay Beagle … Jason Chimera led the Caps with five shots on net … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with seven hits … Washington outhit the Devils 38-26.
Wrist shot -