This One Doesn’t Go To Eleven – The Caps took a 10-game home opener winning streak into tonight’s game with the Winnipeg Jets, but that run came to a halt tonight. After a strong Washington start, Winnipeg scored four unanswered goals over a span of 27 minutes and it was enough for the Jets to get out of town with a 4-2 win.
Washington is now off to its first 0-2 start since 1996-97. To make matters worse, both losses came at the hands of divisional opponents.
Playing against a Jets team that had played and lost in a shootout the previous afternoon, the Caps got off to a solid start, holding a slight territorial advantage early and getting the game’s first goal. Nearly six minutes went by at game’s outset before the first whistle, giving the game a tempo that seemed to favor the fresher team.
But a pair of penalties in the second half of the first led to a pair of power play tallies for the Jets, the first of four straight goals for Winnipeg. Washington added a late power-play strike from Troy Brouwer to make the final score more respectable.
You wouldn’t think energy would be a problem for a team playing its home opener and its first game since Saturday, but the Caps got deflated after falling down 2-1. Winnipeg dominated the game territorially in the second, teeing up a total of 28 shots to just 17 for Washington.
“I didn’t think we had the energy we needed tonight,” says Caps left wing Matt Hendricks, who certainly wasn’t lacking energy himself. Hendricks notched the game’s first goal and engaged in a pair of fights. “One of our keys to success was to put them on their heels, put pucks in their end, get them to turn, get them to work. They played last night and we didn’t make it look like that.”
Winnipeg outshot the Caps 20-9 in the middle frame, and that 20th shot went in with just 45.4 seconds left in the second, pushing the deficit from two to three goals. It proved to be too much for the Caps to overcome.
The Caps fired 25 shots toward the net in the third to the Jets’ nine, but it was a case of too little, too late.
“Obviously we had a good start,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “We got a goal, things were going our way. We got a couple of penalties, gave them life. They scored two goals, the first one a little fluky. We kind of lost our momentum a little bit.
“It is a good system. It’s going to be hard and we have to fight through that. I thought we could have had better execution. We didn’t give ourselves the opportunity to play the team game. We turned it over on the blue line too many times, little subtle things that could have gone better to help ourselves.”
Goaltender Braden Holtby was saddled with the loss. He has now dropped consecutive decisions within the NHL regular season for the first time since Nov. 19-22, 2010.
“Obviously whenever you let in 10 goals in two games it’s not good,” admits Holtby. “But at the same time I feel fine. When you break down the goals there are not any trends or overly bad goals other than the second one tonight, I felt.”
Left In – Washington’s first goal came in the middle of a line change. The Caps’ fourth line of Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault and Joey Crabb put together a good shift in the offensive zone midway through the first frame. Perreault and Crabb went off in favor of Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin gained control down low on the left side and fed Backstrom at the far circle. Backstrom one-touched a pass to Hendricks at the goalmouth. The disc hit Hendricks’ right skate, then clicked off the shaft of his stick and into the net to give Washington its first lead of the season at 1-0.
If Ovechkin were still playing left wing, he would not have been on the ice in that situation, he would have been on the bench waiting for Hendricks (the left winger on the ice) to come off the ice. Instead, Marcus Johansson was on the bench waiting.
Shuffling The Deck – Hendricks may have been on with Ovechkin and Co. by accident for that goal, but he took several shifts with Backstrom and the Caps’ captain later in the game.
Oates also used Wojtek Wolski on a line with Ovechkin and Backstrom in the third period. Johansson took just one shift in the third period, and he was not in his customary spot on the power play when Brouwer scored. Ribeiro and Backstrom were both on the ice at the same time for that goal, and both collected assists.
Oates is looking for more than he is getting from Johansson right now.
“I felt he could play better,” says Oates. “You hope every guy uses his strengths. One of Marcus’ strengths is his skating ability and I didn’t think he was skating. I was looking for a spark; something else.”
Killing With Kindness – Winnipeg cashed in on each of its first two power plays in Tuesday’s game, leaving the Caps’ penalty kill unit with a woeful 4-for-9 (44.4% kill rate at that point. By night’s end, Washington nudged that mark up to 50%, still a long way from respectability.
Crooked Numbers – The last time the Caps allowed more than one power-play goal in consecutive games was Nov. 17-19, 2011. Washington allowed two power-play goals (on five attempts) in a 4-1 loss at Winnipeg on Nov. 17, 2011. Two nights later, the Caps surrendered three power-play tallies on five Maple Leafs power plays in a 7-1 defeat at Toronto.
Frustration – The Caps were tagged with an abuse of officials bench minor late in the third period and then a Mike Ribeiro unsportsmanlike conduct minor plus a 10-minute misconduct in the immediate aftermath of Brouwer’s power-play goal in the waning seconds of the game.
Ribeiro’s frustration stemmed from a pair of high-sticking calls that weren’t whistled, one in the first period – a whack on a face-off from the Jets’ Olli Jokinen that drew blood – and one in the third period.
“I thought I got high-sticked close to my throat again,” says Ribeiro, when asked why he had been assessed a misconduct penalty. “The second time I got high-sticked close to my throat again, I looked around and [the referee] was staring at me. I’m like, ‘Why are you not calling this one?’ I guess he wasn’t happy about that and I guess I said stuff that my kids won’t like too much.
“I just feel like you’re not allowed to talk to them anymore about situations that happen in a game. I feel like they’re above us or have more power, I don’t know. I think I need to stay focused on my game and ref the way they want to ref.”
Ribeiro underwent a tracheotomy a couple of years back after absorbing a Chris Higgins high stick to the throat, so you’ll pardon him if he’s a bit sensitive to hockey sticks near his throat.
Workload – Caps defenseman Tom Poti logged 13:20 in Saturday’s season opener, his first NHL action in more than two years. Poti skated 9:35 in the first period of Tuesday’s game, the most of any Caps skater. By night’s end, Poti’s ice time was at 21:31 second only to Mike Green’s 27:35 among Washington defensemen.
For a span of 11 seasons beginning in 1999-00, Poti averaged better than 20 minutes a night every year, topping out at 25:38 in 2005-06 with the New York Islanders.
Balanced in Back – With the addition of defenseman Tomas Kundratek – recalled from AHL Hershey on Monday – to the lineup for Tuesday’s game, the Caps lined up with three right-handed and three left-handed shots on the blueline.
Kundratek, a 23-year-old native of the Czech Republic, got into five games with the Capitals last season. He made his NHL debut at Verizon Center against Pittsburgh on Jan. 11, 2012.
When he joined the Capitals’ organization in a Nov. 7, 2011 trade with the New York Rangers, Kundratek had amassed two goals and 12 assists for 14 points in 77 career AHL games.
Since joining the Washington organization, Kundratek has totaled 25 goals and 24 assists for 49 points in 96 games with the AHL Hershey Bears. Two of Kundratek’s 12 goals came on the power play last season; six of his 13 tallies for the Bears in 2012-13 came on the man-advantage.
In his first NHL action of 2012-13, Kundratek logged 11 minutes on 13 shifts. He finished with one shot on goal and two blocked shots.
The 400 Club – Green skated in the 400th game of his NHL career on Tuesday against the Jets.
Quick Work – Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Jets had been scuffling offensively. Winnipeg had scored two goals in its previous two games this season over a span of 125 minutes. It took the Jets just 16:26 to match that total.
Helping Hands – Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom notched three assists on the night, matching a single-game career high. This is the fifth time Enstrom has had three helpers in an NHL game, and the first since Jan. 2, 2011 when he turned the trick against Montreal.
Nemeses – Two noted Caps killers had a big hand in the Winnipeg win. Jets left wing Evander Kane had a goal and an assist to give him nine goals and 13 points in 16 career contests against the Capitals.
Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has had tremendous success against the Capitals since the start of the 2010-11 season. In his last 12 games (11 starts) against the Capitals, Pavelec is now 8-2-1 with two shutouts, a 1.58 GAA and a .950 save pct.
By The Numbers – Poti and Johansson were the only Capitals not to record a shot on goal in the game … Ovechkin had six shots blocked, accounting for a third of Washington’s team total of 18 … Wolski paced the Caps with five shots on goal … Ovechkin, Hendricks and Green led the Caps with four hits each … Ron Hainsey blocked six shots and Mark Stuart five for the Jet