Familiar Script – For the third time in as many games at the outset of the 2012-13 season, the Washington Capitals got into penalty trouble that resulted in multiple power-play goals and another entry in the loss column.
Montreal got two power-play goals in a span of 57 seconds early in the second period on Thursday, and that proved to be all the offense the Canadiens would require in a 4-1 win over the Capitals.
All four Montreal goals came in the second period; the Caps have now been outscored 6-0 in the second period of their two games on home ice thus far this season.
“If I had to say one thing, I’d say work ethic,” said Caps right wing Troy Brouwer, when asked to put his finger on the reason for the Caps’ poor performance early in the season. “We’re not out of shape. That’s an excuse right now. Guys are professionals here. They came into camp in shape, ready to go. It’s not fitness. It’s work ethic. We’ve been outworked three times and we’ve lost three games.”
Caps coach Adam Oates did not disagree with that assessment.
“I talked to them after the second period,” said Oates. “That’s kind of what I said. I would say some of our mistakes are pure effort.
“It’s very upsetting. I’m not pushing the panic button, but obviously it’s upsetting.
“I’m not a believer in the Knute Rockne speech. I’m not. We’re pros. You’ve got to be a pro and you’ve got to do your job. It’s not always going to go your way. You’ve got to show up for work.”
Washington played a strong first period, holding a territorial advantage over the Habs as evidence by a 23-15 advantage in shots taken in the first 20 minutes of the contest. But Caps captain Alex Ovechkin was whistled for interference on Habs defenseman Andrei Markov, and 25 seconds later Caps winger Troy Brouwer sent a puck over the glass in his own end and joined Ovechkin in the box for delay of game.
Tomas Plekanec scored on the resulting 5-on-3, and Markov bagged another power-play goal when Matt Hendricks incurred a goaltender interference call just seconds after Brouwer’s exit from the sin bin.
Montreal added two more goals to send Washington into a 4-0 third-period hole and to mark the second time the Caps had allowed four consecutive goals to an opponent in two home games this season.
Joey Crabb scored for the Caps in the third to spoil the shutout bid of Montreal goaltender Carey Price.
The Caps have now dropped three consecutive games by multiple goals for the first time since Nov. 15-19, 2011.
“Embarrassing is almost the right term right now,” said Brouwer. “Pathetic is probably a better one. I feel bad for the fans. I’d like to finish a game with at least 50 percent of the fans still in the stands. Their reaction is completely warranted, booing us. We haven’t earned any of their respect. We haven’t earned any of their passion or ambition. We’ve got to turn something around, and we’ve got to do it fast.”
They’ll get the chance to turn it around fast. Washington traveled to Newark immediately after the game; it faces the 2-0 Devils on Friday night.
No Leads – Washington has now played a total of 180 minutes this season, and it had held a lead for a grand total of 2:32 of that time. The Caps’ inability to take and hold a lead – combined with their poor penalty-killing performance – has made for a familiar recipe in each of the team’s three losses this season.
For this team, a lead would be such a luxury right now.
“That would be great,” said Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. “A little bit of a confidence booster would be nice for all of us right now. It seems like we went through the same thing last year. A goal would get scored against us and we’d all get down, the fans included. It just doesn’t help us when we get down. We definitely need the first goal and maybe the second goal if we can get it, just to get spirits up.”
Go with the Flow – Although the first period started out somewhat sluggishly, the flow improved greatly as the frame wore on. There were six face-offs in the first 3:47 of play, and a dozen draws over the first 10:08 of the first period. But over the final 9:52, both sides did a lot of changing on the fly. There were only two face-offs over the final 9:52 of the period, and one of them came as the result of a holding penalty on Montreal’s Ryan White.
Not So Special – With a 61.1% penalty kill success rate, the Caps rank 27th in the league in the young season. But no team has surrendered more power play goals (seven) than the Capitals and for the third straight game the Caps have had fewer power-play opportunities than the opposition.
Washington is 2-for-12 on the power play this season, and its 16.7% success rate is tied for 18th in the circuit. The Caps went without a power-play goal on Thursday for the first time in three games this season.
Crooked Numbers – The Capitals have allowed multiple power-play goals in each of the first three games of 2012-13. Washington had only four such games during the entire 82-game regular season in 2010-11 when it finished second in the NHL with a kill rate of 85.6% on the season.
The last time the Caps allowed two or more power-play goals in as many as three consecutive games was Nov. 22-26, 2008 when they surrendered two power play goals in consecutive contests at San Jose, at Minnesota and at home against Atlanta. The last of those three games was Karl Alzner’s NHL debut.
Two-Man Trouble – Plekanec’s goal came on a 5-on-3 power-play, the second such goal the Caps have surrendered in three games this season. While the Caps have faced a pair of two-man advantages in the young season, they have had only one of their own in their last 57 regular season games.
The Deal That Keeps On Giving – Thursday marked the 22nd anniversary of the trade that brought defenseman Ken Sabourin from Calgary to Washington in exchange for Paul Fenton on Jan. 24, 1991.
At the time of the deal, Sabourin was skating for the Salt Lake City Eagles of the now-defunct International Hockey League. The Eagles were in Kalamazoo for a game against Ken Hitchcock’s team when Sabourin learned of the swap at 3:30 a.m.
Along with Caps assistant coach Tim Hunter, Sabourin earned a Stanley Cup championship ring with the 1988-89 Calgary Flames. Sabourin is now the Caps’ radio color analyst, a position he has held since 2002-03.
By The Numbers – Mike Green led the Caps in ice time for the third straight game, skating 25:44 … Green also led the Caps in shots on goal (five) and shots attempted (12). Four of Green’s shots were blocked and three missed the net … Washington won 30 of 55 (55%) face-offs in the game, the first time the Caps finished above 50% in that category this season.