Less than four minutes from getting out of town with two points and a five-game winning streak, the Washington Capitals saw their streak abruptly halted in the late stages of the third period on Saturday night in Phoenix.
The Coyotes scored two goals in a span of exactly 100 seconds to erase a 3-1 Washington lead, and then the Desert Dogs swiped the extra point in the shootout to send the Caps to a demoralizing 4-3 shootout setback.
Not only did the Capitals squander that late two-goal lead, they missed a chance to extend that advantage to three goals early in the third when they were unable to score during a two-man advantage of 71 seconds in length. Washington started the overtime session with a 4-on-3 power play for the first two minutes, but was unable to capitalize on that opportunity to take away two points and keep its winning streak alive, either.
“We had a couple of chances,” laments Caps coach Adam Oates. “We had a 5-on-3 and a 4-on-3 to get an insurance goal of the winner. We didn’t get it done.”
The Coyotes have a history and a reputation for winning when they score the game’s first goal and they scored first in Saturday’s game, going up 1-0 on a Shane Doan power play goal at 9:16 of the first period while Joel Ward was sitting out a tripping minor for Capitals.
Washington got a pair of late power plays of its own in the first frame, managing three shots on net but no goals and heading to the room down 1-0 after the first 20 minutes of play.
The Caps did have the benefit of 48 seconds worth of carryover power play time on a fresh sheet of ice to start the second and they cashed in. Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth stopped the puck for Mike Green behind the Washington net as the seconds ticked down on the power play, and Caps right wing Troy Brouwer hid out along the right wing wall at the far blueline. Green fired a perfect pass to the stealthy winger who carried to the right dot before blasting a slapper short side over the shoulder of Coyotes goalie Mike Smith to even it up at 1-1.
Less than three minutes after Brouwer’s goal, Phoenix’s Jordan Szwarz incurred a hi-sticking minor. A mere 20 seconds after he was seated, Washington took the lead on its second power play goal in a span of just 3:10.
Marcus Johansson held the puck and patiently surveyed the situation near the right dot buzzing to and fro for a few seconds until he saw a lane with which to tee one up for John Carlson at center point. Carlson crept down between the tops of the circles to receive and drove a one-timer past Smith for a 2-1 Washington lead.
Washington’s vaunted penalty killing unit was forced to kill a slew of minors to protect that slim lead, and shortly after successfully navigating that treacherous stretch of the game, the Caps padded their lead.
Left wing Jason Chimera carried over the Phoenix line and put to puck towards the net. It pinballed around and came right to Ward at the left of the cage, and he wasted no time squeezing it through the short-side opening before Smith could react at 16:27 to give the Capitals a 3-1 advantage.
Washington spent the rest of the second period buzzing for more and dominating the Coyotes territorially. Despite spending 6:08 of the second period shorthanded, the Capitals actually owned an 18-17 advantage in second period shot attempts.
The Caps jumped out strong in the third, and quickly created a situation in which they could have iced the game. Phoenix’s Lauri Korpikoski went off for Holding at 2:02 of the third, and teammate Rostislav Klesla followed him to the box for a tripping call only 49 seconds later.
But the Capitals could muster only one shot on goal on the lengthy 5-on-3 and one more on the residual 5-on-4, allowing the Coyotes to hang around.
Washington eased off the gas while the Coyotes pressed. In a span of just over five minutes starting just past the midpoint of the third period, Phoenix had 11 shot attempts to just one for the Capitals.
Phoenix broke through with 3:26 left. Coyotes center Antoine Vermette fired from the left wing half wall and the rebound caromed out into the slot where Korpikoski got to it and pushed a back-hander through Neuvirth to make it a 3-2 game.
“A shot and a rebound in the five-hole,” rued Neuvirth after the game. “What can I say?”
With 2:01 left, Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt went off for delay of game (puck over glass) to put the Coyotes back on the power play and put the Capitals’ penalty-killing corps back out for a sixth time.
Fifteen seconds after Schmidt was seated, the game was tied. The Caps missed a chance to clear, and Phoenix made them pay. Doan rifled a wrister from the top of the left circle over Neuvirth’s right shoulder.
Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek covered the puck as time expired in the third, drawing a delay of game call and giving Washington a two-minute power play at the outset of overtime. The Caps had one shot on the 4-on-3 and one more just as Michalek’s minor expired.
Phoenix prevailed in the shootout to take the game’s third point. The shootout loss was Washington’s first of the season (4-1) and its first under Oates (7-1).
“Obviously it’s tough,” says Neuvirth. “You lose the momentum when you’re killing penalties but I thought we did a good job on the penalty kill. I think if we would have scored on that 5-on-3 in the third period to make it 4-1 it would have been a different story.”
Special Slippage – In the wake of their Saturday night game in Phoenix, the Caps dropped from first to second in the NHL in penalty killing. Vancouver now occupies the top spot in the circuit at 88.5% while Washington is second at 88.2%.
Double Trouble – Dating back to the end of last season, Saturday night’s game marked the first time in 29 games that the Capitals surrendered multiple power play goals against in the same game.
The Caps went through the last 12 games of 2012-13 and the first 16 games of this season without surrendering more than one power play goal in any contest, their longest such streak in three years.
Uneven Tread Wear – Because of all the special teams play in the game, six different Capitals skaters – three forwards and three defensemen – were deployed for more than 22 minutes of work in Saturday’s game.
Caps captain Alex Ovechkin logged a single-game season high of 24:38 in Saturday’s game, marking the second straight game in which he has done so. Ovechkin logged 24:28 in Thursday’s shootout win over Minnesota in the District.
Brouwer was punched in for 22:07 on Saturday, also a single-game high for 2013-14 and the most ice he has seen since a 22:15 night against the Devils in New Jersey on Jan. 25.
Nicklas Backstrom was on the clock for 23:10, also a single-game high for the season and his toughest night’s work since a 23:11 night in Pittsburgh on March 16.
On the backline, Green worked 27:20, Carlson 25:25 and Karl Alzner 23:16.
With another game looming at altitude in Denver on Sunday, the optimal plan for the Caps would have been to spread the ice time around more evenly among the 18 skaters. Avoiding overtime would have also helped in that regard.
Second Helping – Washington racked up three goals in the second period of Saturday’s game, marking the seventh time this season the Capitals have scored multiple goals in the middle frame of a contest this season.
The Caps have scored at least one goal in the second period in 13 of 17 games this season and have tallied three or more goals in the second in three of their last five games.
Washington has scored more than half (29 of 52) of its goals in the second period this season, and it has scored 14 second-period goals in its last five games.
Helping Hands – Neuvirth collected a secondary assist on Brouwer’s power play goal in the second period. The helper was the first by a Washington netminder since Braden Holtby set up a Brouwer shorthanded strike with a primary assist on March 30 in Buffalo.
Neuvirth’s point on Saturday was the first by a Caps goalie on the power play since Holtby got the primary helper on a Brouwer power play tally against the Panthers in Florida on Feb. 9.
Neuvirth’s assist in Saturday’s game is the second of his NHL career. He recorded an assist against the Blackhawks in Chicago on March 18, 2012.
Two-Man Trouble – Dating back to last season, the Caps have now gone 10 straight two-man advantages without scoring a 5-on-3 power play goal. The Capitals have had a total of 11 minutes and 54 seconds worth of time with the two-man advantage during that dubious streak.
“There are a lot of little things that go into it,” says Oates, of his team’s struggles on the two-man advantage. “Decisions, speed, letting them get set up, missing a shot, missing a pass. We had a couple of chances, but not enough.”
Washington’s last 5-on-3 tally came off the stick of Mike Ribeiro on Jan. 25 against the Devils in New Jersey.
“We just have good looks on the 5-on-4,” says Brouwer. “Guys know what to do. On the 5-on-3 or the 4-on-3, it’s something we don’t practice a ton. We should be able to manufacture something, a little bit better look. I don’t think we had a quality look on the 4-on-3 in overtime. You’ve got to have at least some pressure towards the net.”
Shooting Gallery – Saturday night’s game marked the 12th straight contest in which Washington has surrendered 30 or more shots on goal.
Hat Trick of Infractions – Coyotes left wing Mikkel Boedker incurred three of Phoenix’s first five minor penalties on the night, going to the box three times for three different violations in a span of just 20:02 in game time.
Boedker went off for hooking and then tripping in the first period, and then took a potentially costly goaltender interference penalty while the Coyotes were on the power play late in the second period.
First Strike – The Coyotes are now 9-1-1 when they score the game’s first goal in 2013-14 and they are 212-49-33 when drawing first blood since the start of the 2005-06 season.
Cooking At Home – Phoenix was less than four minutes away from suffering its first regulation loss on home ice this season, but the Coyotes managed to pull the contest out of the fire. Phoenix is now 8-0-1 at home this season.
Along with Anaheim (7-0-0), the Coyotes are one of only two NHL clubs who have yet to experience a regulation defeat in front of the home folks.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears earned a 3-2 shootout win over the Sound Tigers in Bridgeport on Saturday night.
Bears captain Dane Byers staked the visitors to an early lead with a goal just 18 seconds after the opening puck drop, Tyson Strachan and Casey Wellman assisting.
Byers’ goal – his fourth of the season – stood up as the lone goal of the game until early in the third. Ryan Stoa scored on a Hershey power play at 2:56 of the third to double the Bears’ lead. Peter LeBlanc and David Kolomatis had the assists on the Stoa strike.
Hershey’s two-goal lead lasted less than two minutes. Joe Diamond scored on a Bridgeport power play to make it a 2-1 game at 4:13. Ryan Strome scored at 17;01 to even the contest and send it into overtime. The extra session solved nothing, so a shootout was required and the Bears prevailed in that exercise.
Philipp Grubauer made 35 saves to earn the victory in goal for Hershey, which is now 12th in the Eastern Conference standings at 3-4-2-1 on the season.
Hershey hosts Binghamton on Sunday afternoon at Giant Center.
Down a level, the ECHL Reading Royals played a home-and-home set with the Wheeling Nailers this weekend. Reading went to Wheeling for the front end of that set on Saturday night and came away with a 2-0 shutout win.
Stanislav Galiev scored what proved to be the game-winning goal while Reading was shorthanded in the first period. Domenic Monardo added an insurance tally in the third to support Brandon Anderson’s 19-save performance in the Reading nets.
The 5-3 Royals occupy the top spot of the ECHL’s three-team Atlantic Division.
The two teams will meet again on Sunday at Sovereign Center.
By The Numbers -- The Caps have allowed 30 or more shots on goal in 12 straight games, going 8-3-1 in the process ... Ovechkin logged 9:37 in power play ice time and Carlson had 5:48 in shorthanded work for Washington ... Ovechkin led the Caps with four hits ... Backstrom won 14 of 21 (67%) face-offs and Mikhail Grabovski won 11 of 16 (69%) ... The Phoenix blueline produced 13 shots on net and four assists in the game. Vermette won 19 of 27 (70%) of his draws in the game ... Korpikoski led all players on both sides with six hits ... Doan's 24:48 workload was his largest in more than 20 months, since he skated 24:56 in a March 8, 2012 game against Minnesota.