Home cooking proved to be no help for whatever is ailing the Washington Capitals. Playing their lone home game in a span in which they play eight of nine contests on the road, the Caps were whitewashed 2-0 at the hands of the Ottawa Senators and goaltender Craig Anderson on Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
The loss was the Caps’ sixth in succession, its longest losing streak since an eight-game skid from Dec. 2-18, 2010. Washington has lost four straight in regulation for the first time since Nov. 25-Dec. 1, 2011. The first two of those losses came with Bruce Boudreau behind the Caps’ bench and the last two with Dale Hunter at the reins.
“We’re not scoring goals,” laments Caps right wing Troy Brouwer. “We’re working hard. Our effort was there tonight and we are doing the right things, getting pucks deep, getting shots to the net. Anderson made some good saves when he needed to, but we’ve got to score goals.”
“You have to try and get [goals],” echoes Caps coach Adam Oates. “We played pretty hard; we had 21 [scoring] chances five-on-five. Their goalie played well, but we had a lot of guys with some really good looks, good chances. We have to score some goals. I would say the chances were good chances tonight, and we had a lot of them. It is a matter of finishing.”
After a rugged first 20 minutes in each of the last two games in which Washington surrendered multiple goals in the first frame of each game and was outscored by a combined total of 5-0, the Caps came out stronger in the first 20 minutes against Ottawa. Washington weathered an early Sens power play, outshooting Ottawa 2-0 during the duration of Connor Carrick’s holding violation at 1:56 of the first.
Washington managed to draw a pair of interference calls on the Sens in the final 4:28 of the first. The Sens killed off a call on captain Jason Spezza and a carryover minor on Eric Gryba in the final minute of the period.
The Capitals managed to kill off a Troy Brouwer roughing call just before the midpoint of the middle period, but the Sens scored the game’s first goal shortly after the completion of that penalty kill.
Washington had the puck behind the Ottawa net, but the Caps were unable to retain possession. Gryba pulled the puck from Caps center Mikhail Grabovski and moved it slowly along the wall toward Clarke MacArthur who was stationed near the half wall to the right of the Ottawa cage. Caps defenseman Karl Alzner took a few steps in to pinch, and MacArthur immediately pushed it to Kyle Turris, who tore off with speed toward the Washington end. As he reached the top of the right circle, Turris released a wrist shot, threading it through the legs of Caps defenseman Connor Carrick and Washington netminder Braden Holtby to give the Sens all the offense they would require at 12:59 of the second.
The Caps had a great chance to gain the equalizer when Ottawa took a pair of minor penalties, the first a tripping call on MacArthur late in the second and the second a slashing penalty on Jared Cowen early in the third. But Washington’s power play was unable to rise to the occasion, and the Sens were able to nurse that 1-0 lead toward the middle of the final frame.
Caps forward Martin Erat went off for hooking at 7:28, and the Sens added an insurance marker on the power play about 90 seconds later. Ottawa moved the puck around crisply, and Jason Spezza took possession along the left wing half way. After briefly surveying his options, Spezza skated the puck away from the wall and toward the left face-off dot. He unleashed a wrist rocket that beat Holtby to the short (blocker) side to make it a 2-0 game at 8:56 of the third.
The Capitals weren’t able to light the lamp behind Anderson despite outshooting the Senators 34-26 on the night. Only 18 of those shots (and 29 shot attempts) came from the Capitals’ 18 forwards while Washington’s six defensemen combined to launch 16 shots and were responsible for 24 of the team’s shot attempts.
“To be honest, I don’t think we’re playing heavy enough hockey,” asserts Caps forward Brooks Laich. “I think we are too much on the outside. I don’t think consistently enough that we are going from the outside and fighting through a check or leaning on a guy and trying to get to an area around the net where we can get chances. Some guys are trying, but when you are not scoring, we need to be better at doing that. And maybe they hook you, maybe they trip you, maybe they panic for a second and grab you.”
The Dozen Years Drought – Washington has now been limited to one or zero goals in five of its last six games, the first time it has achieved that dubious distinction in 12 years.
The last time the Caps were limited to one or zero goals five times in a six-game span was from Jan. 12-22, 2002. Washington scored a total of seven goals in that six-game span, but permitted only 10 and improbably went 3-3 during that stretch. The Caps had two consecutive 1-0 shutout wins at the start of that stretch and a 3-0 whitewash victory in the sixth game of those contests.
Free Falling – The Caps’ tumble down the ladder of the Metropolitan Division standings continues. At the halfway mark (41 games in) of the 2013-14 season, the Capitals were in second place in the divisional standings and sixth in the Eastern Conference with 46 points.
Since then, Washington has won just two of its last nine games, (2-5-2). The Caps have also won only two of their last dozen games (2-6-4), and every team in the Metropolitan Division has gained at least five points on the Caps over that 12-game span.
As a result, the Caps have plummeted to sixth in the Metropolitan Division standings and 12th in the 16-team Eastern Conference. Washington is only three points ahead of the New York Islanders, the cellar-dwelling club in the Metro. The Isles are 10-3 in their last 13 games.
Washington is currently only five points north of the 15th place team in the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are on an 11-6-2 run in their last 19 games.
“If you’re not winning,” says Laich, “there’s a reason you’re not winning. When you win it’s because you deserve to win, generally. And if you are not winning, do something extra. We’re tired of talking about it. Well done is better than well said. If you want to talk about it, go show it on the ice. We have to prove it to our teammates, to ourselves, to the organization. We have to be better as players.”
Without The Captain – The Caps played Tuesday’s game without captain Alex Ovechkin, who was sidelined with a lower body injury. The Caps are now 2-1 this season without Ovechkin and they are 13-9-2 in the 24 games he has missed during his nine-year career.
Tough Foe – The Caps are now winless in seven straight games against the Senators. Washington’s last victory over Ottawa came north of the border on Dec. 7, 2011. That 5-3 triumph came was the first road victory in Dale Hunter’s 60-game tenure as the Capitals’ head coach.
Washington is now 0-6-1 in its last seven games against the Sens, and Ottawa has outscored the Capitals by combined total of 23-12 in those games.
Seven-Up – The seven straight wins for Ottawa over Washington is a Senators’ franchise record in the all-time series between the two teams. Ottawa won six straight games over Washington from Nov. 27, 1996 to Dec. 27, 1997.
Handy Andy – Anderson has been the goaltender of record in each of Ottawa’s seven straight wins over the Capitals. He has 11 career victories over Washington, the most he has recorded against any opponent in the league.
Anderson’s Tuesday night shutout was the seventh the Sens have spun against the Caps over the years, and the first that Ottawa has managed in the District since April 5, 2002 when the Senators’ Patrick Lalime and Washington’s Olie Kolzig combined for the only 0-0 double-shutout NHL game ever played in the District.
Anderson has accounted for two of Ottawa’s seven shutouts against the Capitals; Lalime also has two and Ron Tugnutt leads the way with three.
By The Numbers – Mike Green led the Caps with 26:40 in ice time … Green and John Carlson led the Caps with five shots on net each, and Carlson led the way with eight shot attempts … Brouwer paced the Caps with six hits in the game … Nicklas Backstrom won 12 of 18 draws (67%) while Grabovski won seven of 11 (64%) and Jay Beagle won five of six (83%). The other six Capitals who took at least one face-off in the game won just five of 25 (20%) of those draws … Erik Karlsson paced Ottawa with 29:57 in ice time … Spezza led the Sens with five shots on goal … Cowen paced the Sens with seven hits.