One And Done – Friday night’s feel-good win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center gave the Caps a chance to do something they hadn’t done in 2012-13 season: win consecutive contests. To do that, the Caps would need to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Sunday.
That’s never an easy task, but the Pens played Saturday afternoon in Newark while Washington was slightly more rested. The Caps did a lot of good things early in Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, and they failed to do enough of some other things.
Ultimately, the Caps hit a serious patch of second-period adversity on their way to a 6-3 setback to the Penguins.
On the good side of the ledger, the Caps spent a lot of time in the Pittsburgh end in the first period. Their forwards made Pittsburgh defensemen feel the body frequently in the first.
On the bad side, Pittsburgh was able to score twice on point shots, one on a deflection and another through traffic. Caps goalie Braden Holtby says he didn’t have time to react on the deflection and he never saw the one that went through traffic.
Washington didn’t test ex-teammate Tomas Vokoun, the Pittsburgh netminder on this afternoon.
“No,” says Caps right wing Troy Brouwer, when asked if he thought the Caps put enough pucks on Vokoun when the game was still close. “I don’t think so. And the pucks that we did get on net were from bad angles and they weren’t quality opportunities. And we needed more bodies around the net. We didn’t have very many second opportunities. It was one and done, for the most part.”
One and done also describes Washington’s bid for a modest winning streak. They’ll have to try to start another one up on Tuesday when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit to close out the homestand.
Turning Point – Down 2-1 after 20 minutes of play, the Caps got a fortuitous bounce early in the second when a John Carlson hard-around bid on a dump and change play careened off the glass and skidded sharply left into the vacant Pittsburgh net. Vokoun had gone behind the net to play the hard-around.
Carlson’s fluky goal evened the score at 2-2 at 4:03 of the second period. Just a dozen seconds after Carlson’s goal, Pittsburgh forward Zach Boychuk was unwisely whistled for boarding Caps center Mike Ribeiro, giving Washington a power-play chance and an opportunity to take the lead for the first time in the game.
The Caps were happy with their work on that power play, but they did not score. Some 41 seconds after that power play ended without the Caps taking the lead, it was the Pens who got a goal from defenseman Kris Letang to take a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.
“Obviously it’s a momentum changer,” says Holtby of the Letang goal. “Probably the third one especially. I feel like it’s well within my capabilities to make that save. Those are the ones where if you are going to win games, that’s where momentum changes. I would have liked to come up with that save, but I’ll make sure I do next time.”
Caps center Nicklas Backstrom laments the missed opportunity on the power play.
“Obviously it would have been big to score a goal there on the PP and get us a lead there,” says Backstrom. “It would have been a different situation.”
Instead, Pittsburgh scored the first of what would be three consecutive second-period goals on as many shots on goal in a span of just 7:03.
“We had a good power play,” says Brouwer. “I thought we worked it around, had some good opportunities, a couple of close chances there. And then we get scored on twice in a matter of close to a minute. We had all the momentum. We had the crowd into it, the guys were into it; we were feeling good. Then we get scored on, two quick goals and it’s tough. Then they scored a power-play goal shortly after that.
“Like has been the case for most of the season, we get scored on in bunches and we just can’t recover.”
The Caps have been outscored by a combined total of 13-6 in the second period of their nine games this season.
“They had five goals on 14 shots (at the time of the Pens’ fifth goal) so it’s very difficult,” says Oates. “We got the break I thought on Carly’s goal off the stanchion. Then we got a power play and it was a pretty decent power play. And right after that they score. That takes the wind out of your sails a little bit.”
Not So Special – Washington’s special teams play has played a big part in the team’s early season malaise. Nine games into the season, the Caps have six power play goals. They haven’t put up a crooked number with the extra man in any of those games this season, and they’ve never gone more than two straight games with one. With a 16.2% success rate on the power play this season, the Caps rank 18th in the NHL.
They’ve got the talent to be better and they know it.
On the penalty-killing side of things, the Caps gave up at least one power-play goal for the seventh time in nine games. On Sunday, they surrendered multiple power-play goals for the fourth time in nine games. And they were victimized on a 5-on-3 power play for the fourth time this season.
Washington is the only team in the league to surrender as many as four 5-on-3 goals this season. In the entire 82-game season in 2011-12, the Caps gave up just two 5-on-3 power play goals.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears finished up a three-point weekend with a second straight 2-1 game at Giant Center on Sunday. After downing the Manchester Monarchs with Philipp Grubauer in goal on Saturday, the Bears fell to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by the same score in overtime with Dany Sabourin in net on Sunday.
Sabourin made 37 saves against his former team, but Chad Kolarik’s goal with 10 seconds left in overtime made winners of the Baby Pens. Boyd Kane scored Hershey’s lone goal while Casey Wellman picked up his first point as a Bear with an assist on the play.
Sabourin falls to 6-7-1 on the season. Hershey hits the road for its next game, traveling to Cleveland to take on Lake Erie on Tuesday night.
With 47 points, Hershey is in a tie with Bridgeport for eighth place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference standings.
By The Numbers – The Capitals are now 14-7-2-0 all-time on Super Bowl Sunday … Caps captain Alex Ovechkin had five shots on goal to pace Washington. He has a dozen shots on net in his last two games. Ovechkin also led the Caps with three hits … Mike Green led the Caps with 25:18 in ice time, he has led the Caps in that department in all nine games this season … Carlson blocked three shots to lead Washington … The Caps were charged with 22 giveaways to 10 for Pittsburgh … Brooks Orpik led the Pens with 28:11 in ice time … Letang led the Pens with four shots on net … Pittsburgh outhit the Caps 29-15.