Once upon a time, the Washington Capitals owned the San Jose Sharks. The Caps won the first five games in the series between the two clubs. How long ago was that fifth win? The goal scorers for the Caps were Peter Bondra, Craig Berube, Mike Ridley, and Keith Jones. Rick Tabaracci was the winning goaltender. Arturs Irbe, former Caps goaltending coach, was the losing netminder for the Sharks. It was October 30, 1993.
Coming into Tuesday night’s contest against San Jose, though, the Caps had won only four of the previous 26 games in the series (4-20-1-1) and were 1-15-1 in the last 17 meetings dating back to a 3-2 loss on October 16, 1999 at MCI (now Verizon) Center. Making things worse for the Caps, the Sharks were on a roll. San Jose brought a 17-5-1 record into Verizon Center, while the Caps had lost their last two contests, each by a 2-1 margin, to Dallas and St. Louis.
San Jose opened the scoring at the 6:22 mark of the first period when Michal Handzus redirected a Ryan Clowe centering feed under Caps goalie Braden Holtby. San Jose kept the pressure on, but Holtby was up to the challenge, keeping the Caps in the game despite facing 15 shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of the period. His heroics were rewarded late in the period when Marcus Johansson returned the favor, knocking a centering pass from Mathieu Perreault past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi at the 15:33 mark of the period. That would be the extent of the scoring, although the Caps did tighten up late, allowing no San Jose shots on goal after the 15-minute mark.
The Caps came out strong in the second period, peppering Niemi with an early flurry of shots, but were unable to push a puck behind him to take the lead. The Sharks were the ones to break the tie 8:12 into the period when Patrick Marleau one-timed a feed by Logan Couture from behind the Capitals’ net past Holtby. The goal stopped whatever momentum the Caps generated with their early pressure, but a penalty to defenseman Mark Stuart late in the period gave the Caps a new life. Troy Brouwer converted the power play opportunity when he pounced on a rebound of a Mike Green shot and roofed it over Niemi to tie the game at two apiece going into the second intermission.
The teams played cat-and-mouse with each other over the first half of the third period, but San Jose started tilting the ice to the Caps’ end as the clock passed the ten-minute mark. Effective forechecking pressure yielded dividends for the Sharks in the 15th minute when Joe Pavelski snapped a loose puck from between the hash marks past Holtby to give San Jose a late lead.
The Caps opened up their offense in the last five minutes in search of the equalizer but had difficulty putting their shots on net. A wrist shot by Alex Ovechkin in the last minute missed wide on the long side and skittered out of the offensive zone, where Pavelski picked it up. With all the Caps pressing in the offensive zone, there was no one back to defend as Pavelski skated to the empty net and flipped the puck in to give the Sharks a 4-2 win.
Notes: Joey Crabb took a shot off his left hand in the second period and did not return; he is listed as day-to-day…
Sharks 4 – Capitals 2