It really was not ugly, either. It was more of a big fat “meh” at Verizon Center as the Washington Capitals dropped a 3-2 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes this evening.
Having four days off showed for the Caps, who looked good at times, especially early, but who looked stale and discombobulated over long stretches of the contest. It was enough for the Hurricanes to hang around, not letting the Caps get out of reach after the Caps twice took one-goal leads. The first came in the game’s sixth minute when Jason Chimera chased down a puck near the left wing wall in the Carolina zone and in one motion turned and whipped a shot past defenseman Ryan Murphy and through the pads of goalie Anton Khudobin.
That was how the first period would end, but Elias Lindholm tied the game mid-way through the second period with his first NHL goal, a rocket…well, that’s how it will be described years from now… OK, a wrist shot from near the blue line that appeared to nick Tom Wilson, then John Carlson before tumbling over goalie Braden Holtby’s left pad on the far side.
Just less than a minute later it was Washington’s turn to have a puck change direction and find its way to the back of the net, Alex Ovechkin tipping a Steve Oleksy drive down and bouncing it past Khudobin’s right pad to restore the Caps’ one-goal lead. Carolina completed what passed for a flurry of goals in the contest two and a half minutes later when Alexander Semin pulled one out of the Capitals’ play book on a 5-on-3 power play. Lindholm tied up Nicklas Backstrom enough on a faceoff to Holtby’s left, allowing Jeff Skinner to jump in and slide the puck back to Eric Staal at the right point. Staal sent the puck across to Semin at the top of the left wing faceoff circle where he let fly with a one-timer that beat Holtby to the short side.
Carolina took the lead for good in the seventh minute of the third period when the Caps were caught running around in their own end unable to move the puck out of trouble. Holtby turned away a drive by Radek Dvorak and held off a bouncing puck on the rebound, but Nathan Gerbe snuck in on the left side and slipped the puck past Holtby for what would be the game-winning goal, sending the Caps to 1-3-0 on the young season.
-- The Caps are now 0-for-4 in terms of winning games in regulation. Last year they did the same (0-3-1). It is a disturbing trend since the Caps had not gone their first four games without a win in regulation before that since the 2000-2001 season (0-3-2-1 through six games).
-- Don’t look now, but John Erskine has been on ice for the last five even-strength goals allowed by the Caps, dating back to the last even-strength goal scored by Calgary a week ago in a 5-4 Capitals shootout win.
-- Alex Ovechkin’s streak of games with a power play goal ended at three, denied a career best four straight games with a power play goal.
-- The Caps are now 0-2-0 in games in which they score first.
-- Mike Green did not record a shot on goal in 23-plus minutes. It is only the second time in his last 82 games that he recorded no shots on goal in a game where he finished with at least 20 minutes of ice time.
-- The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Marcus Johansson recorded 10 of the Capitals’ 32 shots on goal. That’s the good part. The not so good is that Ovechkin had eight of them.
-- The second line of Brooks Laich, Mikhail Grabovski, and Troy Brouwer had four shots on goal for the night, only two after the first period (both by Laich).
-- The fourth line of Martin Erat, Michael Latta, and Tom Wilson had no shots on goal. Not only that, they did not have a single shot attempt.
-- If Tom Wilson gets two shifts and 1:23 of ice time in a tied/one-goal game in the third period (none in the last 13 minutes after he was on ice for the game-winning goal), what is he doing here?
-- From the “not what it seemed” file… the Caps were unsuccessful on five power plays. That is the first time the Caps went oh-fer on five or more power plays since they went 0-for-5 against Philadelphia last February 1st. They had a streak of seven straight instances broken in which they scored at least one power play goal on five or more chances. But here’s the thing… those five power plays consumed a total of 6:01, not the ten minutes five unsuccessful power plays would have consumed had they been full power plays.
-- Alexander Semin still got it. Oh, yeah, the power play shot, sure. But it was pure Semin to see him go into full flail and open-mouthed silent scream a moment before he was actually hit by Alex Ovechkin on a coincidental penalty late in the contest.
-- That was the first time the Caps lost a one-goal decision to Carolina at home since February 2008.
In the end, the best thing that can be said about this game is that it’s over. The Caps were not terrible, although they did have terrible moments (the game-winning goal, for instance). They had decent moments, but hardly put together stretches of play that rose to the level of decent, especially after the first period. Some of that was Carolina playing a safe, chip the puck along, take the local bus kind of game (they had only 52 shot attempts in 60 minutes). But the Caps didn’t help themselves and now have three goals in their last two games and only five even strength goals in four games. They have yet to win at all in the “hockey” portion of games (their lone win coming in the Gimmick). That won’t get it done. It wouldn’t even get it done in the old Southeast Division, and it should not escape notice that Carolina used to be a Southeast Division team, too.