Sunday, November 10, 2013

Washington Capitals: A ONE point night -- Game 17: Coyotes 4 - Capitals 3 (OT/Gimmick)

Things caught up with the Washington Capitals on Saturday night in Phoenix.  The Caps had a 3-1 lead with less than five minutes to play, but they gave up two goals late in regulation to tie the game, then allowed two more in the bonus round to drop a 4-3 decision to the Coyotes.

The Caps dutifully built a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes after allowing the game’s first goal to Shane Doan of the Coyotes.  After Doan put the Coyotes ahead mid-way through the first period, the Caps put up three goals in the second period.  Troy Brouwer evened the game in the first minute of the second period on a power play when he took a long lead pass from Mike Green and blasted a slap shot from the right wing faceoff dot past goalie Mike Smith to tie the game.

Just over three minutes later, John Carlson gave the Caps the lead on another power play, but it was Marcus Johansson who set things up by circling with the puck in the right wing circle, then slipping the puck past David Moss onto the stick of Carlson for the one-timer that put the Caps ahead.

Late in the period Joel Ward gave the Caps a two-goal lead on an odd play that started with Ward feeding Karl Alzner in the neutral zone.  Alzner carried the puck to the Coyotes’ blue line, then left the puck for Jason Chimera at the left point.  Chimera threw the puck toward the net, but it pinballed off Michael Latta onto the stick of Ward. From the bottom of the left wing circle, Ward wristed the puck past goalie Mike Smith, and the Caps had a two-goal lead they would take to the second intermission.

For 16 minutes in the third period, it looked as if the Caps would leave with two points in their back pockets.  Unfortunately, hockey periods are 20 minutes, and in the last four minutes the Caps undid all the good work of the previous 56 minutes. 

Lauri Korpikoski scored only his second goal of the season when he laid out and backhanded a rebound between Michal Neuvirth’s pads as he was falling to the ice to halve the Caps’ lead.   Then, with the clock ticking under two minutes to play and the Coyotes on a power play, Troy Brouwer dove in an attempt to flick a loose puck out of the Caps’ zone.  He managed to get it to the blue line but not over it.  Oliver Ekman-Larsson settled the puck and fed it to Shane Doan, who slipped into the space vacated by Brouwer.  Doan turned and snapped a wrist shot over Neuvirth’s blocker to tie the game with just 1:46 left to play.

After a scoreless overtime, it came down to Bettman’s folly.  Anotine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker sandwiched goals low to the glove side of Neuvirth around a miss by Mikhail Grabovski.  That brought it down to Alex Ovechkin to keep hope alive for the Caps.  When the puck rolled off his stick and went wide of the goal, it was representative of the Caps’ night, one in which they had the game on their sticks and let it slip away, 4-3.

Other stuff…

-- After seven straight wins in the bonus round, this was the first shootout loss for the Caps under Adam Oates.  They had been 15-for-23 in shooting until last night’s 0-for-2 performance.

-- The odd part about the freestyle competition was that the two shooters selected by Adam Oates were, to that point, the only two shooters who had recorded misses for the Caps.  Grabovski was 2-for-4 before his miss, and Ovechkin was 1-for-3.  Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Martin Erat, and Troy Brouwer were/are a combined 7-for-7.

-- The Capitals allowed two power play goals for the first time this season.  Through 17 games last season the Caps had allowed two of more power play goals in a game five times.  It was bound to bite them sooner or later.  This was the fifth time in six games the Caps allowed five or more power plays.  Over the previous five games the Caps allowed only two power play goals in 25 shorthanded situations.

-- On the other side, the two power play goals by the Caps made it seven games in which they recorded two or more power play goals.  Last season, through 17 games, the Caps accomplished the feat four times.

-- At least the Caps spread things around.  Nine different players recorded the nine available points, including Michal Neuvirth, who had the second assist of his career on Brouwer’s goal.

-- As much as the how many on penalties, it was the “what for.”  A delay-of-game on a faceoff violation (aqn incorrect call, by the way), an ensuing unsportsmanlike conduct (which was correct, under the circumstances), too many men on the ice, a puck over the glass call (the one that ultimately undid the Caps at the end of regulation).  Those are penalties that betray a lack of focus and discipline, not penalties taken in the heat of the moment.

-- That Boedker would get the game-clinching goal in the trick shot competition was odd karma.  He might have been the goat for the Coyotes (the conflicting livestock imagery notwithstanding).  Boedker took three penalties – hooking, tripping, goalie interference – one of which resulted in a Caps power play goal (Brouwer).

-- The Caps were shelled, 13-4, in shots at even strength in the third period and lost that battle for the game, 27-21.

-- It was Mike Smith’s first career win against the Caps after six losses. 

-- In former Capitals news… Jeff Halpern (0-0-0) and Mike Ribeiro (0-0-0) were held off the scoreboard, but Ribeiro tied for the team lead in shots on goal (six, with Ekman-Larsson), and Halpern won six of 11 faceoffs in eight minutes of work.

In the end… the Caps let a point get away.  It was disappointing on its own terms – another third period lead wasted – but the additional point could have put the Caps within striking distance of Pittsburgh at the top of the Metropolitan Division.  The silver lining…a thin lining… is that the Caps have a five-game streak with standings points earned.  They will be hard pressed to extend that streak to six as they head to Colorado to face the Avalanche tonight, a team that the Caps might have been peeking ahead to in the third period of this game.

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