The Washington Capitals lost to Colum… no, wait a minute… Pittsbu… no, that’s not it. The Washington Capitals lost to the San Jo… no, that’s not it, either.
I got it, the Washington Capitals lost to the New York Rangers tonight, 4-1, in what is becoming the ninth circle of Groundhog Day, where Dante Alighieri meets Bill Murray. Tonight’s embarrassment was enforced early and emphatically when Rick Nash scored 70 seconds into the game, then scored again at the 16:06 mark of the first period. The Rangers added a goal by Derek Stepan before the horn sounded at the end of the first period, and after Alex Ovechkin one-timed a pass past Henrik Lundqvist early in the second period to give the club a glimmer of hope, it was snuffed out 1:26 later when Ryan Callahan scored a shorthanded goal to end the scoring.
The rest was embroidery.
-- 22 times this season the Caps have allowed a goal within two minutes of scoring one themselves.
-- The Caps scored their first 5-on-3 goal of the season on Ovechkin’s blast. Yeah, the one that the Rangers answered less than two minutes later. Figures.
-- Martin Erat had three penalties. Three penalties in the offensive zone. Three penalties in the offensive zone, one of which ended up washing out a goal that might have made things interesting in the second period (then again, it might not have). The six minutes in penalties was as many as he accumulated in his previous 19 games. It was the first time he accumulated that many penalty minutes since he recorded eight penalty minutes in a 1-0 Nashville Predators win over the San Jose Sharks on February 12, 2013.
-- The Caps had 64 shot attempts for the game. Only 25 of them were on goal. In a trip down memory lane with the Rangers, the Blueshirts blocked 23 of those attempts.
-- You folks like three-way chili? The Caps had their own version served up in this game. The allowed a power play goal, a shorthanded goal, and two even strength goals. Alas, no penalty shot or empty net goal, so the Rangers could not “Lemieux” the Caps.
-- It was an especially tough game for the Mike Green-Dmitry Orlov defensive pair, who were on ice for three of the four Ranger goals. Orlov had the harder night. It was his soft pass to Nicklas Backstrom early in the first period that Rick Nash intercepted and converted into the Rangers’ first goal. It was Orlov who could not quite get back fast enough to tie up Ryan Callahan from converting a rebound into a shorthanded goal.
-- The defensive faceoff performance…ugh. 3-for-13. Brooks Laich was 1-for-8 all by himself.
-- Speaking of Laich, it is one thing for a defenseman (or two or three) to record no shots on goal, but the Caps had Laich, Joel Ward, Tom Wilson, Jay Beagle, and Mikhail Grabovski fail to record a shot in this game. Five of the 12 forwards. Some of those guys are expected to provide some secondary offensive support.
-- For Henrik Lundqvist, his 24 saves on 25 shots (a .960 save percentage) was his ninth time in his last ten games with a save percentage over .920. In 17 decisions this season when he has a save percentage over .920, he is 14-2-1. By the end of this one, he looked bored.
-- Ovechkin’s power play goal was not only the Caps’ first 5-on-3 power play goal of the season, it broke a personal 14-game streak without a power play goal.
--In his last eight appearances, Philipp Grubauer is 2.60, .912, including tonight. Not great, but respectable. His win-loss record is 1-3-4 in those games.
-- On the other hand, Braden Holtby, who came into the game in relief of Grubauer after the third goal on eight shots, stopped 17 of 18 shots. That performance needs to be tempered by the fact that the game was pretty much over when Holtby arrived.
In the end…
It’s still all a blur. Three road games, three losses. Five losses in a row (0-3-2), nine losses in their last 11 games (2-5-4), 11 losses in their last 14 games (3-6-5), 13 losses in their last 18 games (5-7-6) since losing in a 10-round shootout to… Florida.
Maybe the blur is the tears.
A few games back we opined that the Caps were a mess. Oh, they’re way beyond that. You know the road kill that has been on the highway for a couple of days and has had trucks and vans and cars driving over it? The Caps aspire to that at the moment. They can’t score, they can’t defend, their lines seem to be put together with the purpose and the moving around that you might see from a toddler playing with letter blocks, and the goaltending... the Caps do not have a number one goalie at the moment. They have three number threes. Or maybe a two and two number threes. Or three playing like number two.
No, it’s not really the goaltenders’ fault, although none is making a case to be named to the NHL all-star team. There is a lot of blame to go around, but at this point it is like beating a beaten horse.
Long past the point of road kill.