32-22 at 5-on-5). They out-attempted them, 57-46 (46-39 at 5-on-5). They out-Fenwicked them, 48-38 (40-30 at 5-on-5).
They lost, 4-3.
This whole winning the possession wars and losing the games can get old really quick. For the eighth time in ten games the Caps outshot their opponent, and they are just 3-3-2 in those games as the Caps fell to 4-4-2 for the season.
The Caps fell behind the eight-ball early in this one as Ryan Callahan redirected a Brian Boyle shot to give Tampa Bay the game’s first goal at the 6:06 mark. Marcus Johansson tied it just before the 13-minute mark of the period on a play that started when Alex Ovechkin chipped a loose puck past defenseman Jason Garrison at the Capitals’ blue line. Ovechkin raced past Garrison, picked up the puck, and sped in on goalie Ben Bishop. Eric Brewer stuck his stick out and tripped Ovechkin to the ice from behind, but did not do enough to prevent Ovechkin from getting a shot on goal as he was sliding on the ice. Bishop made the save, but the puck came out to Bishop’s right and onto the stick of Johansson following the play. Johansson snapped the puck in before Bishop could recover and before the net came off its pegs as Garrison and Ovechkin slid into it.
The Caps took their only lead of the night early in the second on a one-man effort by Eric Fehr. The play started when Jason Chimera skated the puck over the Lightning blue line along the right wing wall, then sent the puck deep around the boards. The puck came out the other side where Fehr stopped it along the left wing boards. He backhanded it down the wall to Chimera, who fed the puck back to Fehr as he cut to the net. Fehr’s first shot went wide to Bishop’s right, but the puck caromed off the end wall and back out in front to Fehr on the other side of Bishop. From a severe angle, made more so by Fehr being a right-handed shot, Fehr snapped the puck behind Bishop, off the far post, and in to make it 2-1.
The Caps could not hold the lead, though, as the Lightning put together a pair of goals less than three minutes apart to take a 3-2 lead mid-way through the period. The Caps tied it back up in the last minute on a power play. The Caps tried to work the puck to Troy Brouwer in the middle, Nicklas Backstrom threading a pass from the right wing wall. That attempt was foiled, but the Lightning managed only to clear the puck to the blue line where Mike Green kept it in. Green slid the puck down to Backstrom, who relayed it to Marcus Johansson at the goal line extended to Ben Bishop’s left. Johansson saucered a pass to Brouwer in the slot, and he made good on this attempt, firing the puck under Bishop’s blocker to tie the game at three apiece with 59 seconds left in the second period.
Tampa Bay broke the tie one last time on their first shot of the third period, a goal by Jason Garrison off a clean faceoff win by Steven Stamkos 2:27 into the period. The red lights were dark after that as Bishop turned away all 12 shots he faced from the Caps to secure the 4-3 win.
-- The long national nightmare is over. Alex Ovechkin scored a point, assisting on Marcus Johansson’s goal. It was not the sort of assist that makes highlight films, a pass onto a teammate’s tape, but rather Ovechkin bulling his way through a trip, falling to the ice, getting off a shot while sliding on the ice, and watching his teammate pound the rebound into the back of the net just before he found himself there as well.
-- Eric Fehr sat out last Wednesday against Detroit, and it had an effect, at least for one game. Six shots on goal, two other attempts, a goal, a hit, and a blocked shot. The six shots on goal were the most he had in a game in almost four years, putting seven on net in a 3-2 Caps win over the Ottawa Senators on December 19, 2010. You might remember that game as the one that broke an eight-game losing streak by the Caps so lovingly captured on video by the HBO folks in their series on the run-up to the 2011 Winter Classic.
-- The Caps flirted with disaster on one play and had it come out good enough. Washington was caught by the Lightning on a 2-on-1 break with only Mike Green back. Green, whose technique on defending such situations is, shall we say, unique at times, went to his knees, slid backward on his stomach, turned over, and tried to sweep the puck off Tyler Johnson’s stick. He missed, which left an open passing lane to the other side of the slot to Nikita Kucherov. The pass came and… what’s that? Alex Ovechkin… backchecking? His technique seemed to be taken from the Mike Green Manual, starting with a dive from the top of the faceoff circle. His momentum carried him toward the goal line, and with his stick outstretched as far as possible, he deflected the pass out of harm’s way and to the end wall.
-- Not that the play was over. The puck ended up on the stick of Ondrej Palat in front of Holtby. Palat had two whacks at the puck, Holtby blocking the first with his left pad, then grabbing the puck out of the air on Palat’s second attempt.
-- Speaking of Holtby, he seems to be having issues with the new-look, low shots-allowed Caps. In seven appearances in which he played all 60 minutes (or more), he has yet to face 30 shots. In fact, he is facing just 24.9 shots per 60 minutes. Unfortunately, his save percentage is only .899 after this game, and it is .868 in his last four games over which he faced only 91 shots (23.3 per 60 minutes).
-- Mike Green and Nate Schmidt, stoppers. Neither were on ice for a goal against the Lightning. As a pair, they have been on ice for just one of the last 17 goals scored against the Caps, that coming against Detroit last Wednesday (Green was on for the empty netter scored by Vancouver in the 4-2 loss to the Canucks last Sunday).
-- Karl Alzner took it in the teeth as far as his underlying numbers are concerned. He was a minus-8 Corsi at 5-on-5. And before we get too caught up in Burra-fever, Andre Burakovsky was a team-worst minus-5 on the Fenwick meter.
-- Troy Brouwer gets the coupon for the all-you-can-eat buffet. A goal, four shots, a shot blocked, a missed shot, three hits, two takeaways, and he won two of three faceoffs in 17:25 of ice time.
-- The Caps ended their streak of games in which they allowed power play goals at five games. They faced only two shorthanded situations, which helped. Odd stat – the Caps are 2-2-1 when facing three or fewer shorthanded situations, 2-2-1 when facing four or more.
-- At the other end, the Caps scored a power play goal in their second straight game and in their seventh game out of ten played so far. They are 3-3-1 in games win which they scored a power play goal.
-- The Caps held Steven Stankos without a goal, the sixth straight game against the Caps he has failed to light the lamp. The last goal he scored against the Caps was February 18, 2012 in a 2-1 Lightning win.
In the end…
All of a sudden the Caps can’t score. Washington has gone six straight games without scoring more than three goals, since beating New Jersey, 6-2, in Game 4 back on October 16th. Since then they are 2-4-0 with a total of 13 goals scored, four of those on the power play. It probably has not escaped anyone’s notice that the six-game streak coincides with Alex Ovechkin’s streak without a goal. He is doing a lot of the little things right, but he isn’t being rewarded for it. The same might be said of a number of Capitals. Jason Chimera is without a goal in his last five games. Andre Burakovsky is six games without a goal. Nicklas Backstrrom has one goal in his last six contests. The Caps have only one goal from a defenseman not named “Mike Green” (John Carlson has that one).
One would like to say that this will pass, and the guys will get back into a groove. Well, it would be nice if it happened sooner rather than later. Playing the right way and having little to show for it has the look of a game in which the team applies early pressure but doesn’t score. Often that comes back to haunt that team late. Let’s hope we’re not invoking that analogy come March or April.