There are 20 games you are going to lose, no matter what. It’s what you do with the rest of them that make a season a success or a failure. The Washington Capitals never got to the third of those scenarios against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night. This was a loser from the start.
It started with Alex Ovechkin being a no-go at game time for personal reasons. With Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the bench, it was like a Lethal Weapon movie without Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. There is only so far Joe Pesci is going to carry the story line.
It didn’t get any better with the drop of the puck. The Caps looked like they had too much Columbus Day celebration hangover in the first period. Jay Beagle took a penalty less than five minutes in, which the Caps killed successfully. They were not so fortunate when Brooks Orpik took a tripping call in the 11th minute. Joe Thornton converted the power play, redirecting a Bent Burns shot, to give the Sharks first blood.
The Caps escaped the first period with no further damage, but the Sharks added to their lead twice in the second, courtesy of Mike Brown and Tomas Hertl. That was all the Sharks would need, but they managed a pair of empty net goals in the last two minutes for the final margin.
-- The Caps were out-attempted in the first period, 37-13. That set the tone and emptied whatever was in the Caps’ tank.
-- Dmitry Orlov almost had his first goal in 590 days. Almost, but for a coach’s challenge that waved off the score. The officials found that Jay Beagle, whose foot was not in the crease, who did not deny goalie Martin Jones position, and did not prevent Jones from using his blocker to try to fend off the shot, somehow prevented the goalie from “doing his job,” in the words of referee Tim Peel. Can we just say, it you touch the goalie, it’s an automatic “no goal?” At least it would be a consistent standard. What we’re going to get is a hodge-podge of calls that will vary from game-to-game, if not within a game.
-- The Caps allowed two empty net goals. This ties them with the Boston Bruins for most empty net goals allowed this season (2).
-- If your two top shot makers are Jason Chimera (6) and Brooks Laich (5), chances are there is not going to be a lot of offense generated.
-- Score effects… the Caps had 59 shot attempts over the last two periods to the Sharks’ 22.
-- John Carlson had 11 shot attempts. The defense had 27 shot attempts overall.
-- The shutout was Martin Jones’ second in three games. He has stopped 77 of 78 shots in three games to date (.987 save percentage).
-- Jay Beagle was the only Capital to go over 50 percent on faceoffs in this contest (11-for-16/68.8 percent).
-- Here is an unsettling fact… the Caps have now allowed power play goals in six consecutive games in which they faced at least one shorthanded situation, going back to last season (they did not have a shorthanded situation in their game against the Boston Bruins last April 8th).
-- What was telling about the call on the ice that preceded the disallowed goal is that when Orlov scored, goaltender Martin Jones never even looked at the referee to argue he was interfered with. A lot of goalies would be in a referee’s face arguing interference in that instance…if they had been interfered with.
In the end…
The Caps were never in this one. Oh sure, you could say “if Orlov’s goal had counted,” but really? San Jose was sharper from the outset, more focused for longer stretches of time, applied pressure more consistently, and kept the Caps from getting any follow up shots. They played a superb road game.
Meanwhile, the Caps had a top line of Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, and Andre Burakovsky to start the game. By the third period, Burakovsky was not seeing as much ice time (he skated only five shifts and had just 4:16 in ice time in the last frame). They started with Brooks Laich on the second line with Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson. Obviously, there were lineup issues with the Caps’ two top scorers on the shelf.
But, this is life in the NHL. Stuff happens. Backstrom might be a few days away from a return, and the duration of Ovechkin’s absence is an unknown at the moment. The best one can say is that the absences provide opportunities for others to step up and, if they can’t be productive, at least they can gain some experience in more responsible roles that will help the club down the line. That is about as much as one can take away from a game such as this.