The Washington Capitals started fast, and maybe a bit too easily against the Calgary Flames last night at Capital One Arena. But after scoring the game’s first goal just 62 seconds into the contest, the Flames slowly, deliberately, and relentlessly took over the game and dealt the Caps a 4-1 defeat.
It took the Caps precisely 62 seconds to grab a lead. Jakub Vrana showed that slick hand capable of sniping the puck aren’t his only gift. He used speed to beat Travis Hamonic to a puck sliding deep in the Flames’ end, circled around the net, and threw a pass into the slot where Lars Eller was filling in. Eller buried the puck over the blocker of goalie Mike Smith, and the Caps were off and running.
Calgary evened things up less than four minutes later when Johnny Gaudreau took a pass from Sean Monahan just outside the Caps’ blue line, worked his way to the right wing circle, and snapped a shot to the long side past the blocker of goalie Braden Holtby.
That would do it for the scoring, the Flames going 0-for-2 on the power play in the period, and the Caps drawing a blank on their lone chance. Washington had a 12-11 edge in shots, while Calgary had 24 shot attempts to the Caps’ 19.
The third time was the charm for the Flames’ power play. With Lars Eller in the box for a hooking penalty, the Caps almost killed off the shorthanded situation. But late in the power play, Gaudreau had the puck at the side of the net to Holtby’s right. His shot was muffled by Holtby, but the goalie could not find it in his pads. The puck slid to Monahan, who roofed it to give Calgary a 2-1 lead 5:22 into the period.
That would do it for the scoring, and the Caps got off easy. Calgary outshot the Caps, 13-6, and they out-attempted them, 27-13.
Calgary ended the competitive portion of the contest in short order, in a two-minute span early in the third period. Mikael Backlund gave the Flames a two-goal lead on another power play goal 4:38 into the period, finishing up a flurry in which Calgary got several uncontested shots at Holtby from below and inside the faceoff dots.
Mark Giordano finished things off for the visitors 2:01 later, whipping a shot at the Caps net through a maze of bodies, off the post to Holtby’s left and into the net leaving the clock to run out silently on a 4-1 loss that snapped the Caps’ five-game home winning streak.
-- The score was no mirage in terms of the Flames’ dominance. Calgary out-shot the Caps, 39-30, and they out-attempted them, 69-54.
-- Washington went 0-for-3 on the power play against the league’s worst penalty killing team, coming up empty on six shots in six minutes of power play time. Calgary ended a five-game streak of their own in which they allowed at least one power play goal.
-- Alex Ovechkin continues to be snake-bit on the man advantage. He was 0-for-3 shooting and extended his streak of games without a power play goal to seven, and he has just one power play goal in his last 14 games.
-- It’s one thing for Alex Ovechkin to lead the team in shots (he did, with five), but Alex Chiasson being second (four) was a surprise.
-- Nicklas Backstrom also had four shots on goal, none of which found the back of the net. He is now without a goal in 15 games, over which he is 0-for-32 shooting.
-- T.J. Oshie didn’t have a point, but four hits, two blocked shots, and winning four of seven faceoffs was evidence of effort in other areas.
-- Tom Wilson skated a season high 18:05, including a team high 3:44 in shorthanded ice time among forwards, and contributed an assist.
-- The four goals allowed by the Caps tied a season high in goals allowed on home ice (a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on October 21st) and was more goals allowed than in their last three home games combined (three).
-- The four goals allowed was a season worst for Braden Holtby on home ice. Before last night, Holtby was 6-2-0, 1.61, .949 at Capital One Arena.
-- Jakub Vrana had a great first shift, using speed to get position and finding Lars Eller for the Caps’ lone goal. After that, 15 shifts and 10:40 in ice time. It seemed odd.
In the end…
Well, here we are in Thanksgiving Week, and the Caps might just be who we thought they were. Certainly, they are not the team of the past two seasons, nor are they jaw-droppingly awful. As this game, juxtaposed with the fine win over Minnesota in their previous game, illustrates, it is an inconsistent team that lacks depth and skill, at least compared to those last two editions that won Presidents Trophies. At this point, it seems as if this is a club that will bounce on the edge of playoff eligibility all season. They do not seem to have the sort of depth and consistency to get the sorts of contributions from up and down the roster that would fuel long winning streaks, but they have enough skill and goaltending to avoid long losing streaks. As this game drove home the point, it is going to be a bumpy last 60 games for the Caps. Strap in, Caps fans. Turbulence ahead.