Tuesday, March 07, 2017

A NO-Point Night -- Game 65: Dallas Stars 4 - Washington Capitals 2

The Washington Capitals saw a few fine streaks come to an end because they could not stop another one in a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday night at Verizon Center.  Washington, winners of three straight overall, saw its 15-game home winning streak come to an end, and goaltender Braden Holtby saw his personal 21-decision streak without suffering a loss in regulation (19-0-2) come to an end.  For the Stars it was their sixth straight win against the Caps at Verizon Center.

Things got off to a bad start for the Caps when the Stars scored less than two minutes into the contest.  After Holtby stopped Patrick Sharp with his left pad at the doorstep, the puck ended up behind the net where Sharp fished it out.  As Sharp was trying to work the puck back in front, Brooks Orpik was tied up with Devin Shore in the Caps’ goal crease.   Shore tumbled into Holtby, preventing him from getting across to his right to cover the puck lying in the blue paint.  With Sharp and Shore whacking at it, Shore finally edged it across the goal line, and after a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference, the goal was upheld just 1:48 into the game. 

The score remained 1-0 into the second period when Dallas scored a pair in short order early in the period.  Radek Faksa intercepted an attempted clear up the middle by Nicklas Backstrom and snapped the puck past Holtby 4:04 into the period.  Less than two minutes later, Jason Spezza ended Holtby’s night when, off another giveaway in the defensive end, he one-timed a feed from Jamie Benn past Holtby’s right pad.  With just 5:58 gone in the second period, it was 3-0, Stars.

Backstrom got one back for the Caps when he started and ended a play.  After Backstrom won a faceoff to the right of goalie Kari Lehtonen, the Caps worked the puck around the offensive zone to the right point.  Kevin Shattenkirk sent the puck to the net, where Backstrom redirected it past Lehtonen at the 15:52 mark to make it a 3-1 game. 

Mid-way through the third period, T.J. Oshie got the Caps within a goal. Oshie left the puck for Karl Alzner at the right point, and Alzner circled out with it to the middle of the ice.  He threaded a pass between two Stars to Oshie cutting through the right wing circle.  Oshie carried the puck between the hash marks, then snapped a backhand over Lehtonen’s glove and off the crossbar into the net at the 12:26 mark to make it 3-2, Stars.

That would be as close as the Caps would get, though. Sharp scored an empty netter with 1:28 to go to put the game out of reach for the Caps and end their franchise-best home winning streak, 4-2.

Other stuff…

-- It was the first loss at home in 2017, their first since a 2-1 Gimmick loss to the New Jersey Devils on December 29th.  It was their first loss in regulation on home ice since a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on December 17th.

-- Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist for his 17th multi-point game of the season and 193rd of  his career, third in club history behind Peter Bondra (208) and Alex Ovechkin (293).

-- Karl Alzner had an assist, giving him ten on the season, the sixth time he reached that mark in helpers in his career.

-- Alex Ovechkin tied a season high of nine shots on goal (he had nine in a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders on December 29th).  Oddly enough, only four of the last 18 games in which he recorded nine or more shots on goal did he find the back of the net.

-- For Ovechkin it was his seventh straight game without a goal, tying a season high (Games 20-26 in late-November/early-December).

-- Backstrom recorded a season high seven shots on goal.  It was just the fourth time in his career that he recorded seven or more shots on goal in a game and his first since he had seven in a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 7, 2013.

-- Of the team’s 19 blocked shots, the defense had 16 of them, led by Alzner with five.  Carlson, who blocked four shots, had four of his own shots blocked, most on the team.

-- Washington won 42 of 65 faceoffs (64.6 percent).

-- Sure, the Caps out-attempted the Stars, 58-40 at 5-on-5 for the game, but that margin was 18-16 for the Stars in the first period and just 37-33 for the Caps after 40 minutes.  The Caps, trying to erase a two-goal deficit to start the third period, had a 21-7 edge in the third period (numbers from Corsica.hockey).

-- Someday, Braden Holtby will earn a win against the last team in the league against which he has failed to do so, but in this one he never seemed to be quite on his game after the first, disputed goal.  Still, this was just the third time this season that Holtby logged fewer than 40 minutes in a game.  Quite impressive when you consider that it has happened six times to both Marc-Andre Fleury and Henrik Lundqvist this season, five times to Matt Murray and Tuukka Rask, four times to Ben Bishop and Pekka Rinne.

In the end…

The Caps started the game a bit passive, were bitten for it, and spent the rest of the game catching up.  The final numbers, especially in possession, looked more impressive than they were with one confounding exception.  They pummeled the Stars for 14 shots on goal in 7:34 of power play ice time, four of those shots off the stick of Alex Ovechkin, and another four from Jakub Vrana.  It is rare that the Caps would unleash that kind of fury and not reap any reward for it.  But, it happens.  Too bad it happened in the last home game before a west coast trip, where it will be a chore to maintain their lofty status atop the league standings.