Thursday, January 11, 2018

A NO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 44: Hurricanes 3 - Capitals 1

The Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes opened their home-and-home, back-to-back set of games this week in Washington, the Capitals having their ten-game home winning streak come to an end by a 3-1 score.

First Period

There was no scoring in the period, the teams splitting 20 shots on goal evenly at 10 apiece.  Despite the Caps enjoying the period’s only power play, the Hurricanes had a 25-21 advantage in shot attempts overall.  Brett Connolly had four shots on goal for the Caps, while Justin Williams had four for Carolina.  Devante Smith-Pelly led Washington with four credited hits 

Second Period

It was starting to look a bit like that scoreless tie the Caps and Rangers played a couple of weeks ago until the Caps got a power play mid-way through the period.  Unfortunately, it was Carolina who took advantage of a sloppy play by John Carlson from just inside the offensive blue line.  Carlson fumbled a pass, and then when he retrieved the puck, he sent a lazy pass across in the direction of Alex Ovechkin.  Jordan Staal, who has been in the league long enough to anticipate that sort of thing, pounced on the opportunity and headed off on a breakaway, beating goalie Braden Holtby to give the Canes a 1-0 lead 11:33 into the period.

Less than five minutes later, the game was tied.  From the left wing wall, T.J. Oshie laid out a pass to Lars Eller between the tops of the faceoff circles.  Eller one-timed a shot through the pads of goalie Scott Darling, and it was 1-1 at the 16:05 mark.  That would be how the teams went to the second intermission.

Carolina had a 15-8 edge in shots on goal for the period and a 27-22 advantage in shot attempts.

Third Period

The teams spent the first ten minutes of the period waiting for the other to make a mistake, and for the second time on the evening, it would be the Caps making it.  With Tom Wilson about to go off on a penalty, the Hurricanes maintained possession of the puck, and play continued.  Gaining control of the offensive zone, a shot pinballed off two Caps in front of Holtby.  The referee did not deem it “possession” that would have stopped play to send Wilson to the penalty box, and Victor Rask jumped on the loose puck and rifled a shot from the left wing faceoff circle past Holtby’s blocker before he could cover the near post.  Carolina had a 2-1 lead at the 10:54 mark.

Sebastien Aho clinched things for the visitors, potting an empty-net goal from the Caps’ blue line with 1:29 left.

Other stuff…

-- Carolina’s shorthanded goal was the sixth allowed by the Caps this season, tied for fifth-most in the league.  Washington has a record of 3-3-0 in those games.

-- This was the first home loss for the Caps in exactly seven weeks, since they dropped a 5-2 decision to the Los Angeles Kings on November 30th.

-- The one goal for the Caps was the fewest they had on home ice since losing to the Calgary Flames, 4-1, on November 20th.

-- Alex Ovechkin leading the team in shots on goal is no surprise (he had five), but Jay Beagle being next in line (four, along with Brett Connolly) is an eye-brow raiser.  Those three players accounted for almost half (13) of the Caps’ shot total (28).

-- It was an odd game, ice time-wise.  Not often a forward leads the team in ice time, but Ovechkin had 22:40.  John Carlson, who often leads the club in ice time, had 22:21.

-- Chandler Stephenson and Christian Djoos both finished with no shot attempts.  That isn’t all that surprising for young guys.  More surprising was Nicklas Backstrom not having any.  And, he finished a minus-3.  So did Ovechkin.  Rough night.

-- At one point in this game, the Caps were 11-for-32 on faceoffs.  They came back to finish 27-for-55.

-- Brooks Orpik was a “four-square” player…four credited hits, four blocked shots.

-- This was the first time that Braden Holtby lost a game while saving at least 90 percent of the shots he faced (31 of 33/.939) since he stopped 28 of 29 shots in a 2-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 17th.

-- Dmitry Orlov got shots off; he just couldn’t find a way to get them past a defender.  All four of his shot attempts were blocked.

In the end…

There wasn’t any suspense or mystery about this one as to why the Caps lost.  They played like they had a collective case of the flu.  Washed out, sluggish, and wheezing at the end.  In an 82-game season, much as fans don’t like it or perhaps understand it, it will happen.  The trick here is not to let it become consecutive games with the players as a group low on the effort meter.  The best thing one could say about this game is that while Carolina can be a frustrating team to play against, the Caps did it to themselves with mistakes and a lack of energy to apply a finish to plays.  If they show up in a friskier state of mind on Friday, the results should be more pleasant for Caps fans.