Caps Lose in Shootout Again

February 02, 2011 | Ed Frankovic

There are now three sure things in life: death, taxes, and the Caps will lose in the shootout. At least that is what things must feel like to Washington Capitals fans as their team jumped to an early 2-0 lead, made some boneheaded decisions in a poor middle stanza, played a strong third period and overtime session, only to lose again in the gimmick, 3-2, to the Montreal Canadiens at sold out Verizon Center. Brian Gionta was the Habs hero on Tuesday night potting two goals in the second frame on odd man rushes and then he had the only tally in the shootout. This Caps loss was their eighth straight overtime or shootout loss and they have lost three straight tilts, with two coming in the gimmick. The good news for Washington is that they did pick up a key point in the standings over the teams that are chasing the Caps for second place in the Southeast Division, the Atlanta Thrashers and the Carolina Hurricanes, who both lost in regulation on Tuesday. The Caps are now 7 and 8 points ahead of the Thrashers and Canes, respectively. They trail the red hot Tampa Bay Lightning, who blanked the Flyers 4-0 tonight, by five points in the Southeast Division race.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis from another loss for the offensively challenged Capitals:

- We will start with the good: Semyon Varlamov (36 saves) and Washington’s penalty killing unit (6 for 6 in 10:06 of SH time). The only two goals Varly allowed were on a two on one and a breakaway, both to the Habs captain. #1 faced numerous quality chances as at least half of his defensemen made some terrible errors at critical junctures in this hockey game. If not for some superb goaltending in the first and primarily in the second period, Montreal may have won handily because the Caps stopped playing for the next 30 minutes after they raced to a 2-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes. As for the PK, the NHL’s 2nd ranked unit got stellar goaltending and they did an excellent job of forcing the Canadiens to shoot from the perimeter.

- Mathieu Perreault (1 goal, 1 assist in 13:53) had his usual “sparky” type of game coming off of a recall/break. #85 made a super defensive play in the neutral zone to break up a potential Montreal two on one rush and then skated in and beat Carey Price (27 saves) from a poor angle through the five hole. He also played a big role in the Caps second goal, which came on the power play by Mike Knuble. However, #85 still struggles to be consistent at this level due to his size and he was fading as this contest went on, according to Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau.

“He was good, but he looked tired. He hit a wall a lot of times and his shifts were short. But he made the most of them. It’s been a long time between points and goals for him,” commented the Caps bench boss on Perreault, who hadn’t registered a point in his previous nine contests.

 

- The quote of the night in my book is the following:  “I think 100 percent commitment from everybody. I think at times we have it and at times we don’t.” That came from the Caps Matt Hendricks when asked what the team is missing right now and he is dead on. Want to know where you can start on calling players out on not giving the 100% commitment the whole game? Alexander Ovechkin. Yes, the team captain did not have a consistent contest and he was badly outplayed by the guy wearing the C from the other team. I realize that the Great #8 and his club are not going to shut up the critics until they do something in the playoffs but bad habits die hard and Ovechkin is doing too much floating in his own zone these days. On offense, he is trying to do too much on his own. I think the hopefully imminent return of Alexander Semin will help that though, because Alexander the Great rarely has any time or space on the ice these days because the opposition knows that there are very few other Capitals forwards who can hurt them. The dynamic changes a bit with #28 and if GM George McPhee can add another center and perhaps another winger between now and the trade deadline (February 28th) then the offensive zone could open up more for #8 and his teammates.

 

- Washington, with its lack of firepower up front, has changed its style in the last two months to be a more defensive team so when they jumped out to a 2-0 lead they got a bit careless trying to increase that margin. It is okay to pressure and not back off, but some guys made bad decisions and that cost the team the game. John Erskine pinched in the offensive zone on the first Habs goal and John Carlson made a “rookie” decision on a drop pass that lead to Gionta’s breakaway marker. There were others to blame as well on those plays as numerous forwards did nothing to help out their blue liners on those goals. Still, when you are winning and struggling to score, you have to play smart and the Caps hockey IQ was low in period two on Tuesday night.

 

“{Tonight} wasn’t a letdown as much as it was mistakes. We made two bad mistakes and it’s in our net. We’re playing desperate. We killed off {several} penalties. They {Montreal} took it to us. We battled and we lost in the shootout. I wish we could’ve scored a little bit more,” was Boudreau’s take on the Caps shootout loss.

 

“I felt like they didn’t really pressure us as much. I didn’t feel that offensive kind-of pressure [the Capitals had] last year or other games against them,” was Montreal forward Tomas Plekenac’s thoughts on how Washington played.

 

- Finally, this was not the reason Washington lost the game but it certainly contributed to the defeat: the officiating! Blind, clueless, inept, out of touch, inconsistent, one-sided, etc. You can pick any of those terms and more, some of which are four letter words, to describe the absolute joke and disgrace of a performance from the Dan-Dan twins tonight. Both Dan O’Halloran and Dan O’Rourke (get me Mickey or P.J. next time!) missed so many infractions against the Canadiens that it might be wise for Terry Gregson in the NHL Officiating office to check and see if the Dan-Dan (or should I say Dumb-Dumb?) twins didn’t fly directly in to DC from Vegas this past weekend. Those two clowns sure looked like they had money on the Habs. It would take far too long to list everything they missed but a good place to start would be the Pittsburgh Steelers like tackle and hold in the slot on Nicklas Backstrom in period two right before the Gionta breakaway and the Hal Gill smothering of the puck in the crease with two seconds left in OT. That should have been a penatly shot! Of course the Caps likely would have not converted, but that is not the point. They also missed a Roman Hamrlik cross check on Brooks Laich (who took three minor penalties) right before #21 tripped a Montreal player, giving the Canadiens a key late power play. The Habs carried the play but there is NO WAY the power play time should have been 10:06 to 4:01 in favor of the guys from Quebec.

 

Notes: Semin was a game time scratch, hopefully he can go against the Lightning on Friday night in the Caps next contest, which is in Tampa…on defense, the Caps miss Tom Poti’s skating and puck moving skills, but only if he is 100% healthy. Erskine struggled tonight for Washington…the Caps won the faceoff battle 31-28 with Boyd Gordon going 11-6…I am not sure if he got hurt or he was benched, but Marcus Johansson, who drew the 1st power play for Washington, only played two shifts in period three and only 8:01 for the game. The Caps are just too small up the middle with both MP85 and MJ90 playing center…Jay Beagle was recalled from Hershey on Tuesday while Perreault had been recalled on Monday. Neither player suited up for the Hershey Bears in their two weekend games (the move did save salary cap room)…Michal Neuvirth backed up Varlamov with #30 healthier and Braden Holtby back in Hershey for the AHL All Star game that was played on Monday night.

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